Marriage, motherhood tame Morissette
HAVOC AND BRIGHT LIGHTS
Alanis Morissette is happier now. (Thank you, India. Thank you, frailty.)
Of course, Alanis Happiness — thanks to marriage and motherhood — is slightly less stable and far more wordy than, you know, regular folks’ happiness.
But she is more than eager to discuss this on Havoc and Bright Lights, her eighth studio album and most cohesive effort in years. Not Jagged Little Pill cohesive, mind you, but far more focused than her recent musical walkabouts.
The opener “Guardian” is as straightforward and upbeat as Morissette gets, declaring her everlasting love and guardianship. It’s a signal that she’s still in touch with her determined “Hand in My Pocket” self, even if that rebelliousness has run out.
She gets sappy on the love ballad “Til You,” which is wrapped in Carpenters-like ’70s gauze and delivered so tamely it makes Sarah McLachlan sound ferocious.
The sweetness is all the more jarring since it follows “Woman Down,” a snarling litigation of a man’s missteps that lacks the bite of Morissette’s earlier work.
Unfortunately, the tales of domesticity are where Morissette is on the firmest ground. When she starts going on about the problems of fame in “Celebrity” over a vaguely Eastern-influenced backdrop, it gets hard not to want to tune her out. (“I display the perfect amount of ennui,” her publicity-hungry character declares, seemingly without irony.)
Morissette still has plenty to say, and a distinctive way to say it on Havoc, but, too often, it feels like a lecture rather than a song.
The Lawless soundtrack is the third film collaboration for Australian director John Hillcoat and Australian musicians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The trio worked together for 2005’s bleak Aussie western, The Proposition, and the even bleaker 2009 apocalyptic drama The Road.
The latest score from Cave and Ellis, who also have rock bands Grinderman and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in common, accompanies a Prohibition-era gangster saga set in rural Virginia.
Cave and Ellis created a custom-made band for Lawless, the Bootleggers. They also enlist country music star Emmylou Harris, classic bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley and Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan to sing songs new and old.
The gruff-voiced Lanegan must be the project’s Tom Waits equivalent. Stanley’s Lawless songs don’t match his haunting a cappella performance in another Depression-set movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but it’s still good to have an artist of his calibre along for the ride. The expressive Harris complements Cave and Ellis’ more ethereal soundtrack musings.
The score’s arrangements feature plucked and strummed acoustic string instruments, fiddle and ambient electronics. Country music and punk rock are blended, no more so than in a rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat,” performed by Lanegan and the Bootleggers. Willie Nelson’s “Midnight Run” ends this 14-track collection full throttle.
A&M 50: THE ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION
Trumpeter Herb Alpert sold millions of records in his role as leader of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Popular as the Tijuana Brass was in the 1960s, Alpert’s behind-the-scenes co-founding of A&M Records with business partner Jerry Moss produced a run of hits from 1962 forward by himself and many others.
A three-CD set marking A&M’s 50th anniversary opens with Alpert’s 1962 hit, “The Lonely Bull.” Moving from the latter romantic, south of the border-spiced starting point, Alpert and Moss present an eclectic sampling of their label’s decades of hits.
Brazilian pianist Sergio Mendes leads his group, Brasil ’66, in the exotically up-tempo “Mas Que Nada.” A&M also rode the mid-’60s’ folk-rock wave with We Five’s “You Were On My Mind.”
A&M 50: The Anniversary Collection exits the ’60s with brother-and-sister duo the Carpenters’ 1970 hit “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and British star Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” Other British acts scored at A&M as well, among them prog-rockers Procol Harum, ’70s teen idol Peter Frampton, singer-pianist Joe Jackson, the reggae-influenced Police and, later, ex-Police man Sting gone solo.
Jazz greats Stan Getz and Antonio Carlos Jobim shared the A&M label with pop stars Janet Jackson and Sheryl Crow. New Orleans’ Aaron Neville, heard in “Everybody Plays the Fool,” experienced some of his biggest commercial success at A&M. Humble Pie and Free supply hard rock; Joan Baez shines in “Diamonds and Rust”; and Sonny Charles and the Checkmates Ltd. sing Motown-style soul in the Phil Spector-produced “Black Pearl.”
There’s much more, nearly 60 individual acts represented by one track each. Not everything has aged so well, but there many classics in the mix.