Previewing new releases from Eric Clapton, Semisonic, Los Super Seven, Daft Punk, and more.
'Slow Hand' Returns With 'Reptile'
On "Reptile," Eric Clapton's first solo album for Reprise since 1998's "Pilgrim," the artist surrounds himself with a substantial stable of guest musicians, and augments his own new compositions with a healthy collection of cover songs.
The set features frequent Clapton collaborators Andy Fairweather Low (guitar) and Nathan East (bass), as well as legendary piano/organ players Billy Preston and Joe Sample, blues guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, vocal group the Impressions, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, drummer Steve Gadd, and keyboardist Paul Carrack.
"Superman Inside" has been tapped as the first single. The album also sports covers of Ray Charles' "Come Back Baby," James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," Stevie Wonder's "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It," J.J. Cale's "Travelin' Light," and Big Joe Turner's "Got You On My Mind." Clapton is on tour in Europe through April 10 and will hit North America this summer.
Semisonic has already proved it's got that special something that connects a band with an audience. "Closing Time," the 1998 top-20 hit about those last minutes before a bar closes shop, apparently struck a chord with the many who have experienced "last-call desperation."
When Semisonic's new MCA album "All About Chemistry" is released this week, fans will get to hear about what happened in those hours before the tavern closed or the party broke up for the night.
"I feel like [the band's last album] 'Feeling Strangely Fine' sounds like somebody sitting alone in the wreckage and debris and sorting out, 'What the hell just happened? It's four in the morning, and I'm sitting here alone, and I'm still trying to sort out the crazed events of the night,'" Wilson explains. "I had really wanted 'All About Chemistry' to be more like the crazed events as they're happening -- the party itself, not the aftermath."
With its new-model takes on border-town ballads and fiesta classics, Tex-Mex supergroup Los Super Seven -- comprising Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, Rick Trevino, Flaco Jimenez, Joe Ely, Ruben Ramos, Joel Jose Guzman, and Freddy Fender -- took a rootsy American regional style to a new, national audience via its 1998 BMG Nashville debut, bagging a Grammy in the process.
A reconfigured version of Los Super Seven returns this week with the Columbia/Legacy album "Canto," whose songs can be traced to far-flung corners of the Latin diaspora -- incorporating Cuban and South American influences along with the group's signature Tejano sound.
In summing up his affection for "Canto," country singer/guitarist Trevino describes the ideal audience for his collective's musical adventure. "The new record expands on the basic three-chord song structure with jazz and Cuban styles, so it's a little more sophisticated-could be that's why I like it more. Then again, I don't think just hardcore Tejano fans bought Los Super Seven. I think people who simply love music bought it."
Daft Punk's New 'Discovery'
The usual measure of Gallic reserve isn't enough for Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo -- the two Parisian mavericks behind Daft Punk. The dance/ pop duo's visual modus operandi involves the donning of masks and costumes to hide their identities.
On "Discovery," due this week on Virgin, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo have turned their studio into a groove laboratory, where each track is the product of some wild concoction of disparate ingredients.
"Digital Love," mixes elements of new wave (e.g., the Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star") and jazz/funk (sampling George Duke's "I Love You More") into a rhythm soup of filtered disco loops. "Aerodynamic" is awash in metallic guitar licks, a rubbery, Chic-hewn bassline, and austere
synth beats a la Giorgio Moroder. First single "One More Time" is No. 3 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart this week.
'Wicked' With Waits
Prolific blues musician John Hammond's 28th solo album and fifth for Pointblank/Virgin, "Wicked Grin," sports 11 tracks written or co-written by Hammond's longtime friend, Tom Waits, who also produced the set. "It's the most evocative, imagistic, incredible material I've ever recorded," Hammond says.
The artist covers such Waits songs as "Heart Attack And Vine" and "16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six." The sessions also inspired Waits to pen a new song for Hammond, "Fannin Street," which he co-wrote with his wife and frequent writing partner, Kathleen Brennan. Hammond is now on tour in North America.
Aiming At The 'Bull's Eye'
When Talent left its native Kansas City, Mo., to work with R. Kelly in Chicago, the group expected to stay only two weeks. That two weeks became two years. The end result of the trio's two-year Windy City sojourn is its Rockland/Interscope debut album "Bull's Eye," out this week.
The majority of the material was written and produced by Kelly, who first became interested in the group -- which consists of Earnest "Bishop" Dixon, Marlon "Castor Troy" Hatcher, and Keith "Casino" Murrell -- after they sang a rendition of Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road" on the pager of an A&R staffer at Kelly's Rockland Records.
"It took a while to record because Rob [Kelly] was working on a number of other things," explains Hatcher. "It was a lengthy process, but we never rushed it. For example, there's a ballad on the album, "Turn To Lies,' that took a week to record because Rob made sure we got it right." First single "Celebrity" is No. 41 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales chart this week.
From The Stage To The Studio
There's a kind of musical savviness and seasoning that comes only from playing live. For a new act, paying dues in front of a nightly audience can provide it with an edge that can place it ahead of the pack. Such is the case with Warner Bros. trio Trick Pony. Having performed nearly 300 dates a year, the group makes the transition from road dogs to recording artists with the release of its self-titled debut disc this week.
"We've been together four and-a-half years, and we've played about 300 days a year . . . [performing] four and five shows a day," says bassist Ira Dean, speaking of himself, guitarist Keith Burns, and vocalist/harmonica player Heidi Newfield. "We did 1,283 shows last year alone."
First single "Pour Me" is No. 19 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart this week. Says Newfield, "[It] was the first song us three actually sat down and wrote together, and it was one of those songs that set the way for what was to come."
Swag Ain't No Schwag
Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Yep Roc Records will release this week" Catchall," the first full-length album by the Nashville-based band Swag. The band is made up of musicians who are regular members of other successful national acts: Ken Coomer (Wilco), Jerry Dale McFadden (Sixpence None The Richer/the Mavericks/Trent Summar & New Row Mob), Doug Powell (Not Lame solo recording artist), Robert Reynolds (the Mavericks), and Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick). The album, produced by Brad Jones, includes four tracks from Swag's previous vinyl-only releases and eight new songs.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include U.K. rock outfit Idlewild's "100 Broken Windows" (Capitol); classical-leaning pop quartet Bond's self-titled debut (Decca); singer/songwriter John Gorka's "The Company You Keep" (Red House); DJ/producer King Britt's "Remembers Only" (Six Degrees); rapper Jaheim's "Ghetto Love" (Divine Mill/Warner Bros.); saxophonist Joe Lovano's "Flights Of Fancy: Trio Fascination, Volume Two" (Blue Note); pop veterans the Ocean Blue's "Davy Jones' Locker" (W.A.R?); electronic duo Matmos' "A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure" (Matador); Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace's "Spiritual Machines" (Columbia); pop/rock combo Over The Rhine's "Films For Radio" (Back Porch/Narada); and ex-Ugly American singer/songwriter Bob Schneider's "Lonelyland" (Universal).
Also out this week are a host of Beach Boys reissues, featuring two albums on one disc: "Little Deuce Coupe/All Summer Long," "Surfer Girl/Shut Down Vol. 2," "Surfin' Safari/Surfin' U.S.A," and "Today!/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!!); a concert set from blues legend B.B. King, "Live At San Quentin" (MCA); a double-disc collection from guitarist John Mayall, "Back To The Roots" (Polydor); an expanded, two-disc reissue of cult favorite pop band the Soft Boys' "Underwater Moonlight" (Matador); and expanded, remastered editions of Tears For Fears' "The Hurting," "The Seeds Of Love," and "Songs From The Big Chair" (Mercury).