Album: “World Peace is None of Your Business” (Harvest)
Rue the day when Morrissey runs out of gripes. Throughout his 37-year career, he’s transformed torment and disdain into a memorable body of work with both the Smiths and as a solo artist.
The 55-year old crooner has always approached romance and anything else that gets in his craw with stark reality. This time, on his 10th album, “World Peace is None of Your Business,” he’s decided to exorcise more of his political demons.
The title track goes after irresponsible world leaders and the actual people that vote them into power. He takes on bullfighting, human cruelty and bad relationships. And it’s more than the clever lyrics that make this collection work. It’s also the musicality. The serious themes are nicely contrasted with an ironically up-tempo flavor. There’s bounciness to these tunes, including some perfectly placed flourishes from flamenco guitar.
As for the rest of the album, Morrissey attacks the modern idea of masculinity while showing his most vulnerable qualities on “I’m Not a Man” and goes slightly romantic on “Kiss Me a Lot.” And “Kick the Bride Down the Aisle” sounds like something left off the “Kill Bill” soundtrack, right down to the theme.
Morrissey clearly shows he has not shed any of his trademark wit or dissension, and while not the best album he’s ever recorded, it’s a pretty strong collection.
—John Carucci, Associated Press
Album: “YES!” (Atlantic Records)
On his fifth studio album, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz returns to familiar lyrical territory, exploring the highs and lows of love in his bright, folk-pop style. This time, though, the sound is both richer and more stripped down — an acoustic ride enriched by the vocals, strings and percussion of his partners on the album, the all-female quartet Raining Jane. Their layered harmonies lend an ethereal vibe throughout, and an almost gospel quality to the album’s best song, the closing ode to love, “Shine.”
Mraz co-wrote every song on “YES!” with the indie group from Los Angeles, except for the worthy resurrection of the heartbreaking Boyz II Men classic “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
“YES!” tells a love story, from the initial intoxication to the inevitable goodbye. Every moment of an ordinary day is magic in “Hello, You Beautiful Thing.”
“I know it’s gonna be a good day,” he sings over bouncy guitars and marimbas. “This is what I’ve been waiting for.”
After heartbreak, he goes “Back to the Earth,” an enthusiastic sing-along about nature’s solace.
“I try to stop the world from moving so fast, try to get a grip on where I’m at,” he sings, “and simplify this dizzy life and put my feet in the grass.”
Like Mraz’s previous albums, “YES!” is cheerfully optimistic, as evidenced by the single “Love Someone.” But the real standouts are the more introspective tracks, such as the cello-driven “You Can Rely on Me” and the downbeat “A World With You.”
“Let’s throw caution to the wind and start over again,” he sings as a cello cries. “I want to see the world the way I see a world with you.”
—Sandy Cohen, Associated Press
Album: “For Once and For All” (I.R.S. Nashville)
Jack Clement was a court jester who emphasized the joy and camaraderie of making music. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Clement made his greatest mark as a producer (Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings), a songwriter and a studio owner.
The posthumous “For Once and For All” is only his third album, recorded after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He died in August 2013 at age 82, leaving behind an album that perfectly conveys why he was such a special creative catalyst.
The album captures Clement’s breezy personality and love for wistful songs about lost love and touching story songs. His voice shows some age, but it’s also warm and expressive, especially on songs such as “Got Leaving On Her Mind” and “I Know One,” both songs Clement wrote for Charley Pride.
The guests underscore his high standing among artists and include Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, T Bone Burnett, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Leon Russell and others. The music is spare yet perfectly played — especially on the tragic “Miller’s Cave” and the sweetly sad “Baby Is Gone.”
Everything echoes a bygone era that emphasized ensemble play and melodies over virtuosic, flashy dramatics. It’s a perfect parting shot from a behind-the-scenes master who contributed greatly to the American song book.
—Michael McCall, Associated Press