As the summer rolls along, a baby boomer true to his youth may still want to go out and buy the latest records. Of course there’s no vinyl anymore, but there are plenty of CDs out there — and aren’t they just little silver records in a sense? Here are four to look at.
Hall & Oates “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” (RCA/Legacy)
The list of those artists who have been shamefully ignored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a lengthy one, but even the staunchest defender of the RRHOF would agree that there is something almost criminal about the absence of Daryl Hall and John Oates from the Cleveland shrine. Hall & Oates, who hail from Philadelphia, have sold more records than any other pop duo including Forest Hills’ own Simon & Garfunkel. The release of a career-spanning four-CD H&O box set titled “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” is a stark reminder of the Hall of Fame Foundation’s shameful oversight.
As is the case with most box sets, “Do What You Want” is chock full of rarities, unreleased concert performances, and of course, the big hits. What is different about this collection is that there is very little filler. It’s certainly fun to hear old friends like “Sara Smile,” “Did It In A Minute,” “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Private Eyes” and “Kiss On My List,” as well as such angst-ridden anti-Valentine anthems as “Family Man,” “Maneater” and “Out of Touch.” The only noticeable omission is their terrific cover of the Spinners’ 1972 hit, “I’ll Be Around.”
Due Voci “Due Voci” (UME)
Composer Diane Warren could be considered a ’90s answer to Burt Bacharach, given the number of familiar hits that she penned for such artists as Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Edwyn McCain, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. Two talented singers, Taylor Hamilton and Kelly Levesque who call themselves Due Voci (Italian for two voices), have decided to take a stab at approaching Warren’s big hits in duet fashion.
Producer Humberto Garcia has added syrupy strings, harps and bass-ridden piano chords to enhance the operatic qualities of both singers. While I admire Due Voci’s attempts to put a fresh spin on “Unbreak My Heart,” “How Do I Live,” “I Could Not Ask For More” and “Because You Loved Me,” the bottom line is that you would still rather hear the familiar hit renditions. The only exception is their take on “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” which is vastly superior to the Aerosmith smash — primarily because Aerosmith lead singer Steve Tyler had no business singing the tune to begin with.
Straight No Chaser “With A Twist” (Atco)
Straight No Chaser is a 10-man a capella group who got their start at Indiana University, the alma mater that launched arguably the greatest American pop vocal group of all-time, the Four Freshmen.
No instruments are used on “With A Twist” as the guys utilize their vocal chops to imitate keyboards and percussion. Musically, Straight No Chaser is all over the place timewise, as they pay tribute to both Judy Garland (“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”), for example, and to Beyonce (“Single Ladies”). For my money, the best tracks are their covers of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” and Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Barry Manilow gives the group his seal of approval as he joins in on the album’s finale, “One Voice,” one of his songs.
Various Artists “Now That’s What I Call Love” (Capitol)
If you’re looking for a crash course in pop music of the first decade of the 21st century, the 20-song “That’s What I Call Love” is a good place to begin. The album contains generous doses of smashes from female hit makers as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Natasha Bedingfield, Leona Lewis, Jordin Sparks, Colbie Caillat and former Queens resident Alicia Keys, as well as power ballads from Nickelback, Daughtry, Lifehouse and 3 Doors Down.
On the negative side, Maroon 5's “She Will Be Love” and Hoobastank’s “The Reason” are still as much fun to experience as root canal surgery.