While there is a certain inevitability about all this, Noonan has at least stayed true to her roots: this is a jazz record, recorded in New York with a quintet of accomplished musicians. But your enjoyment of this album will depend largely on two factors: your own fatigue with the endless array of covers albums being churned out of late, and the high regard for which you hold the songs of The Beatles. If you're a Beatles nut, and the thought of hearing meandering, jazz-noodley versions of songs like In My Life and Eleanor Rigby makes you feel like you've been rapped in the face, best to steer clear. For those capable of listening without prejudice, Blackbird slowly reveals itself to be a warm, lush record, albeit one where the songs are sometimes stretched to breaking point (interminable eight-minute version of Fool On The Hill, I'm looking at you).
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
One thing is quite certain: ou can love this album to death or loathe it with every fiber of your being, but you can’t really ignore it. From the gorgeusly disturbing gatefold sleeve, displaying a masterpiece of Gothic artwork by Swiss cult artist R.H. Giger (of “Alien” fame), down to the unabashed self-indulgence of its musical content, “Brain Salad Surgery” is a compendium of everything progressive rock is all about, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is loud, metallic, and harsh, undeniably bombastic, though it can also be melodic and soothing – a true rollercoaster ride of an album, swinging from the beautiful, English choirboy vocals of “Jerusalem” (with wonderful lyrics courtesy of one Mr William Blake) to the all-out progressive orgy that is “Karn Evil 9”.
Moving to Capitol/EMI after a one-off record at Island/Universal, Jennifer Lopez seizes the opportunity of a new label to jump-start her career with A.K.A. It isn't quite a complete reboot, however. Its executive producer is RedOne, who worked on 2011's Love?, but this record attempts to push J-Lo further into modern dance, by having her duet with T.I., Pitbull, and Rick Ross, not to mention Iggy Azalea, who was the hottest rapper in the U.S. upon the June release of A.K.A. Iggy's showcase arrives on "Acting Like That," one of several tracks produced by Leon Youngblood, and his contributions – which also include the title track and "So Good" – are the moments on the record that get it right, balancing the heavy club throb with pop hooks that rely on feel as much as Lopez's vocals…