Method Man, “The Meth Lab II: The Lithium” (Hanz On Music Entertainment/ONErpm)
The concept of the hip-hop album has changed thanks to the advent of streaming. Because hip-hop fans are more likely to just listen to singles repeatedly rather than listening to an album in its entirety, albums have much more filler than they used to.
However, Method Man is immune to that line of thinking. And his new album is a throwback to the days when hip-hop albums were meant to be heard from start to finish, complete with strong songs and skits to tie them together. Method Man doesn’t skimp on anything, drafting fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Raekwon and Redman to appear and Snoop Dogg for the masterful “Eastside,” and the Impractical Jokers for some of the skits.
But Method Man is definitely self-sufficient and his stunning flow on “Gran Prix” proves it, as he rhymes, “Baby mama drama, tryna act like she Madonna, like a virgin, but I’m certain that this person a piranha, man eater, Jeffrey Dahmer.”
He makes it sound easy, but “The Lithium” actually runs circles around most new rappers’ concepts these days.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Various artists, “Basement Beehive: The Girl Group Underground” (Numero)
Chicago reissue label Numero Group is an expert unearther that specializes in bringing talented might-have-beens out from obscurity and into the light of day. Rather than center on a specific scene or individual artist (as with 2017’s fabulous Jackie Shane set), this double-disc collection with excellent liner notes by Minneapolis-reared critic Jessica Hopper gathers 56 little-known girl groups from all over the U.S. in the pre-psychedelic 1960s.
It’s a treasure trove of swoony, energetic, lovelorn pop from black, white, and brown groups such as Toni & the Hearts, Judy & the Affections, and the Dreamliners that sing their hearts out but that never achieved the fame of the Shangri-Las or the Marvelettes.
Florida rock band the Belles sound positively punky on “Come Back,” and they turn a female gaze on the Van Morrison-penned Them hit “Gloria” with new lyrics about a cute guy named “Melvin.” Future soul star Lyn Collins is heard as a 14-year-old on Charles Pike & the Scholars’ “Unlucky in Love.” Bernadette Carroll tries her darnedest to get a new dance craze going on “The Humpty Dump.”
“Basement Beehive” is a high-haired, highly enjoyable alternative history of songs that sound like you must have heard them before but actually haven’t.
Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tom Petty, “An American Treasure” (Reprise)
The 60-track deluxe version includes previously unreleased songs, including a charming demo of “The Apartment Song” with Stevie Nicks, as well as live versions and alternate takes of the late Petty’s impressive rock catalog. Extras include a 52-page booklet of rare photographs and a track-by-track liner notes breakdown by journalist Bud Scoppa.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday