What do Willie Nelson and Adam Lambert have in common? Nothing, but they are both worth checking out in this weeks’ new releases

 Add It To The Collection: Willie Nelson, the perennial country outlaw, highwayman and poster boy for the legalization of pot, is on the cusp of his 80th birthday – there must be something to that little green leaf.  For more than 60 years Willie has travelled the world bringing is nasally vocal style to country classics and reimagined pop songs alike.  If his latest release, Heroes, is any indication, Willie has no plans to slow down and retire gracefully.  In fact, Willie continues to push the boundaries of country music and take his music to new audiences.  Heroes is far from a perfect album. 

It is somewhat disjointed as the songs bounce around between traditional country and bluegrass to balladeer-type tracks that Willie has become known for in recent years.  The results are mixed, but there are far more hits than misses and the hits are fairly remarkable.  Heroes is a collection of original material penned by Willie, covers of traditional country tunes, and new interpretations of songs written by the likes of Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder and Coldplay.  The album also features three impressive tracks written by Willie’s son Lukas who also adds vocals and guitar work to most of the tracks on the album.  Willie’s buddies Merle Haggard and Sheryl Crow also make guest appearances on the album, as do Kris Kristofferson and the Doggfather himself, Snoop Dogg on the laughable, yet highly entertaining, “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die)”. While I don’t see an obvious connection or link between the album’s title and the material, it is clear that this is mostly a father/son collaboration between Willie and Lukas and it’s the tracks where they croon together that make Willie shine and the album work.  Must have track: “The Sound of Your Memory” and the Pearl Jam cover, “Just Breathe”.

Add It To The Collection: There’s no denying the vocal abilities of Adam Lambert.  If you caught any of Season 8 of American Idol you witnessed Lambert demolishing covers of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, Johnny Cash’s  “Ring of Fire”, The Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears” and a stunning version of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World”. It seemed like Lambert could pull off any style with over-the-top vocals and a sense of the theatrical/performance side of every song – at the time I would have tagged him as a modern-day Freddy Mercury.  As is usually the case, the wrong guy won Idol and runner-up Lambert was rushed into releasing his first album, For Your Entertainment. While the album yielded three solid singles, it was clearly not the album Lambert wanted to make. This week Lambert is back with Trespassing, a collection of twelve tracks with him having a hand in writing nine of them.  The result is a more honest representation of who Lambert is and what he wants to do as an artist.  It’s clear after listening to Trespassing that despite some of his Idol performances, Lambert is not a rocker.  He is most comfortable delivering a pop song over dance-hall-ready beats and synths.  Think more Michael Jackson than Prince.  Lambert does bring in big-time pop producers Pharrell, Dr. Luke and Oligee, giving the album an extremely well-polished sound that will no doubt be filling dance halls and clubs.  One good thing about the album is Lambert doesn’t use his impressive high-pitched shriek as often as he did on his debut.  His vocals are crisp, clean and show off his range without doing vocal-gymnastics just for the sake of it.  While the dance-heavy tracks on Trespassing aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, the only bad thing I can really say about the record is that it’s too long (10 tracks would have been enough) and some of the lyrics are weak.  Otherwise, Trespassing should have Lambert dancing all the way to the top of the pop charts. Must have track: The title track, “Trespassing” is a funky hot mess of synths, beats and a solid groove.

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