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Showing posts from March, 2006

103. Prince - 3121 (2006)

In his 2003 book Possessed: The Rise And Fall Of Prince, author Alex Hahn spends a lot of ink on Prince's supposed need for control of every aspect of his life. It's Hahn's theory that this led directly to Prince's steady decline in popularity and creativity from the mid-'90s on. At the end of the book, Hahn openly wonders if Prince will ever be able to recapture the magic of his best music.

And who could blame Hahn for wondering it? At the time, Prince seemed already a long way down the road that fallen stars like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson had already traveled.

Then came 2004. The year started with The Artist's induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, which was followed by a surprising return to recording form, Musicology, and a subsequent tour that seemed to be a triumph in every city. Even so, it didn't necessarily mean Hahn was wrong. After all, even Elvis had his '68 comeback special. The true test is the follow-up album.

What st…

102. Rhett Miller - The Believer (2006)

Poor Jon Brion. The producer of Rhett Miller's first album took a serious hit in 2005 when critics and fans overwhelmingly preferred a different producer's version of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine album. And now comes Rhett Miller's new one.

Though Brion shows up on a handful of tracks, he once again comes up looking worse for the wear. For one, George Drakoulias has done a bang up job of producing. The sound is richer and fuller than on Miller's first album. And the background vocals, provided here by ex-Jayhawk Gary Louris, easily best anything Brion laid down on The Instigator. Finally, Miller seems to give the knife just one more twist by covering I Believe She's Lying, a song Brion co-wrote with Aimee Mann and which appears on his 2000 solo album. I know getting covered seems like a compliment, but Miller's version is approximately 15 times better than the original, more engrossing and better sung.

Maybe I'm not being completely fair to Brio…

101. Rhett Miller - The Instigator (2002)

My friend Eliza rolls her eyes everytime I mention that I'm interested in a movie because I have enjoyed past work by the same writer or director. She thinks that this is information the average person probably shouldn't have. But when you're a media junkie, there has to be some sort of filtration system on what you allow yourself to experience.

Pop music connesieurs also use this method, but often it's the producer we look to. We pay attention to this stuff. For example, I would have never bought Rhett Miller's first album if it weren't produced by Jon Brion.

Brion has an impressive resume. He worked briefly with Jellyfish in the early '90s, then went on to make one album with Jason Faulkner, as The Greys. His profile grew as he wrote and produced work with Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple. He has also produced music for films such as Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and I Heart Huckabees. In 2000 he put out an excellent solo album called Meaningless. This past…