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Archives for: 2008

12/12/08


Category: Popular Rock

Dig Out Your Soul, Oasis


With classic tracks like "Wonderwall", "Live Forever" and "Don't Look Back In Anger", Oasis are one of the biggest British bands in history. 6 successful studio albums later, Oasis has been and still is a revered and prolific reference for indie guitar music around the world and are one of the very few bands that have achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success. They have sold more than 50 million records worldwide, and have had eight UK number-one singles. Dig Out Your Soul is the seventh studio album from the band and is preceded by the highly anticipated first single 'The Shock of The Lightning'. Oasis is back once again to prove that they are not just only the biggest British band of the past decade, but will remind the world that they are and will be around for the next decade putting out another great rock record. Amazon

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Category: Popular Rock

Time the Conqueror, Jackson Browne


Browne's first studio release in six years. Recorded with his longtime band Kevin McCormick, Mark Goldenberg, Mauricio "Fritz" Lewak, and Jeff Young, along with two additional members, Chavonne Morris and Alethea Mills. Amazon

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Category: Country

Cardinology, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals


Although the album's title may lead you to believe that this is a compilation, Cardinology is, in fact, a new album! Like its predecessor Easy Tiger, which TIME magazine hailed as "a career breakthrough," Cardinology is a concise and focused collection of twelve unadorned gems. The Cardinals are: Ryan Adams (vocals, guitar, keys), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Chris Feinstein (bass, vocals), Jon Graboff (pedal steel, vocals) and Brad Pemberton (drums). Amazon

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Category: Jazz

The World is a Ghetto, War


Best known for its distinctive fusion of Latin-flavored jazz, funk, rock, and soul, War was unquestionably one of the most successful fusion bands to emerge in the early '70s. Initially working with Eric Burdon, former lead singer with the British '60s band the Animals, the seven-member team enjoyed a commercial breakthrough with 1971's "All Day Music." The follow-up, The World Is a Ghetto took War mainstream thanks to the crossover success of the title track, a top 10 pop and R&B smash as 1972 became 1973. Cuts like the 13-minute-plus jazz-flavored adventure known as "City, Country, City" alongside the witty "Where Was You At" and the eerie "Four Cornered Room" were standouts on the six-track album. But it was the immediacy of the No. 2 pop single "The Cisco Kid," with its catchy hook that helped give the band a chart-topping No. 1 gold-selling album in 1973, arguably the best representation of its work as groove pioneers of the day. --David Nathan

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Category: Popular Rock

The Fame, Lady Gaga


Import pressing of the debut album from the New York singer. On The Fame, it’s as if Gaga took two parts Dance-Pop, one part Electro-Pop, and one part Rock with a splash of Disco and burlesque and generously poured it into the figurative martini glasses of the world in an effort to get everyone drunk with her Fame. 'The Fame is about how anyone can feel famous,' she explains. 'Pop culture is art. It doesn’t make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it and you hear it all over The Fame. But, it’s a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle.' Universal. 2008. Amazon

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Category: R & B

Evolver, John Legend


The album Evolver features superstars Kanye West, Andre 3000 and Estelle.The album's first single 'Green Light' impacted Urban & Rhythm formats August 19th, 2008. John Legend's debut CD Get Lifted & sophomore CD Once John Legend is the winner of five Grammy Awards. Amazon

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Category: Popular Rock

My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection, Celine Dion


Based on the #1 NY Times bestseller by Nicholas Sparks, "Nights In Rodanthe" follows a woman (Diane Lane) with her life in chaos as she retreats to the tiny coastal town of Rodanthe to tend a friend's inn for the weekend. The only guest at the inn (Richard Gere) arrives with a storm closing in on the town. The two turn to each other for comfort and, in one magical weekend, set in motion a life-changing romance. The soundtrack features "In Rodanthe" written and performed by Emmylou Harris, along with heartwarming songs in the style of Piedmont Blues by such artists as Count Basie, Ruth Brown, Slim & Slam, Dinah Washington, and more. Amazon

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Category: Soundtracks

Nights in Rodanthe, Various artists


Based on the #1 NY Times bestseller by Nicholas Sparks, "Nights In Rodanthe" follows a woman (Diane Lane) with her life in chaos as she retreats to the tiny coastal town of Rodanthe to tend a friend's inn for the weekend. The only guest at the inn (Richard Gere) arrives with a storm closing in on the town. The two turn to each other for comfort and, in one magical weekend, set in motion a life-changing romance. The soundtrack features "In Rodanthe" written and performed by Emmylou Harris, along with heartwarming songs in the style of Piedmont Blues by such artists as Count Basie, Ruth Brown, Slim & Slam, Dinah Washington, and more. Amazon

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Category: Classical

Gomidas Songs, Isabel Bayrakdarian


‘Although the pieces performed here by the internationally acclaimed, Canadian-based soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian are sung entirely in Armenian, these songs cast a powerful spell long before their literal meaning has been gleaned. Bayrakdarian - born in Lebanon, the daughter of Armenian parents - explores the extraordinary legacy of Gomidas Vardabet, a well-travelled, turn-of-the-nineteenth-century composer who made it his life's work to seek out, transcribe and re-interpret the ancient liturgy, songs, lullabies, hymns and folk dances of his homeland. Bayrakdarian performed Gomidas's music as part of the score to Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan's 2002 Ararat, a multi-layered drama about contemporary filmmakers attempting to dramatize and come to terms with the events of 1915. However, mainstream moviegoers will more readily recognize her voice from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Composer Howard Shore invited Bayrakdarian to sing on the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack after hearing one of her recordings. She's even more renowned among opera fans the world over, especially for her performances, on stage and on record, as Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare and in such Mozart works as Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. Her voice, says Time, 'Combines lyricism with remarkable dramatic instincts.' Bayrakdarian made her Metropolitan Opera debut in William Bolcom's A View from the Bridge. Gomidas Songs contains love songs, devotional songs, evocations of nature, children's songs, and lamentations, and comic songs. It was recorded at the Aram Khachaturian Philharmonic Hall in Yerevan, Armenia with the Chamber Players of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. All the songs were arranged and orchestrated by scholar and pianist Serouj Kradjian, her concert partner and husband. Egoyan contributes eloquent liner notes to the album package, illustrating the importance of Bayrakdarian's undertaking to music lovers everywhere: 'The strength of any culture resides in its ability to preserve, cherish, reinvent and grow. This was the gift that Gomidas gave to his people, and this is the gift which Isabel has revealed and brought to the world.’ Amazon

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Category: Country

Play, Brad Paisley


Brad Pailey won his first GRAMMY Award in 2008 for Best Country Instrumental Performance and he is believes in 'more music, less talk' with his 2008 album, Play, which promises to increase axes across the board, alongside some of the guitar world's great heroes. Featuring guest vocal and musical collaborations with B.B. King, Keith Urban, Steve Wariner, and Buck Owens. Amazon

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10/30/08


Category: Holiday

Ring the Bells, Travis Cottrell


It is a voice that has been heard by millions as worship leader for Beth Moore's Living Proof Ministries conferences since 1995. Today, Travis Cottrell continues to amaze audiences with this voice and has joined forces with Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Mercy Me) to produce a long awaited and unforgettable Christmas record. Ring The Bells features some well known classics and six newly recorded Christmas songs soon to be favorites of everyone! Amazon

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Category: Holiday

Peace on Earth, Casting Crowns


2008 release of Peace On Earth by Casting Crowns. Following the highly successful The Altar and The Door album and tour, Grammy Award-winning group Casting Crowns release its first Christmas record. Known for its life-changing ministry of renewal and discipleship, Casting Crowns continues that mission with an album of songs dedicated to the meaning behind this holy season.Casting Crowns has received an American Music Award and 20 GMA Dove Awards collectively between band and lead-singer Mark Hall. Amazon

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Category: Holiday

A Toby Keith Classic Christmas Vol. 1 & 2, Toby Keith


A two CD set of 20 true, Christmas Classics from Toby Keith. A Classic Christmas is Toby's first holiday release in 12 years. The songs are divided by disc into both contemporary and spiritual based holiday standards.
The instrumentation and production is acoustic based and allows the simplicity of the music to shine. These are the songs you want to hear during the holidays, performed by the biggest artist in country music.
Toby Keith, a Christmas Classic indeed! Amazon

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Category: Holiday

Heart A Lovemonger’s Christmas, Heart


2008 holiday release from the Wilson sisters (Ann and Nancy) that offers up a platter of original yuletide material (plus a few old nuggets). Not as bombastic or produced as classic Heart albums, this joyful release is stripped down and certainly aimed at the Christmas pop rocker in all of us. 12 tracks. Amazon

