Previewing new albums by Sugar Ray, Blink-182, Travis, Alicia Keys, and more.
You Can Call Me Ray
Frontman Mark McGrath says he's is "completely proud" of Sugar Ray's self-titled fourth album, due this week on Lava/Atlantic. "I've always dug what we've done, but this is the first record we've done that I'm able to listen to from top to bottom," he says.
Produced by Don Gilmore and David Kahne, "Sugar Ray" deftly darts from percussive, hip-hop-inflected shufflers ("Ours," "Under the Sun") to ornery, guitar-drenched rock anthems ("Answer the Phone," "Disasterpiece"). Besides McGrath's boyish belting, the common threads linking each track are hooks that are immediate and unshakable. First single "When It's Over" is already No. 46 on The Billboard Hot 100 in just three weeks.
The new album is the follow-up to 1999's "14:59," which peaked at No. 17 on The Billboard 200 and featured the multi-format smash "Every Morning," a No. 3 hit on The Billboard Hot 100. A five-week North American tour with labelmate Uncle Kracker kicks off July 10 in Houston.
'Pants' Of A Lifetime
Pop/punk trio Blink-182's fourth studio album, "Take Off Your Pants and Jacket," (MCA) features "The Rock Show," which is No. 3 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. "This is the hardest, fastest record that we've done," says group member Tom DeLonge. "It's way more punk-rock than our previous records, and we're excited about it."
The album is the follow-up to Blink-182's 1999 smash hit "Enema of the State," which peaked at No. 9 on The Billboard 200 and featured the modern rock hits "All the Small Things," "What's My Age Again?," and "Adam's Song." Since then, the group also issued a live album, "The Mark, Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back)," which included a new studio track, "Man Overboard."
A summer tour with New Found Glory begins July 4 in Moline, Ill.
Scottish rock quartet Travis returns this week with "The Invisible Band," its third Independiente/Epic studio album. "The songs intended to be singles are more simple and direct, while the rest are more complex and intricately layered," says frontman Fran Healy. "It's a nice balance." First single "Sing" is No. 40 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Nigel Godrich, who helmed Travis' 1999 breakthrough album "The Man Who." Among its many highlights are "Indefinitely," a waltz-like ballad underscored with lush strings; "Flowers in the Window," an unapologetically upbeat love song; and "Side," an obvious single replete with an infectious melody and insightful words.
A North American tour supporting Dido kicked off Sunday in Vancouver, to be followed by top slots at August's Reading, Leeds, and Glasgow Green festivals in the U.K. A headlining world tour for the band is being eyed for late summer/early fall.
On her ambitious J Records debut "Songs in A Minor," Alicia Keys approaches her music with the heart of a classical pianist and the soul of a hip-hop diva. "The album is a fusion of my classical training, meshed with what I grew up listening to," the artist says, indicating influences that include old-school soul legends Marvin Gaye and Roberta Flack. "My music is a fusion of the things I've been exposed to and drawn from and my life experiences."
Keys views "Fallin'," the piano-driven first single, as being strongly representative of who she is as an artist right now. "["Fallin' ''] is about the ins and outs of a relationship," she says. "Sometimes, you're completely head-over-heels in love with someone, and sometimes you can't stand that person. You fall in and out, sometimes it goes back and forth, and that's just what relationships are about."
Me For Him
After resisting many similar approaches over the years, the Who has for the first time endorsed an official all-star tribute record. "Substitute: The Songs of the Who," released this week by edel, features, among others, David Bowie, Pearl Jam, Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics, and Sheryl Crow.
The Who itself contributes a version of the title track, which was originally a top five hit in the U.K. in 1966. Recorded at a sold-out show at London's Albert Hall in November 2000 to aid the Teenage Cancer Trust, it features Stereophonics' Kelly Jones on guest vocals. The album also includes a bonus CD-ROM video recording of the performance.
Who guitarist Pete Townshend was sold the idea for the album by Bobby Pridden, who was the Who's sound engineer throughout the band's career. "I'd always said no before, but with Bobby at the helm for the first time I felt comfortable. I left him to it, and I'm flattered at the number of great artists he managed to get involved," says Townshend.
Off To 'Avalon'
Beck, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and his son Justin, Taj Mahal, John Hiatt, Gillian Welch, Ben Harper, Geoff Muldaur, Mark Selby, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Chris Smither, and Bill Morrissey are among the artists who have contributed newly recorded tracks to "Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt," due this week on Vanguard.
The album was executive produced by singer/songwriter Peter Case, who duets with recent Grammy winner Dave Alvin on "Monday Morning Blues." Even Case's ex-wife, Victoria Williams, contributes a version of "Since I've Laid My Burden Down."
"Two or three generations of current musicians seem to be deeply influenced by him," says Case of Hurt. "[The album is] almost like a night with a bunch of people sitting in a living room and passing a guitar around."
Additional albums hitting stores this week include country living legend Willie Nelson's "Rainbow Connection" (Island); folk singer/songwriter Kate Rusby's "Little Lights" (Compass); ex-Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer's "'68 Comeback Special: Ignition!" (Surfdog); '70s rock veterans Electric Light Orchestra's "Zoom" plus reissues of the albums "Discovery," "Eldorado," and "Time" (Epic); U.K. electro/hip-hop outfit Stereo MC's' "Deep Down & Dirty" (Island); country artist Vassar Clements' "Full Circle" (OMS); new albums from roots rock outfits 16 Horsepower, "Hoarse," and Ass Ponys, "Lohio" (Checkered Past), up-and-coming vocalist Amanda's "Everybody Doesn't" (Maverick); new albums from country artists Jim Lauderdale, "The Other Sessions" (DualTone) and Lee Roy Parnell, "Tell the Truth" (Vanguard); Algerian vocalist Cheb Mami's "Dellali" (Ark 21); and blues act Roomful of Blues' "Watch You When You Go" (Rounder).
Also out this week are reissues of five classic albums from reggae legend Bob Marley, "Burnin'," "Catch a Fire," "Live!," "Natty Dread," and "Rastaman Vibration" (Island); a two-CD set from the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, "The Final Studio Recordings" (American/Legacy); two archival releases from the Grateful Dead, "Dick's Picks 22" and "View from the Vault II" (Grateful Dead); a best-of from German hard rock outfit the Scorpions, "20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection" (Mercury); a compilation from Japanese rock act Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, "Collection" (Alive); and a concert album from guitarist Steve Vai, "Live Around the World" (Epic).