Various Artists, “The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson” (Blackbird)
A star-studded lineup — including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Lady Antebellum — performs a live tribute to one of country music’s transformative singer-songwriters.
Though he’s scored hits on his own, Kristofferson’s greatest achievements have been as a songwriter and by the early 1970s his portfolio included such standards as “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (Sammi Smith), “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” (Johnny Cash) and “Nobody Wins” (Brenda Lee).
Those are all on the album, though sung by others, along with selections like Reba McEntire’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Jesus Was A Capricorn (Owed to John Prine)” by Jack Ingram — whose vocals are very Prine — and Rosanne Cash’s heartfelt “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” — where “her” becomes “him.”
With backing from a band including Don Was, Buddy Miller, Matt Rollings and Greg Leisz, other performances include Alison Krauss with “Casey’s Last Ride,” Eric Church’s very personal take on “To Beat the Devil” and Hank Williams Jr’s line-in-the-sand “If You Don’t Like Hank Williams.”
A sung mini-biography of the honoree, “Kristofferson,” with Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall and Larry Gatlin, is the only tune not written by him, while the man himself takes the stage a few times, including closer “Why Me,” a deeply spiritual song and his biggest success as a performer. If anyone’s missing, it’s Rita Coolidge, Kristofferson’s ex-wife with whom he recorded several albums.
Released with a DVD of the Nashville concert, “The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson” is a winning approach to a career overview, relying on outstanding performers to draw from a deep catalog of excellent tunes.
Destroyer, “ken” (Merge Records)
Prolific Dan Bejar’s restless musical journey reaches a new stage with “ken,” which travels the similar-yet-different path to its most recent predecessors, “Kaputt” from 2011 and 2015’s “Poison Season.”
Three albums this decade may not seem very productive, but Bejar records and collaborates with several lineups — fellow Vancouverites The New Pornographers being the most renowned — and his output totals some 30 albums and EPs in 20-plus years. This is his twelfth with Destroyer.
“ken” takes its name from the original title of Suede’s epic 1994 ballad “The Wild Ones.” Bejar says his aim was to somehow capture what that song made him feel, “when music first really came to me like a sickness,” even if there’s no direct relation to the British group.
Many of the sounds on “ken” seem rooted a decade further back from the Suede track, with pulsing synths and drum machines and the songs carrying a Waterboys-like drama dressed up in The Cure’s mood swings. Drummer-producer Josh Wells excels.
Lyrically, opener “Sky’s Grey” sets the tone for the whole album — “Sky’s grey/Call for rain/Everyday/You cancel parade.” It’s a bit of a downer about “dear young revolutionary capitalists,” but chillingly effective.
From there, Bejar makes observation on vacuous existences (“A pose is always empty”), the ambivalence of material comforts (“I can’t pay for this/All I’ve got is money”) and presents a kind of handbook for living surrounded by anxiety (“Good things come to those who wait forever.”)
Bejar may also be singing about something completely different. Forming your own interpretations as the songs affect you in their unique way is a great approach for any Destroyer album, and “ken” is particularly fertile ground for listening between the lines.
LOS ANGELES: Niall Horan scored his first chart-topping album as a solo artist on Monday, the third member of boy band One Direction to achieve the feat.
Horan’s album “Flicker” sold 152,000 album units in its first week from music sales and streaming activity, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan.
It follows on the heels of Harry Styles’ self-titled solo album debut in May and Zayn Malik’s “Mind of Mine” debut last year, both of which opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
After Malik left One Direction in 2015, the band went on hiatus and each of its remaining members released solo music.
The Billboard 200 album chart tallies units from album sales, song sales (10 songs equal one album) and streaming activity (1,500 streams equal one album).
New debuts in the top ten of the Billboard 200 album chart this week included rappers Future and Young Thug’s collaborative album “Super Slimey” at No. 2, country singer Chris Young’s “Losing Sleep” at No. 5 and country singer Darius Rucker at No. 8 with “When Was The Last Time.”
LOS ANGELES: “Saturday Night Live” announced the lineup for two more November shows on Monday morning, and it includes a bounty of musical guests: Chance the Rapper will host on Nov 18 — with Eminem as the musical guest — and Taylor Swift will be the musical guest on Nov 11 (the day after her sixth album, “Reputation,” drops) with “Girls Trip” star Tiffany Hadish hosting.
The Nov 4 show, as previously announced, will feature Larry David as host and Miley Cyrus as musical guest.
Chance the Rapper has appeared on the show twice before: once in 2015, and again last year, when he appeared in a couple of sketches; he even earned an Emmy nomination for his contributions to a December 2016 episode for the song “Last Christmas.” Yet this is the first time he will be hosting, and will give the rapper another opportunity to expand his skill set, which already includes self-releasing his albums and booking his own festivals.
On Nov 1, he will perform with The National and Gloria Estefan to close out the Obama Foundation’s first global summit on Nov 1 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. The concert is free but not open to the public and the Obama Foundation is handing out more than 1,500 tickets to “our neighbors and community members who have been engaged in the Foundation’s work — including local community organizations, churches, and schools. (Agencies)
Chance also premiered a new song on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” late last month. (Agencies)
By Pablo Gorondi