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Category: Holiday

Holiday Slow Jams, Various Artists


Fourteen tracks of Holiday Slow Jams to stay warm on those cold winter nights. Various Artists featured: 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' - Faith Evans, 'O Holy Night '- Al Green, 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' - Dianne Reeves, 'My Favorite Things' - The Whispers, 'Merry Christmas, Baby' - Charles Brown, 'First Noel' - BeBe & CeCe Winans, 'Happy Holiday' - Faith Evans, 'White Christma' - Bobby Womack, 'Christmas Song' - The O'Jays, 'Silent Night' - Lou Rawls, 'Christmas Waltz' - Nancy Wilson , 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'- The Whispers , 'What Are You Doing New Year's Eve' - The O'Jays. Capital

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Category: Holiday

Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas, Mary Chapin Carpenter


Finally, a Christmas album worth listening to all year long. When Mary Chapin Carpenter set out to create Come Darkness, Come Light, she took a far different approach to recording a holiday album than most artists do. Rather than simply lending her voice to time-worn Christmas standards, Mary Chapin wrote her own set of heartfelt songs which explore the many meanings and emotions that Christmas evokes in each of us. These songs, mixed with a few hand-picked gems from other writers and rarely heard traditional tunes, will speak directly to the hearts of all Mary Chapin Carpenter fans. These are not merely holiday songs, they are simply great Mary Chapin Carpenter songs, both warm and intimate. And while they artfully capture the spirit of the season, this is a rare Christmas album that doesn't feel like it needs to be kept on the shelf between New Year's and Thanksgiving. With stellar support from longtime musical partners Jon Carroll (piano) and co-producer John Jennings (guitars), Mary Chapin's voice goes down as warmly as hot cider on a cold winter's night. Zoe Records

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Category: Holiday

Christmas With Boney M, Boney M


2007 reissue of Boney M's holiday album featuring bonus tracks. Long sought after by Christmas music fans, the quartet's disco-fied version of 'Mary's Boy Child' is one of the most requested Christmas tunes in the world (and this release features two versions)! This Euro-Disco quartet were put together by producer/songwriter Frank Farian and their albums and singles were aimed directly at the dancefloors across the world. Boney M's sound featured male/female harmony vocals, a stomping Disco beat, swooping strings, funky guitar and hook-filled melodies that are still fondly remembered by millions of fans worldwide. 17 tracks. Sony

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Category: Holiday

Christmastide, Jessye Norman


In a touching note she prepared for her new Christmas album, soprano Jessye Norman recalls her childhood in Augusta, Ga., where she appeared annually in the church pageant and caroled till dawn off the back of a huge lumber truck. "Donald Fraser," she writes, "has given us more sophisticated arrangements than we sang on the back of the lumber truck." Indeed he has, and that's the problem with "Christmastide." Jessye Norman boasts the most majestic voice of our day, yet she also has a marvelous gift for intimate communication; she has it in her to make the most special of all diva Christmas. Boston Globe

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Category: Holiday

Joy to the World, Faith Hill


The first holiday album from super-star Faith Hill, 'Joy To The World' is a joy to behold, featuring beautiful new versions of ten traditional and modern classics, complete with horns, strings, woodwings, percussion and chorales, much like the big-band orchestras of the 40's and 50's. One of the most popular music stars in America, Faith Hill celebrates the joy-and faith- of the season with 'Joy to the World.' Amazon

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Category: Holiday

A New Thought for Christmas, Melissa Etheridge


What if someone made a Christmas album for everybody else? That's exactly what Melissa Etheridge has done. Working alongside her producer David Cole, Melissa's songs celebrate a spiritual time of year where people can rejoice in their traditional, or non-traditional ways, and celebrate a winter solstice filled with love and peace. This ten song album has newly composed songs such as "Ring The Bells," "Light A Light," and "It's Christmas Time" interspersed with traditional holiday standards such as "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "Blue Christmas." This album begs the question, "If we're all talking about peace on earth, what if we all concentrated on peace on earth and made it happen?" Amazon

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09/30/08


Category: Folk

John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan


Bob Dylan's remarkable first album after his debilitating 1966 motorcycle accident isn't as urgent as the ambitious folk and rock songs he wrote earlier in the decade. Even considering the rocking "All Along the Watchtower" (covered famously by Jimi Hendrix), the album's overall feeling is soft and laid-back, all gently strummed guitars, perfectly timed harmonicas, and some of Dylan's best pure singing to date. The 1968 release sounds as if the songwriter and his three sidemen set up a few tape recorders in a bedroom and began playing as soon as they woke up in the morning. They open with the title track (a folk fable), move into the piano-driven "Dear Landlord," and close with the sweet love song "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." --Steve Knopper

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Category: Popular Rock

Stars, Mindi Abair


Singer, songwriter and saxophonist, Mindi Abair follows up her 2006 release, Life Less Ordinary, which debuted on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart at # 1, with Stars, a fresh blast of innovative vocals and modern instrumentals. Abair adds a refreshingly unique voice to an exciting new generation of crossover artists who are, like her, powerful instrumentalists as well as thought-provoking singer/songwriters. Her singles have hit number one over and over again on the Radio & Records charts (including "Lucy's", from the album, It Just Happens That Way, one of the longest running # 1 singles ever for a debut artist) and she continues to sell out everywhere on tour.
Abair is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Chill With Mindi Abair featuring cutting edge music by artists such as Air, Moby, Zero 7 and remixes of classic jazz titles.
She has toured and/or recorded with a wide range of artists including: MANDY MOORE, KEB MO, LEE RITENOUR, BOBBY LYLE, THE BACKSTREET BOYS, and DURAN DURAN. She also opened for JOSH GROBAN on his 2004 sold out fall tour. AMAZON

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Category: Folk

Liejacker, Thea Gilmore


Import pressing of the 2008 album from the prolific Oxford-based singer/songwriter includes one bonus track: 'U Spin Me Around'. The album's songs were inspired by numerous events in Thea's life including depression, leaving her label and her rocky relationship with her boyfriend and the birth of her first child. Over the years, Gilmore has jealously preserved her outsider status, despite being courted by various mainstream labels. She has proved herself as one of the few songwriters of her generation who truly deserves the label 'indie', in its old sense of genuine artistic independence rather than in the often misused sense of having an asymmetrical haircut. The album features duets with Joan Baez and Dave McCabe (The Zutons). AMAZON

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Category: Classical

Water Music


Composer: G.F. Handel, Performers: Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie

I must have heard the Water Music literally hundreds of time in my life, and it has never grown stale on me. Even considering that, I must say that the new ATMA release by Bernard Labadie and the Québec-based orchestra Les Violons du Roi is remarkable for its great freshness and vitality. The 24-piece Baroque ensemble consisting of eleven strings and ten woodwinds plus harpsichord, théorbe (you can look that one up) and timbales (kettledrums) has just the right balance between strings and winds to give the feeling of a Baroque band rather than a modern orchestra. The tempi are brisk and bracing without losing the relaxed quality of performance that Labadie and Les Violons so carefully cultivate. As a result, these performances of Water Music Suites I - III both invite and repay frequent auditions. Atlantic Audio Society – Phil Muse

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Category: Popular Rock

19, Adele


2008 debut album from the singer/songwriter. Citing her influences as diverse as Etta James, Jill Scott, Bjork, Dusty Springfield, Billy Bragg, Billie Holiday, Jeff Buckley, The Cure and Peggy Lee, Adele is a truly unique new artist. With her mix up of R&B and Soul served up with a healthy dash of feisty London attitude, she spins beautiful dark stories of loves won and lost and sometimes just daydreamed about. AMAZON

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Category: Jazz

Muted Miles, Miles Davis


This hand-picked collection puts a softly-focused blue spotlight on the intimate and unmistakable sound of the one and only Miles Davis playing his horn with a Harmon mute. Miles's artfully nuanced playing, presented with the sonic signature of his warmly-buzzing, muted trumpet tone is, to this day, often imitated but never duplicated. AMAZON

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Category: R & B

For Lovers, Dreamers and Me, Alice Smith


If you’re in the market for a newer R&B chanteuse less plagued than Amy Winehouse but with more creative range than Alicia Keys, then give consideration to Alice Smith. On her first album For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, Smith beautifully blurs genres - jazz, soul, folk, funk - all the while grounding each song with her throaty, supple and oh-so-soulful voice. music-review.com

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Category: Alternative Rock

This is Not the World, Futureheads


The Futureheads are a four-piece English post-punk revival band from Sunderland who formed in 2000. Their name comes from the title of the The Flaming Lips record Hit to Death in the Future Head. This album is an amalgamation of their two previous albums, The Futureheads from 2004 and News & Tributes from 2006. The album was recorded over three weeks in Spain in 2007 with legendary producer Youth (Primal Scream, The Verve) who clipped the Mackem lads' overflowing pot of songs into shape. Out of it came 12 short, sharp, shocks of pure Futurehead joy, not dismissing the killer hooks and choruses that adorn each and every one. AMAZON

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Category: Alternative Rock

All or Nothing, Subways


Long-awaited 2008 sophomore outing from the youthful, Grunge-inspired Brit trio. This album saw the band decamp to L.A. to work with legendary U.S. Alt-Rock producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins), who beefed up and smoothed out their sound. The result is a considerable sonic progression from the rudimentary Garage Punk of their debut, which sees them absorbing various influences from U.S. Rock history and beyond. Includes the singles 'Alright' and 'Girls & Boys'. Warner.

