Story By: G. H. HARDING

James Blunt

BLUNT LANDING --- I've just heard the first best of the year, James Blunt’s fourth album, Moon Landing. It is, without a doubt, a killer on every level. When Blunt was first introduced in 2004, and his “You're Beautiful” became a massive, global hit … the die was cast. That success became both a blessing … and, a curse. A blessing, as Blunt was fully baptized as not only a terrific performer but also a great writer. For true songwriters, here was an amazing new talent, that actually wrote songs … with a beginning, middle and end. A curse, as that song became so big … everywhere, that people actually began to tire of it. It was too much of a good thing.

His subsequent albums, All The lost Souls (2007) and Some Kind Of Trouble (2010), were excellent works, but paled somewhat in comparisons to that miraculous 2004 debut. Personally, Souls was a big favorite of mine, as songs like “Carry You Home,” “Same Mistake” and the ethereal “Shine On” were just tremendous works. Trouble’s “Stay The Night” and “I’ll Be Your Man,” proved somewhat more updated … Blunt-lite if you will.

The new album is simply exquisite, with strings being added on several tracks that work just deliriously well. Blunt’s voice – love it or hate it, but it's just so expressive, bordering on angelic, but with a slight edge. “Miss America,” written about Whitney Houston just might be Blunt’s best song ever. The music is tremendous, but the lyrics even more so. I defy you to listen to that track without some emotion creeping it.

“Bones” is another instant classic with a riveting chorus and a propulsive production - a superb track for sure. Most of these tracks were produced by the amazing Tom Rothrock, who has worked on all of his albums save for Trouble. Rothrock is to Blunt, as producer/writer Paul Epworth is to Adele; what George Martin was to The Beatles. Perfect emissaries to carry out his songs to pure perfection. 

Curious about Rothrock, I looked into his body of work and found just an exemplary array of work. It’s one thing to be able to write and perform at Blunt’s caliber; but, finding someone like Rothrock is like manna from heaven.

“Bonfire Heart,” the first single from the album is somewhat reminiscent of bands like The Lumineers and others that have a chorus of people singing together. It almost has a bluegrass feel. Favorite line: “Your love is like a soldier; Loyal ’til you die.”

I remember seeing Blunt years back, certainly in the 2004-era at a WPLJ show (orchestrated to the great Tom Cuddy), and was just gob smacked by his talents. If you own his previous albums … this one is a must-have. If you don't, this is must-have.

KATHIE LEE & HODA --- As Barbara Walter’s warhorse of a show The View fade closer and closer into TV-heaven, I've become enamored of NBC’s Kathie Lee & Hoda; the so-called third hour of the Today Show. I have an interesting background with Ms. Lee nee Epstein. When she was on her old show, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, I had many occasions to visit there and found her absolutely terrific. She stepped into deep doo doo more than once while there, but was always a pleasure to deal with. 

When she left Live and the search was on for a new co-host, the show itself suffered, yet it became something of a running gag. We'd see her occasionally resurface, but when her Today show gig was first announced, I, and probably many others, thought it was a joke. Now, with Regis erased from the morning show roost (a roost which he ruled for many, many years I might add) Kathie Lee, with Hoda now firmly control that hour.

The show is a miasma of personal moments from the two; from what they're wearing to what they're complaining about; funnily enough, in many ways what the best moments of Live were all about. Kathie Lee is as outspoken as ever and in this day of corporate claptrap, her bluntness is refreshingly appreciated. The show took some time to build, but now has seamlessly joined with her best previous work with Reege – who is an occasional guest (and, yes, he and Kathie Lee still have it).

Its brilliant TV for sure; certainly what good TV should be all about. I applaud her for a brilliant second act!

CLOSING NOTES --- Regis Philbin seems to have done an under-the-radar transformation like Alec Baldwin; he’s on his Fox-sports show (Crowd Goes Wild), but you’d never know it. I saw him the other day and his famous head of hair is now all gray. It’s been like that for a while, but he’s been going through a chock full of colors … it looks great like this. Regis officially departs the sports show after this weekend’s Super Bowl - he'll still be on, but on a more limited basis. We'd love to see him return in a variety-format; the kid’s still got it …

How about ex-CNN-er Larry King recommending to his former stations (who are in the ratings jungle) they go all cartoon … love that Larry …

We wanted to credit the photographer of Wednesday’s Mostly Moptop cover; an homage to Robert Freemnan’s iconic 1963 photo of the Fab Four … it’s Joe Gioglio. Stunning creation …

Fashion Week here in NYC starts on February 6; next Thursday. Looking forward, as always, for the Cynthia Rowley as her work is always totally fascinating and innovative. Details to follow ...

Elton John’s classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album will be reissued with a bonus disc featuring covers of songs by Ed Sheeran, Fall Out Boy and Zac Brown Band.

Sheeran (who is managed by John's company Rocket) will sing “Candle In The Wind,” Zac Brown Band will perform “Harmony” and Fall Out Boy will tackle “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” on the box set and deluxe editions of the album.

Other guests on the covers disc include Miguel featuring Wale, Hunter Hayes, The Band Perry, John Grant, Emeli Sande and Imelda May.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released in May, 1973. It was Elton’s seventh studio album. The album was recorded at the famed Chateau d’Herouville in Paris were he also recorded and named the previous album Honky Chateau.