Story By: G. H. HARDING

Florence and The Machine

FLORENCE RULES --- The new (and third) studio album from the UK band Florence and the Machine--How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful—is just sensational. For new artists, it’s usually their second album—often called the “sophomore jinx,” is the hardest one to get through. However, lead singer Florence Welch and her band had another hit record with their second LP, the brilliant Ceremonials. This new one, however, is just as blindingly great as the first two—perhaps more so.

The first single, “Ship to Wreck,” is just a great, great song that has been well-received everywhere. When they performed on a recent SNL episode—followed by a performance over at ABC’s Good Morning America last week—Welch unleashed her passion and nearly brought the house down with her energy. The second track (and current single) “What Kind of Man” solidly follows up the album opener in a captivating way. Republic Records’ Nate Albert said that she and the group have already done a video for each track; and they’re said to have been done brilliantly.

Florence Welch, born in London, is indeed one of the most compelling artists I’ve ever come across in the past few years. While she almost certainly hails from the school Enya, she rocks out too in fine form. Out of all the artists who have hit big from Britain, and Lord knows there’s been more than a few (Adele; Duffy; Jessie J; and Leona Lewis just to name a few) , she’s bigger and better than ever. For me, she has begun now to eclipse what Amy Winehouse was able to do before she so tragically passed at age 27. I was a big Amy proponent, but I feel that Welch has indeed picked up the torch.

After several listens to the album, my favorite is “Queen of Peace,” which blends perfectly some staggering lyrics and blistering music.

It’s admirable that her music with the group has been embraced by so many. She’s been a terrific supporter of festivals (including the recent Governor’s Ball), but equally at home on a more intimate show like NBC’s SNL. I also appreciated how well-balanced the sound was at SNL (especially when the live sound there at the SNL studio is usually pretty spotty.

I saw her at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall when the first album, Lungs (2009) came out. Welch was amazing. She’s loosened up considerably since then, but the music is as powerful and impressive as ever. She’s an important artist, for sure. The new album (which shot to #1 in its first week of release) is, in my opinion, one of the year’s best. Don’t miss it!

WEBB ON GLEN --- Singer/songwriter extraordinaire Jimmy Webb penned an absolutely brilliant narrative on his recent visit to see Glen Campbell, who is now stricken with Alzheimer’s and living in an assisted facility. If you ever loved Campbell’s music –and face it, his interpretations of Webb’s songs were always amazing—you must read it.

DURAN SPEAKS --- You’ve got to hand it to Duran Duran – still here and, in some ways, better than ever. Don’t forget that when they first came to the fore in 1981, they were immediately grouped with the then-new Romantic scene in music. Can you name three other bands that were grouped in as well?

Duran Duran have made it official that their new album will be called Paper Gods.

Due out in September, the new set will be their fourteenth studio release and the first in their new deal with Warner Brothers. Nile Rodgers, who worked with the band extensively during the ’80s, producing the hit singles “The Reflex,” “Wild Boys,” and their entire album Notorious. He also worked with the Taylor brothers on their Power Station side project featuring the “Addicted to Love” ’80s singer Robert Palmer.

Rodgers is joined on the album by Mark Ronson, who produced Duran Duran’s last albums, All You Need Iis Now (a great, much overlooked album), and Mr. Hudson.

Look for the first single from the album Pressure Off, featuring Janelle Monae, prior to the album release.

The answers: Kajagoogoo, Adam Ant and Culture Club!

CLOSING NOTES --- A great quick visit to East Hampton this weekend spotlighted two fab new eateries: Bay Kitchen Bar in East Hampton and Harlow in Sag Harbor. Great food, service and atmosphere. When we entered Harlow, wedded actors Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts were exiting . . .

James Taylor on Today earlier, performing songs from his first new album in thirteen years called Before This World (great title!). His 13-piece band featured our old friend, drummer Steve Gadd. Sensational, as always . . .

When the dust settles later today, Universal’s Jurassic World may have posted the biggest opening ever domestically, at a staggering $208M-$210M, which would overtake previous champ Disney with its Marvel Comics release, The Avengers — which, at $207.4M, held the title for the last three years. JW is also Universal’s widest release ever, opening at 4,274 screens. Legendary co-financed twenty-five percent of the Steven Spielberg-produced movie. Will it make it? Stay tuned!