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Category: Hip-hop

Brass Knuckles, Nelly


The Japanese pressing of the 2008 release from the Hip Hop superstar features two bonus tracks: 'Bay' and 'Wadsynaname'. Production includes some of the hottest producers on the scene today: Polow Da Don, Pharrell and JD to name a few. In the summer of 2000, Nelly, an unknown rapper from St. Louis, Missouri, sold of a quarter of a million copies of his debut album, Country Grammar during its first week of release. Two years later, in the summer of 2002, Nelly proved to be no one-hit wonder when his sophomore album Nellyville came in at the number one position on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. In 2003, he released a platinum-selling remix album, Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention). Cumulatively, Nelly has sold close to 30 million singles/albums worldwide establishing him as on of the top-selling artists of our time. Currently there are two hit singles at radio: 'Step On My J’z' (featuring JD and Ciara) and 'Body On Me (featuring Ashanti and Akon. Universal.

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07/14/08


Category: Popular Rock

Light From Above, Black Tide


Light From Above, is a heavy hitting, heart pounding album. It will bring back memories of explosive ’80’s Metal to some and introduce a harder rocking sound to those who are too young to remember. Interscope signed Black Tide and flew them to Chicago, where they recorded this debut album at Groovemaster Studios, with Johnny K (Disturbed, Machine Head, Soil) producing. 'They took four Miami boys and threw us into the middle of the Chicago winter,' laughs Zakk. 'There was nothing we could do except work on the record day and night.' Mercury Records. 2008. Amazon

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Category: Folk

Folk Songs Norwegian Traditional, Trio Mediaeval , Composer: Birger Mistereggen


Corresponding with Trio Mediaeval's tenth anniversary, their fourth ECM album is a powerful and compelling recording of Norwegian folk songs. Performed in concert over the years, these songs are always received ecstatically - this is the album that Trio Mediaeval's fans have been waiting for. The infectious melodies and haunting harmonies of this music will communicate across categories to a very broad listenership. Joining the trio on several selections is percussionist Birger Mistereggen, a specialist in the Norwegian folk drumming tradition. The inclusion of percussion not only widens the sonic spectrum of the group, but also adds a rhythmic element to these ballads, hymns, psalms, love songs and lullabies. Founded in Oslo in 1997, the Norwegian- Swedish vocal group Trio Mediaeval was taken up the following year as protégés of the Hilliard Ensemble. Hilliard tenor singer John Potter was especially excited by their potential and brought the group to ECM, acting as producer or coproducer on each of their New Series discs, Words of the Angel, Soir, dit-elle and Stella Maris. Each of these recordings has had great success with fans and critics alike and the trio has maintained a consistent touring presence in the US and all over the world. Amazon

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Category: Classical

Voce D’Italia: Arias for Rubini, Composer: Gioachino Rossini, Performer: Juan Diego Florez


The remarkable young Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez continues his triumphs over the difficulties of the bel canto repertory with this recital devoted to arias sung by Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794-1854). Rubini redefined the role of the tenor, singing heroically, with warmth, sensitivity, an amazing capacity for florid music, and an upper extension that allowed him to sing an F above high C. Florez seems to have it all (although his highest note here is a still-staggering high E-flat). The bright tone, charm, ease of production, comfort with coloratura, superb diction, and sheer love of singing is evident throughout this razzle-dazzle recital. High Ds pop out effortlessly in the heroic aria from Bellini's Il pirata and Rossini's lighter-hearted Il Turco in Italia. More introspective sections are sung with feeling and a long, seamless line. The final piece on the CD--a 12 minute tour de force from Rossini's William Tell that ends with a blazing high C--will have you cheering. Roberto Abbado's leadership is expert, sympathetic, and lively. Thrilling! --Robert Levine

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Category: Jazz

Sunday at Pete’s, Pizarelli Boys


This is a CD that had to be made. It represents many years of listening and learning and also, the genesis of music for the Pizzarelli family.

The music you will hear on this disc comes from a number of distinct sources. The first, and most important, is my father's Uncles, Peter and Bobby Domenick. They were terrific musicians who played both tenor banjo and guitar. My father's first musical lessons where held at Peter's house after school on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. As he grew older, my Dad would participate in the Sunday post-dinner sing alongs that were held at Pete's house. I remember him telling me that he knew three chords. He would start on the first chord and when Pete nodded his head Bucky would switch to the second. When Pete nodded again he's switch to the third. If there was another nod, my father would drop his pick!
I have gotten to record with my father on many occasions, but it was my brother, bassist Martin, who said this CD was the first of the three of us playing together without an entire band behind us.

With Martin's comment in mind and the reminder of family always there, I set out to pick songs for this CD that came from our earliest musical remembrances-Sunday's at Uncle Pete's house. After dinner jam session's and sing alongs that featured the music of the beginning of the 20th century-Alabamy Bound, Bye Bye Blues, Whispering, Sweet Sue and Yes Sir, That's My Baby, to name a few. These were also some of the first songs I learned in my tenor banjo lessons with Uncle Bobby when I was 7 years old. The lone exceptions would be "You're My Girl", an early Frank Sinatra hit that was a favorite of my mother's and "Night on Garrett Mountain", a blues named after a favorite spot of my father's in Paterson, NJ, his hometown. Amazon

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Category: Popular Rock

Live in Anguilla, Jimmy Buffett


A Jimmy Buffett concert on a tropical island. Just walk down the beach for a once-in-a-lifetime intimate performance from Margaritaville's favorite son. That's what a few thousand fans got to experience at Jimmy's Caribbean shows on March 23 and 24, 2007. Now everyone else can, too. A double CD and an 82 minute DVD were recorded live at the Dune Preserve, Rendezvous Bay in Anguilla, in Bankie Banx's backyard and the site of famous Moonsplash Festivals. The CD's include 30 songs, all of your favorites, plus some special in-concert rarities like Domino College, Waiting In Vain, When Salome Plays the Drum, King of Somewhere Hot, Treat Her Like A Lady, and Distantly In Love. Amazon

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Category: Gospel

Why We Sing, Dionne Warwick


As soulful as she is sophisticated in her distinctive vocal stylings, five-time GRAMMY®-winning superstar Dionne Warwick is a globally beloved music icon and humanitarian. Warwick first climbed the charts in 1962 with her debut hit single, "Don't Make Me Over," penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David-she emerged as the foremost interpreter of their compositions, and remains so. Over the course of an illustrious, hit-filled career that's endured more than 45 years and spans five decades, Warwick has also become a true contemporary music legend. With the inspirational WHY WE SING, she builds on her legacy with a new studio album, following up a duets collection and her first-ever holiday music release. It will, no doubt, also remind us why we love Dionne Warwick. Amazon

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07/07/08


Category: Popular Rock

Rain, Joe Jackson


When Joe Jackson went into a Berlin studio with the rhythm section that had accompanied him off and on for nearly three decades (and helped make the classics Look Sharp, I'm the Man and Beat Crazy) he had the most strikingly simple line-up in mind: just piano, bass, drums and his own unmistakable, eternally yearning voice.

With its adventurous spirit and piano-based sound, Rain boasts plenty of humor, swing and sophistication among barbed social commentary and even some punk-like rocking out. Amazon

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Category: Country

We Weren’t Crazy, Josh Gracin


After delivering a Gold-selling debut and three consecutive top 5 singles to country radio, "American Idol" favorite Josh Gracin will release his much anticipated sophomore album, We Weren't Crazy, on April 1, 2008.

Josh Gracin's new CD, We Weren't Crazy allows audiences to take a more personal look inside the life of the "American Idol" season 2 finalist and former Marine. Josh worked with producers Marty Williams and Brett James on the CD's eleven tracks.

Gracin is admittedly most excited about his newest single, the title track, "We Weren't Crazy." The autobiographical song was written by Gracin, Tony Lopacinski, and Bobby Pinson about Gracin's personal journey from childhood to raising children and having a family of his own. "This time around I got to dig in and share my stories as a songwriter. I'm so proud of how this song turned out," he said.

Josh Gracin's debut album is certified gold by the RIAA and has sold over 695,000 copies. He's one of only three new male country singers to be introduced in the last four years to earn a gold album. Josh is also the only male solo country artist in recent years to release a debut album with three consecutive Top 5 country hits, including his first #1, "Nothin' To Lose." Amazon

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Category: Classical

Carestini (The Story of Castrato) Composer: Handel, Performer: Philippe Jaroussky


For me, this is, hands down, best classical album of 2007. Not just because Jaroussky's voice has achieved a sort of perfection, doing whatever it is asked of it without any hint of effort and with great innate artistry; he has wonderful, very natural coloratura, incredible dynamic control, beautiful tone and sweet high notes that put other countertenors, Scholl included, and even many haute-contre tenors to shame. In the second track, Ciel Nemico, he does a sequence of interval leaps that sound out of this world; and that is just the second track! Right afterwards, he sings the living daylights out of Scherza Infida, which has been sung by many great singers before him, notably Lorraine Hunt, and yet he puts his stamp on it - and how. That is not to say that the prevailing tone on this album is high drama, quite the opposite. The material is mostly wonderful Baroque fluff, created for the great castrato Carestini, and of course it is chockful of showy vocal tricks and juicy ornamentations. Hearing it made me grin like mad right from the start, and it gets better and better upon repeats. —Akimon Azuki

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Category: British Punk

Float, Flogging Molly


What makes a band truly remarkable? Insightful lyrics? Memorable melodies? Blow-your mind live performances? The truth is that it takes all of those things along with a boundless enthusiasm, an infectious energy and a supreme devotion to the fans. With this rare combination, a band may ascend past "good," - and reach sublime. Drawing on the hardships and joys of their own lives and a musical history ranging from old world Celtic to modern day punk rock, the seven members of Flogging Molly do just that, and they do it with a charm and an ease that makes them one of the most revered bands performing today. Flogging Molly isn't a mere band, they're a seven member nuclear family. They are as devoted to one another as they are to the music they create. It's no wonder their extended family - the legion of loyal Flogging Molly fans - keeps growing every day. Amazon

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Category: Popular Rock

Home Before Dark, Neil Diamond


Remarkably Home Before Dark is the first US chart topping album of Neil Diamond's forty year career. It appears to repeat the formula behind 2006's acclaimed 12 Songs--relatively understated arrangements and a subtle Rick Rubin production. But Diamond, though sixty-seven years old and the oldest recipient of a Number One so far, is no Johnny Cash, turning his unique voice to some well chosen contemporary material. Instead Home Before Dark is a collection of new Diamond songs, and though they might not match the boomers in his back catalogue they are hardly stripped back. These are songs designed to fill large venues alongside the showstoppers in Diamond's still energetic live show. "Pretty Amazing Grace" is in the great tradition of Diamond songs that defy their corniness with sheer catchiness, as is "One More Bite of the Apple" while "Don't Go There" features bracing backing vocals and a delightfully dated wobbly guitar hook.

The duet with Natalie Maines, "Another Day (That Time Forgot)", would fit comfortably on American country radio while "The Power of Two" sounds like another hit in waiting. In fact this is more a conventional Diamond collection than a Rick Rubin production, dominated by lightly understated country rock arrangements played by a crack team including Smokey Hormel, Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell and the usually experimental Matt Sweeney. This is a charming and consistently solid set, though Home Before Dark does lack the unexpected intensity that made 12 Songs stand out so. -—Steve Jelbert

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Category: Alternative Rock

Red of Tooth and Claw, Murder by Death


If Adam Turla’s quick synopsis of his band Murder By Death’s fourth studio album doesn’t get you psyched, then maybe the thick harmonies, haunting melodies, and dark vocals will. Yes, MBD is back on a new label (scene powerhouse Vagrant) and the Bloomington, Indiana quartet is poised to make Red of Tooth and Claw your new favorite album.

Produced by Grammy-winning Trina Shoemaker, Red of Tooth and Claw features eleven tracks that’ll encompass your ears, taking you on a journey through rich instrumentation and beautiful compositions, always leaving you satisfied. Turla’s vocals reach new depths throughout, as he comes across as a hybrid of Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and even a little Jim Morrison. Such versatility shows from the get-go, as Turla takes the opening track, “Comin’ Home,” by the throat and never let’s go. Sarah Balliet’s cello has never sounded as hauntingly beautiful as it does throughout this track and the entire album. “Rum Brave” is a go-getter from the start, as Turla riffs with a purpose and the rhythm of Dagan Thogerson and Matt Armstrong serve as the backbone to this fiery track. –Drew Beringer

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Category: Popular Rock

On My Way Here, Clay Aiken


Since shooting to stardom on the second season of American Idol, Clay Aiken, the Raleigh, NC, native with the powerhouse voice has become a international pop phenomenon who has sold six million albums. In addition, Aiken has launched eight live tours, made the New York Times best-seller list, and won several American Music and Billboard Music Awards. In January 2008, Aiken made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Monty Python's Spamalot.

When Clay began the search for songs to record for Aiken's first album of original material since his 2003 chart-topping debut Measure of A Man, he fell in love with a song written by OneRepublic front man Ryan "Alias" Tedder called "On My Way Here." The message of the lyrics -- how the lessons we learn while growing up shape us into who we become as adults -- struck such a deep chord with Aiken that it wound up inspiring the theme (and title) of his new collection.

To musically represent the album's lyrical theme, Aiken and Foster enlisted Grammy-Award winning British songwriter and producer Kipper, who has worked with Sting, Chris Botti, and Julia Fordham. Amazon

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06/27/08


Category: Popular Rock

E=MC2, Mariah Carey


Performer and songwriter Mariah Carey has set April 15th as the in-store date for the most eagerly anticipated album of the year, E=MC². The 11th studio album of her career, E=MC² is the follow-up to The Emancipation Of Mimi, Mariah's worldwide 10 million selling #1 album, which generated three Grammy awards (including Best Contemporary R&B Album), 2 #1 singles and countless more industry honors during its 18-month stay on the charts. The first single from E=MC² is "Touch My Body," written and produced by Mariah Carey, C. "Tricky" Stewart, and The-Dream, and blasting out worldwide on February 12th. The video for "Touch My Body" was directed by feature filmmaker Brett Ratner - Internet, cable and network premieres for the video will be announced in the weeks ahead. In addition to C. "Tricky" Stewart and The-Dream, other guest producers joining Mariah on E=MC² will include Jermaine Dupri, DJ Toomp, Stargate, Will I Am, Bryan Michael Cox, Nate "Danjahandz" Hills and James Poyser.. E=MC² is executive produced by Mariah Carey and Antonio "LA" Reid, Chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group. Amazon

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Category: Popular Rock

Hard Candy, Madonna


Madonna’s eleventh, and final, studio album for Warner Bros., Hard Candy is a brilliant up-tempo collection that adds a hip-hop beat to the cultural icon’s club sensibilities, thanks to collaborations with Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and Nate "Danja" Hills. Following her previous studio album, 2005’s Confessions On A Dance Floor, which debuted #1 and has sold more than 8 million copies around the globe, Hard Candy punctuates the first 25 years of the album career of the most successful female artist in history with a musical exclamation point. Amazon

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Category: Alternative Rock

3 Doors Down, 3 Doors Down


"We're not a band that just goes through the motions," says Chris. "We go at everything hard. What I'm most proud of about the new album is we left ourselves a way out. Everybody hit the proverbial brick wall. Everybody fell down and everybody got back up, then we all went back in the room and, what was great, was we found all these different paths to go down."
`Different' being the operative word here. Because what 3 Doors Down did after reconnecting with family, and `soul searching', was opt for a new process to the creative part of their relationship. One that emphasized the undeniable strength of the group. The fact that the sum is greater than any individual part. "It is all about getting in that room and hashing it out," recalls lead guitarist Matt Roberts. "If you look at a song like `Train,' it was one of the first songs we wrote for this album. It's kind of a building block that exemplifies the spirit of collaboration. Brad came with words and a melody and we hammered it out." "I remember I had that one in my head at home," laughs Brad. "I was singing it so much a friend threatened to kill me if I didn't get it down." Matt also remembers it as one of the `most fun songs to put together. "The best moments of this band have always been about keeping it a fun ride. You need that sense of accomplishment, but you also need to keep the process comfortable.". Adds Chris: "I think it's also fair to say we are one of the only `southern' bands who has the balls to put a song like `Train' out there these days." Amazon

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Category: Alternative Rock

Elephant Shell, Tokyo Police Club


International two CD pressing of the Canadian band's 2008 debut album includes a bonus CD containing two exclusive new songs and five remixes. Ontario's favorite sons offer their first full-length with Elephant Shell. Their 2006 EP, A Lesson In Crime, elicited raves from Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Interview, Blender, and Nylon, among others. This full length release is set to broaden the band's Pop horizons. 18 tracks. Memphis Industries. 2008.

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Category: Classic Rock

Warpaint, Black Crowes


Before anyone had heard a track from WAR PAINT, the Black Crowes' seventh studio outing, it had already kicked up a PR firestorm. Either by deciding to forego listening to it or by obtaining a leaked download, Maxim Magazine panned the record before they even had an official promotional copy. These aging neo-hippies found themselves as unlikely defenders of the teetering music industry by publicly defaming Maxim and demanding an apology. They got it. Maxim ate... er... crow. Having taken shots since their debut record for their unabashed derivative revivalism, the Crowes seem to be a band that functions best when beleaguered.

Fortunately, WAR PAINT is worth the tussle. After a decade-plus on the jam band circuit, the Robinson brothers return to form, gleefully ripping off the Rolling Stones. The lead-off track, "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution," with its swinging beat and raunchy slide--courtesy of Mississippi All-Star and new Crowe Luther Dickinson--recalls "Let it Bleed." "Oh, Josephine" echoes the weary, processed guitar tones of "Waiting On a Friend." They even ape the Stones aping Gram Parsons on the beautiful, country-tinged number "Locust Street." WAR PAINT occasionally finds the band stretching out into a looser, more natural vibe, as on "Whoa Mule," the closer, augmented by elements of freak-folk and reportedly recorded outside the band's Catskills studio. All told, this is the band's best album since THE SOUTHERN HARMONY AND MUSICAL COMPANION. --CD Universe

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Category: Popular Rock

Rarities, B-sides 2 and Other Stuff, Vol 2, Sarah McLachlan


Culminated from Sarah McLachlan's illustrious recording career, the Rarities, B-Sides And Other Stuff, Volume 2 collection contains Sarah McLachlan material never before available before on one CD. The collection includes live performances, rare recordings, remixes and soundtrack contributions. In addition, the album includes exceptional, one of a kind duets with Bryan Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Emmylou Harris, and more! Billboard magazine raved about the album calling it "a real beauty." Amazon

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Category: Popular Rock

Crayons, Donna Summers


The Queen is Back! Legendary singer songwriter Donna Summer is back with her first studio album in 17 years. In the thirty plus years that Donna Summer has been making music she has never confined her artistry to just one genre. Although Donna is, and will always be, "The Queen Of Disco" to many fans, her hits have spanned multiple musical genres from Rock to R&B to Inspirational and of course, Dance.

Summer helped to define the 70's pop music generation and Crayons has all the characteristics that made Donna an icon. Containing a potent mix of the up-tempo tunes and ballads, the new album showcases incredible new material that is written by Donna (who wrote or co-wrote the majority of her hits of the 70's and 80's). Working with Donna were renowned writers and producers including: Greg Kurstin (Lilly Allen, Pink), Danielle Brisebois (Natasha Bedingfield, New Radicals), JR Rotem (Sean Kingston, Rihanna), Evan Bogart (co-writer of Rihanna's smash "SOS" and the son of legendary record executive, Casablanca Records founder and Donna's mentor, Neil Bogart), and Lester Mendez (Shakira, Santana). Amazon

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Category: Alternative Rock

Pretty. Odd. Panic at the Disco


The title gives it away instantly- Pretty.Odd. (don't forget the periods) is not exactly the album that affirmed admirers of Panic At The Disco will have expected. The quartet, then teenagers, hit big in 2005 when A Fever You Can't Sweat Out rode its hit single "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and its striking video to huge sales, defining their niche bridging emo and theatrical art-rock. Three years later Panic (they've ditched the exclamation mark) return with an expansive album that shamelessly, and very skilfully, takes inspiration directly from the Beatles' bigger budget productions and the baroque classic rock that came in their wake. They must use every instrument in the orchestral palette. But this is hardly a trip to "guilty pleasures" territory, four minute pop tunes polished almost to sterility. Even the catchy, imposing opener "We're So Starving", where they protest "we're still the same band", is playful rather than predictable. "That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)" offers so many styles it defies categorisation, the darkly comic sixties pastiche "When the Day Met the Night" could wear the vague "sunshine pop" label comfortably and the likes of "Pas De Cheval" and nicely wistful first single "Nine in the Afternoon" stick in the head after a single hearing. Also the token acoustic strumalong is called "Folkin' Around". Whether their fanbase actively craved such a diverse display of ambition is moot, but Pretty.Odd. is an impressive and deservedly popular collection. For once it seems that the public agree with those critics who so often describe lovingly crafted, low-selling tributes to genres past as perfect pop. --Steve Jelbert

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Category: R & B

Discipline, Janet Jackson


"A PASSION FOR DISCIPLINE" by Janet "It's the idea that unifies the songs on this record. As a concept, and even a lifestyle, discipline goes extremely deep. It can be applied to so much about ourselves. In my case,I see it as one of defining aspects of my character. Discipline was there for me from the start. But it was not until this record that I began to understand its full meaning. "In putting Discipline out front -- as both the title of the album and title of a song about sexual surrender -- I wanted to announce that I was venturing into new creative waters. That meant working with producers like Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, and Ne-Yo, whose songs spoke to the immediacy of my emotions. Like all my records, this one, whether intentional or not, has autobiographical roots. It's difficult for me to work any other way. I don't feel it, if I don't believe it, I can't sing it.

"So Discipline, as a storyline, begins in my childhood which someone could see as a classic study in discipline. Discipline was part of a family culture that I absorbed. I was born with it.
"I also believe that discipline has given me the confidence to jump out of the nest. When L.A. Reid, Chairman of Island Def Jam, and I discussed co-executive producing this record, we both agreed that the feeling had to adventuresome and fresh. I was interested in exploring musical scenarios--some exotic, many erotic, but all deeply emotional. "I wanted to push the envelope. And I'm glad that Discipline, both as a song and an album, does just that."

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Category: R & B

Soul Speak, Michael McDonald


The unforgettable voice of Michael McDonald is back with his follow up to his two Motown tribute albums! The former Doobie Brother and touring member of Steely Dan returns with a 13 track record, featuring some of Michael's favorite songs: "Love TKO" by Teddy Pendergrass, "Walk on By" by Dionne Warwick, "Into The Mystic" by Van Morrison, "Living For The City" by Stevie Wonder, "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley and more. "Soul Speak" also features the brand new song from Michael "Getting Over You". Let Michael's familiar voice take you higher with "Soul Speak". Amazon

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05/26/08


Category: Alternative Rock

Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie


After relentless touring, performances on Saturday Night Live, and appearing on the cover of Spin and Paste Magazines, Death Cab for Cutie brings us Narrow Stairs. Following up their DVD collection, Directions, which sold over 30,000 copies and their platinum selling album, Plans, was no easy task but Narrow Stairs has already been praised by MTV.com as the band’s most daring and adventurous effort to date.

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Category: Popular Rock

The Moon under Water, Ryan Cabrera


Features the single 'Say'. Per Ryan "The new album is quite a different experience than any past record I have ever done!! You will hear a new but familiar sound coming from this album. I have spent about a year and a half writing and recording what I think is my best work to date! I wanted the album to be a rollercoaster of genres and experiences. I wanted to suprise people and confuse people. I wanted a high energy, emotional, real album..one that only hearing one song, wouldn't be enough! This is my first album off a major record label, and I decided to keep it that way, by paying for the entire project myself!! Which gave me complete creative freedom!' Papa Joe Records.

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Category: Country

Good Time, Alan Jackson


Country superstars don't come any more reliable than Alan Jackson. Closing in on two dec-ades on the job, he still hasn't broken his string of strong singer-songwriter records, without ever wandering anywhere near the mainstream-pop spotlight. On Good Time, he doesn't push himself hard, sticking to the familiar themes of "Small Town Southern Man," "Country Boy" and "Laid Back 'N Low Key."

When he gets hold of a honky-tonk ditty like "Good Time," he lets it roll on past the five-minute mark just to prove he can. Sometimes he goes overboard, as in "I Still Like Bologna," where he gets sentimental over cold cuts on white bread as a refuge from the world of laptops and cell phones. But his finest songs are always his romantic ballads, and the best one here also sounds like the one he wrote the quickest: "1976," where he sings about meeting his wife in the good old days when "Jimmy Carter moved to D.C./A Georgia boy just like me" and reflects, "Wonder Woman sure looked fine/Bionic Man was still prime time. —Rob Sheffield

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Category: Soundtracks

Lust, Caution


Composer: Alexandre Desplat

For Lust, Caution, director Ang Lee called on the wonderful Alexandre Desplat. The French composer is quite in demand, and for good reason: His music eschews the bloated trends of current Hollywood, going instead for very melodic lines tastefully set against relatively pared-down orchestrations; there's a big orchestra here, but it's used sparingly and you never feel as if you're being dictated what to feel--Desplat is old-school in all the right ways. For this movie set in 1940s Shanghai, he has come up with two of his loveliest themes yet: the lilting "Dinner Waltz" and especially the heartwrenchingly romantic "Falling Rain." No wonder the one non-Desplat piece is Brahms' "Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118 No. 2"--this is obviously the kind of melancholy mood Desplat had in mind for his own music. A few guests add interesting but never intrusive twists: Vincent Segal (of the duo Bumcello) appears on electric cello and the Traffic Quintet (for which Desplat's arranged themes from classic French soundtracks) performs a reprise of "Dinner Waltz;" Ang Lee himself plays the piano on "Nanjing Road." This is a lovely soundtrack that should make a lot of year's end lists. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

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Category: Alternative Rock

Lifeline, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals


Eight albums in just over a dozen years: validation that Ben Harper--mind or body--rarely rests, be it on the road with backing jam band the Innocent Criminals or buried in a studio, where the gifted singer-songwriter lays down his brand of peace-chanting, love-tilting music. His latest is lighter on the rock, with a greater emphasis on gospel, blues, and deeply burning soul. Harper isn't concerned about letting listeners inside that soul, confessing in the title track, "I don't want to wait a lifetime/Yours or mine."

The solo acoustic closer is classic wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve, a trait that seems to drift in and out of songs like the ominous ballad "Younger than Today," which remembers earlier days being better days, or its mood-opposite "Say You Will," where the exultance of a flamboyant piano and gospel backing vocals offset cheesy lines such as "love you like a candle loves a flame." The latter is a standout, along with the bluesy opener "Fight Outta You"; the island-splashed "In the Colors," which recalls early-'70s Van Morrison; and "Put It on Me," with its brilliant lyric, "She cuts cherry pie when she looks you in the eye." All eyes, as his legion builds, are on Ben Harper. All ears, too. --Scott Holte

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Category: Country

New Seasons, Sadies


Though Canada's premier country-rocking quartet has previously established itself as a killer live act and an in-demand back-up band (Jon Langford, Neko Case), the first studio release by the Sadies in three years represents a big sonic advance. Featuring the brotherly vocal blend of Dallas and Travis Good, who also provide plenty of guitar twang, the music establishes the Sadies as direct descendents of the Byrds and the Jayhawks--no surprise, since former Jayhawk Gary Louris co-produced with the band and contributes plenty of harmonies as well. The results lack the relentless pace of some of the band's earlier fare, but compensate with shimmering musical backing, lush harmonies, and cinematic aural expansiveness. From the Western balladry of "The Trial," to the garage-band urgency of "The First Inquisition (Part 4)" and "A Simple Aspiration," the band shows both its range and its command of the studio. --Don McLeese

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Category: Alternative Rock

The Flying Club Cup, Beirut


Beirut's second LP purportedly takes inspiration from French chanson of yesteryear (as opposed to the Balkan folk of yesteryear). Bandleader Zach Condon has found a new home in Paris, and a new muse as well, quickly absorbing fodder from the likes of Francois Hardy or Jacques Brel. The music remains quite recognizably Beirut--in all its oom-pa glory--but the production value is stepped up a notch. It's through the dense arrangements that it reaches new heights, this without question being the fullest offering yet. The band appeared on Owen Pallet's (Final Fantasy/Arcade Fire) new album in exchange for the use of Arcade Fire's Masonic church studio, along with the exotic pile of instruments within. Pallet ended up contributing several string arrangements and the band made full use of the studio. The result is a truly orchestral take on the simpler gypsy stomp of Gulag Orkestar or the straight-up eight-piece live band of the Lon Gisland EP. Opener "Nantes" features a perfectly broken organ and introduces the wealth of percussion that continues throughout the album, as well as some samples of French TV or radio (the most explicit Franco-features are these sampled tidbits).

Waltzing glockenspiels give way to a celebratory, raucous chorus on "La Banlieu." "Un Dernier Verre" features a skittering, jazzy piano bit (in 3/4 time, natch). The Flying Club Cup lacks the immediate hits that made Gulag Orkestar explode (like "Postcards from Italy" or "Mount Wroclai"). It works as an album rather than just a collection of songs. It's a more pensive presentation--dare I say it: more mature. Beirut remains mind-boggling work for a 21-year-old, and it's exciting to watch Condon's musical palette expand as he gathers the life experience to match his voice. --Jason Pace

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Category: Alternative Rock

Made in the Dark, Hot Chip


Hot Chip have always been the sort of band happy to flaunt their intelligence, but the smartest trick they pull on Made in the Dark is to show a little wisdom, too. 2006’s The Warning was a fine record, albeit one sometimes difficult to take seriously thanks to its taste for pop pastiche--here’s the Prince track, there’s a 2-step garage track--or the occasional ironic wisecrack. On their third album, though, it’s satisfying to report Hot Chip sound like no one but themselves. That is, shuffling, synthesizer-smeared electro-pop with a gooey emotional core and, in the shape of Alexis Taylor, one of the greatest white-boy soul voices since that of his hero, Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. "Ready for the Floor" sounds halfway between Detroit techno and the soundtrack to a Nintendo RPG, Taylor’s clear, honest vocal reaching out hopefully: "I’m hoping by chance/You might take this dance," while the album’s title track is a slow piano ballad that finds him laid blue over the ruins of a love affair. There is mischief, too, of course: take "Wrestlers," a dinky R&B track where the group show off their knowledge of wrestling slang. Even when they’re ready to rumble, though, Hot Chip show off the sort of emotion and elation we’ve rarely seen since the glory days of New Order, and that’s high praise indeed. –-Louis Pattison

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Category: Popular Rock

Back Home, Westlife


2007 from the reigning kings of Pop, their ninth album overall. The Irish boyband have sold 36 million albums, not forgetting their 14 UK #1 singles.

Back Home contains twelve brand new songs with production credits including Quiz Larossi, Per Magnusson and Rami. Features the first single, 'Home'. RCA.

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Category: Classical

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons


Artist: Sarah Chang and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Composer: Vivaldi

Vivaldi has been accused--rather unjustly--of writing the same violin concerto over and over, but no one can deny that the Four Seasons are quite different from the others. Described as the first examples of program music, they evoke the sounds of nature so realistically that one can hear the thunder, the wind, the rain, the singing of the birds, the murmuring of the brook, the barking of a dog. One also hears the sounds of humanity: bagpipes, hunting horns, harvest dances, even shepherds snoring. To "better explain the music," Vivaldi wrote a descriptive sonnet for each Concerto, heading every section with the salient lines. The Seasons present a formidable challenge to the soloist's technical command, tonal variety and imagination; they have been recorded so many times that any violinist who wants to add to the discography must have something distinctive and personal to offer. Sarah Chang has both the brilliant technique and the extroverted personality needed to put her own stamp on the music. Her approach is essentially programmatic. She follows Vivaldi's instructions with obvious relish, using her dazzling virtuosity and all her instrumental resources to create mood and atmosphere and to conjure up vivid pictures of "seasonal" events. Tempi range from beautifully calm slow movements to fast passages at headlong speeds. Contrasting dynamics and articulation, ponticello, trills that give off sparks; colorful nuances, from unvibrated and glassy, to throbbing and passionate, serve to underline Vivaldi's imagery. The result is a dramatic, technically fearless, emotionally uninhibited performance, which, though far from baroque, is honestly felt and convincing in its own way. As an encore, Sarah Chang plays the familiar "G-minor Concerto" with charm and vivacity, and an almost romantically luxurious tone. --Edith Eisler

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Category: International, Africa

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend


It would take a lot for Vampire Weekend's debut to rise above the stench of privileged hype that surrounds it. A bunch of kids who formed the band in their Columbia dorm room borrow wholesale from Afrobeat and angular '80s stuff, and they quickly become an online buzz band before releasing a single album? Thankfully the record, and the band, are great fun: playful, pop-wise, and smart enough to pull their shtick off with aplomb. Organ and drums are often the focal point of the music, bringing to mind a goofier, happier Clinic (if that group's record-collecting habits were more scattershot). On the excellently named (and better sounding) "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," Vampire Weekend asks, "Does it feel so unnatural / To Peter Gabriel too?," immediately disarming--with self-aware brazenness--any criticism of their pomo/postcolonialist borrowing of "ethnic" music. It's clear that these dudes have not only inherited the nerd-rock omnivore's mantle from the Talking Heads, they've actually and already improved upon it. --Mike McGonigal

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Category: Classical

Red Violin Concerto


Artist: Joshua Bell, Composer: John Corigliano

This four-movement concerto is a terrific piece of music and a great showpiece, as well. Part of it originally appeared in a film of the same name, but make no mistake--this is no "pop" violin, concert-like exercise; this is a work that should become a repertory staple. After an opening chaconne (recorded elsewhere as a solo piece), the hushed, fascinating sound world of the scherzo is riveting, and the lush "andante flautando" bathes us in the Romantic sensibility. But it's the startling and glittering "accelerando finale," with its manic forward propulsion, that suddenly makes the listener realize that we are in the presence of a masterwork. Violinist Joshua Bell again proves himself an absolute master, capable of both the most sensitive, sensual phrasing and stunning pyrotechnics, and he is just as impressive in the composer's "Violin Sonata," a somewhat more severe work. Marin Alsop leads the terrific Baltimore Symphony with superb precision. Highly recommended. --Robert Levine

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01/24/08


Category: Folk

Nights from the Alhambra, Loreena McKennitt


After nearly a decade off the scene, Loreena McKennitt returned to the performance and recording stage in 2006 and 2007. The Canadian singer picked up exactly where she left off, traveling through the Celtic-Middle Eastern fusions she explored on The Book of Secrets with her latest studio album, An Ancient Muse. Now, with momentum behind her, she's released a DVD document of her performance at Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. This is the same performance that has been running on PBS station pledge drives for the last year, but with a double CD included. McKennitt's renditions of songs from An Ancient Muse and her earlier albums are impeccable. As she is something of a perfectionist, there isn't much deviation from the original studio versions, but McKennitt is in fine voice and the band gets to rave it up a few times on tracks like "The Bonny Swans," where violinist Hugh Marsh and guitarist Brian Hughes trade increasingly frantic leads. This is an expanded group for McKennitt, with players from England, Greece, and the Middle East playing oud, dumbek, kanoun, hurdy-gurdy, duduk, and other ancient sounds from the British Isles to Turkey.

The advantage of this edition of the Alhambra performance over that seen on PBS is that we're spared McKennitt's earnest and precious interstitials, talking about the location and her inspirations while slowly running her hands over Celtic carvings. But if you want it, that version of the performance is also on the DVD, as the commentary track. The CDs wisely drop even the between-song patter, which is fine, but not something to sit through on repeated listenings. Although the performance is beautifully, if conventionally filmed, and it's great to see this virtuoso band playing in communion, it's ultimately McKennitt's songs themselves that brim with visual imagery as she creates her ancient evocations as effectively on the concert stage as she does in the studio. --John Diliberto

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Category: Popular Rock

Magic, Bruce Springsteen


Thirty-five years as a justifiable rock musician allows Bruce Springsteen an opinion on the state of over-the-air radio, and he takes it--and takes the medium to the woodshed on the ruthless "Radio Nowhere." The opening smash sets the tone, with the ageless Boss wondering, "Is there anybody out there?" before imploring, "I just want to hear some rhythm." Then, with E Street Band in tow, Springsteen goes on to retrace every step between here and Greetings from Asbury Park, hand-delivering more could-be, would-be hits than anything he's done since Born in the USA. Credit producer Brendan O'Brien for the wall of sound that backs "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," which sets the atmosphere for one of the great vocal performances by Springsteen, who plays the misfit "in the cool of the evening light" watching the girls "pass me by."

With piano, glockenspiel, and infinite guitars, the rocker "I'll Work for Your Love" recalls The River, with Springsteen even settling for blue-collar hero in matters of the heart. "Livin' in the Future" could be an out-take from Darkness on the Edge of Town, with shades of Election Day blasting away with the boastful sax of Clarence Clemons and Little Steven's relentless backing vocals. There's even a hint of Nebraska on "Terry's Song," an earnest (and mostly solo) accolade with Springsteen acknowledging the death of a friend: "When they built you, brother/They broke the mold." The hidden track closes this unforeseen comeback, and for 48 minutes the nearly 60-year-old Bruce Springsteen sounds 35 again. --Scott Holter

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Category: Easy Listening

Classic Songs, My Way, Paul Anka


Paul Anka follows up 2005's Rock Swings, his popular collection of covers done classic Vegas ¬style, with another collection of unlikely pop and rock songs--also done classic Vegas style. One of the most familiar tricks could be termed the reverse stunt: Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," for instance, is speeded up into a fingersnapping brassy strut. (On Rock Swings, Anka had famously done the exact opposite with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," slowing it down to a loungy pace.) But hey, if it's not broken! After all, Anka is in fine vocal form and he sure knows how to sing against the big-band arrangements. Once again, the best songs are the most unexpected, like the strutting take on the Killers' "Mr. Brightside," the triumphant read of Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You," which gradually builds up, the super-lush cover of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World," and the strutting "Walking in Memphis." Note that Anka actually picked from his own oeuvre for the albums's two duets: Michael Bublé joins his onetime mentor on 1958's "You Are My Destiny," while Bon Jovi helps out on "My Way" (a song Anka adapted from a French original)--which paradoxically is the least convincing track in the bunch. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

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Category: Metal Rock

Black Rain, Ozzy Osbourne


Ozzy returns with a startlingly heavy ninth studio album, a record filled with vows to continue his rock 'n' roll ways ("Not Going Away," "I Don't Wanna Stop"), meditations on the state of a world that has changed surprisingly little since Black Sabbath's early days ("Black Rain," "God Bless the Almighty Dollar") and the obligatory ballad ("Here for You," which can be read either as a letter to a lover or a love letter to his fans). With longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde providing plenty of brutal, soul-searing riffs and solos, there's no shortage of reasons to throw the horns, raise your fist, and yell. The rhythm section of Mike Bordin (drums) and Rob "Blasko" Nicholson (drums) is simply the best since Randy Castillo and Phil Soussan joined up for 1986's The Ultimate Sin and fires most accurately on the title cut, "Lay Your World On Me" and "Countdown's Begun." There's no "Crazy Train" or "Mama I'm Coming Home" here but Black Rain is a more convincing statement for it. The promises Ozzy makes here are sincere, he's not going away anytime soon––and he's still got plenty of game. ––Jedd Beaudoin

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Category: Alternative Rock

Exile on Mainstream, Matchbox Twenty


After 28 million records sold worldwide, 5 Grammy nominations, and more #1 hits and weeks at #1 than any other artist in history at Adult Top 40 and Modern AC, Melisma/Atlantic recording group matchbox twenty is overdue for a Greatest Hits package. In order to create something truly special for their fans, the band returned to the studio to record their first new material in five years. Grammy-winning producer Steve Lillywhite oversaw the sessions in L.A., marking the band s first work with the renowned producer - whose credits include the likes of U2, The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, and many others. Out of the session came six brand-new songs, turning the package into a new EP with a bonus of 11 matchbox twenty hits. The new tracks also mark their first recordings as a foursome. Amazon

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Category: Country

Small Miracles, Blue Rodeo


What do you expect from a band that has been together for 20 years and released 11 studio recordings? If you've answered "more of the same," then, in Blue Rodeo's case, you'd be exactly right. Small Miracles is upbeat light-country-meets-soft-rock that oscillates between Greg Keelor's Band-esque style and Jim Cuddy's love-leaning lyrics, just like the bulk of their other ten CDs. "I held you but you held back from me," sings Keelor on the country-meets-bluegrass track, "Blue House," yet another take on love-gone-wrong but especially effective in his well-written wrought style.

Keelor's gravelly voice on "It Makes Me Wonder" is so powerful and timeless, it could easily have been written by Dylan or The Band on the grassy hills of Woodstock. That song is one of a number of tracks (along with the aptly titled "Beautiful" and the funky bridge of "So Far Away") that showcases the amazing skills of newest member, keyboardist Bob Packwood, whose bluesy-soulful ivory tickling enhances every track he appears on. Although the group's most famous hit to date, "Try" (from 1987's Outskirts), features Cuddy on vocals, Small Miracles' top moments consistently seem to come from the mouth of Keelor, whose deep emotions and complex songwriting tendencies make for far more memorable lyrics and melodies than Cuddy's lighter and fluffier fare. --Denise Sheppard

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Category: Blues

Complete Clapton, Eric Clapton


Eric Clapton: his music, his story. 36 of Eric's greatest songs from 1968 to 2006 in one collection for the first time ever! This 36 selection multi-disc set features hits from 1968 to 2006 including "Crossroads," Badge," "Layla," "Tears In Heaven," "Change The World" and much more. Amazon

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Category: Classic Rock

The Very Best of Mick Jagger, Mick Jagger


Arguably the most iconic rock star ever, Mick Jagger has gathered no moss during his intervals off from fronting The Rolling Stones. On The Very Best of Mick Jagger, his distinguished solo work is compiled and examined for the first time ever on an anthology spanning over thirty years of highlights, with all tracks selected by Jagger himself. Amazon

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01/17/08


Category: Easy Listening

Taking Chances, Celine Dion


'Taking Chances' is not without its daring moments--we'll get to those--but the first order of business in any review of this much-hyped record, on which Celine Dion is said to have slunk away from her songbird instincts in favor of embracing her inner rock & roll wild child, should be fan reassurance. Therefore: fear not. Taking Chances has its share of poignant, pretty ballads (both "A Song for You" and "Right Next to the Right One" are goosebump-raisers) and love songs (the hopeful, heartfelt title track, which unfolds into an anthemic power ballad midway through, may be the best one). As far as standard Celine fare goes, in fact, Chances is likely her strongest non-French outing since 2002's A New Day Has Come; nobody unfolds a lyric with more care or nuance. And, as the subtle "My Love" deftly proves, any early-career instincts to over-sing have gone poof along with her '90s-era, sweet-natured-kook persona. Because it's a generous 16 songs long, it may even be possible to ignore the non-Celine-like moments on Taking Chances and just enjoy the more fan-faithful tracks. But that wouldn't be any fun, would it? There are songs here--"Can't Fight the Feelin'," "Fade Away," "That's Just the Woman In Me"--that will astound diehards and make fans of those who've dissed her for more than a decade. If you didn't think the diva behind Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" had it in her to screech from the bottom of her soul, a la Janis Joplin, flip to track 15 and guess again. --Tammy La Gorce

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Category: Classic Rock

Chrome Dreams II, Neil Young


What we have here is easily Mr. Young's finest work in years, one that erases the memory of his well-intentioned but anemic 2006 protest album, Living with War. Recorded using analog gear, with Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, and Rick Rosas on bass, CD2 manages to sound both home-grown and experimental. It's the work of an artist still not afraid to take chances, who also knows what his strengths are and doesn't stray too far from them. Trainspotters will note that three of the ten songs were written but never released before, while we all might puzzle over the title. Chrome Dreams is the name of an unreleased album from 1977. So, why is this Chrome Dreams II? Is it a similar case to 1992's Harvest Moon, when Young went back to the virtual land of his 1972 hit Harvest to write more material in that vein? As the original was reportedly lost in a fire, we may never know. Chrome Dreams II offers up gorgeous, plaintive laments and country-tinged numbers sung in that achy breaky, heart-on-sleeve voice of Young's, as well as ragged barn-storming rockers delivered with a growl. There's even an 18-minute dirge that excitedly mixes R&B back-up horns with searing electric guitar leads! Wow. --Mike McGonigal

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Category: Classic Rock

Mothership, Led Zepplin


For years, as playlists and multidisc players put Led Zeppelin tracks into a mix, there was a perpetual need to adjust the volume when Zep came on. Their tunes languished in the haze of substandard remastering--until now, at least for the 24 tracks on Mothership and the final fullness of the new Song Remains the Same reissue. For its part, Mothership's crisper, warmer audio owes its heft to the troika of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who helped oversee the mastering, bringing out untold shades even in the throes of "Heartbreaker" and the sinews of "No Quarter." It's an impressive sonic leap. Where tinny high-ends and muffled lows used to co-exist, fatter and louder depths prevail. It's ever more astonishing that Zep got on with just four blokes. You can quibble with the 24 tracks here (where's "The Ocean"?), but the band picked each track here, from the stone-cold locks ("Communication Breakdown" and "Stairway to Heaven," no, duh) to the robust throb of "When the Levee Breaks." As for "The Ocean," you can find that in fantastically full form, along with five other gems on the newly remastered Song Remains the Same, which shows up for 2007's holiday season on DVD, too. Only rarely have four lads from England made so memorable an auditory and visual blast. --Andrew Bartlett

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Category: Alternative Rock

Talk to the Hand: Live in Michigan, Barenaked Ladies


Barenaked Ladies cross the border to for their first-ever live DVD, 'Talk to the Hand: Live in Michigan'. This special edition contains the full concert on both CD and DVD, and features classics such as "One Week," "Pinch Me" and "If I Had $1000000," as well as hits from the recent releases Barenaked Ladies Are Me and Barenaked Ladies Are Men. DVD is formatted to 16:9 and featurs a DTS 5.1 audio mix, and is loaded with interviews and other special features, including a sound check performance of "Angry People." Amazon

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Category: Hip-hop

American Gangster


Separate from the official motion picture soundtrack, this collection of all-new original material is a musical journey and lyrical interpretation of snapshots from the upcoming motion picture American Gangster. The conceptual, full body of genius work from the new album balances the line between pure entertainment and real life. JAY-Z draws upon past experiences, speaking to the harsh reality of the drug trade still taking place in our nation's cities. While not glorifying the Frank Lucas story, JAY-Z articulates the lure of a gangster's life and stands as an example of one who chose to leave those streets behind to go on and become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time.

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Category: Country

Family, Leann Rimes


This sounds like a pivotal release for Rimes, who made her breakthrough as a childhood prodigy with an uncanny vocal resemblance to Patsy Cline, and then evolved into an eclectic diva who couldn't quite decide what she wanted to be when she grew up. She's all grown up now, as both the sensual "Upper Hand" and the spiritual "What I Cannot Change" attest. Rimes had a hand in writing all the material (except for the bonus-cut duets with Jon Bon Jovi and Reba McEntire), and themes of family--though not always her family--pervade the lyrics. Musically, this is grittier, harder-edged, and more propulsive than much of her previous fare, with the title cut and "Nothin' Better to Do" evoking the Southern country soul of Bobbie Gentry, her duet with Marc Broussard on "Nothing Wrong" riffing like the Rolling Stones, and "One Day Too Long" sounding like the female Otis Redding. She's lost none of her supple upper register, as the balladry of "Pretty Things" attests, but Leann Rimes in no longer just a pretty voice. --Don McLeese

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Category: R & B

Revival, Jully Black


The Great White North has not been able to bestow the title of "Canada’s answer to Mary J. Blige" until now. Jully Black may very well garner that prize thanks to the passion and performance on her sophomore CD, Revival. As the first single, "Seven Day Fool," makes clear, she deftly and seamlessly handles the Motown sound. The track--once made famous by Etta James--is in fact the only cover song on the disc; every other track features the talented Black as co-writer. With each cut stemming from R&B as a base, sass and soul pervade the disc in enough musical forms to bring forth fans from many genres. "Queen" matches a reggae beat with a melody that India.Arie would love to wrap her larynx around. Elsewhere, Black skates the edges of electronic music, as on "Never Lost My Sight," which finds her soulful voice wrapping around a rapid-fire drum-and-bass beat. "Temporary Insanity" barely contains Black’s breathy, sexy, rhythmic vocals as they deliver a melody that could fit onto the next Justin Timberlake CD. In that cut and others, the match between Black and producer (and Black Eyed Peas drummer) Keith Harris makes for a dream team, and his sense of rhythmic hooks keeps the disc extra fresh throughout. Never formulaic, never kitschy, Revival knocks out all Canadian R&B competitors and deserves to be noticed on a world scale. --Denise Sheppard

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