DEJA RE-VU Pop Culture Classics' Recommended CDs, DVDs and Books
By Paul Freeman

Shot at the Sweden Rock Festival in Solsborg, 2013, this set features the classic lineup of the Swedish band Europe, still at the height of its powers, more than 30 years after their debut. Norwegian guitarist John Norum knows how to shred. And lead vocalist Joey Tempest continues to be a whirling dervish on stage. Blu-Ray captures all of the excitement. Guest appearances by Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy) and Michael Schenker add to the frenzy. An acoustic set provides an excellent balance to the evening’s heavy rock. Among the memorable numbers are “Scream of Anger,” “Prisoners In Paradise,” “Open Your Heart,” “Carrie,” “Jailbreak” and, of course, “The Final Countdown.”

This four-part Smithsonian Channel series explores the real-life scientific adventure of putting humans into deep space. The detailed documentary gives us a clear picture of the space program’s past, present and future. There are stunning visuals, as well as insightful interviews with astronauts, engineers and NASA officials. A fascinating excursion.

Beatle fans may think they’ve heard every possible anecdote relating to the Fab Four. But “Good O’ Freda” offers a wealth of previously untold tales. Freda Kelly was the band’s secretary, from 1961’s Cavern days to 1972 at Apple headquarters. She was a teen, when she started helping out with the fan club. And she remained a fan, caring and down-to-Earth. In this charming documentary, Kelly doesn’t reveal any secrets, she simply offers fond remembrances of being part of the group’s inner circle. Bonus features include audio commentary with Freda and director Ryan White, deleted scenes, and a Q&A from The Fest For Beatle Fans. Every moment of this new DVD release will delight Beatle aficionados

“My Little Pony” has become a pop culture phenomenon. Filled with positive messages and a sense of wonder, it shouldn’t be surprising that the show’s popularity has extended far beyond its original primary audience of young girls. And yes, the devoted fans now include grown men. You’ll find their stories to be surprisingly fascinating and often poignant, as they explain why they were drawn to this idyllic world of friendship-seeking ponies. It’s a heartfelt reminder not to judge others too harshly... or too quickly.

British filmmaker Shane Meadows (“This Is England”) lovingly documents the reunion of one of the most hyped bands of all-time, Manchester’s Stone Roses. It’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll story of egos, fame, drugs and, yes, fantastic music. The DVD offers archival footage, as well as new performances and interviews. The rehearsal process is thoroughly engrossing. Concert sequences sound great in Dolby Digital 5.1. The homecoming shows in front of hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans are thrilling to behold. It’s an important reminder that, beyond all the media madness, Stone Roses really were an incredible band.

Like Liberace, CeeLo Green is a consummate showman. Live in Las Vegas, surrounded by showgirls, he’s in his element. Even Liberace himself might have found some of Green’s costumes to be a bit gaudy. But it’s all in good fun. Rap-pop star Green delivers hits such as “Crazy,” “Forget You” and “Bright Lights, Big City,” as well as covers spanning everything from Rick James to Rod Stewart. All in all, a glittering spectacle, ideal for Sin City and equally enjoyable via your Blu-Ray player.

Film Chest has certainly done justice to these works of Corman, the King of the Bs. Thanks to HD restoration, the three films look terrific. Inferior prints have been floating around on TV and DVD for ages. These widescreen versions, from 35mm, with sound mastered in 5.1 surround, will delight horror cultists everywhere. Producer Corman always had an amazing eye for talent. Francis Ford Coppola made an early directorial turn with the eerie “Dementia 13,” which stars the underrated and entrancing Luana Anders as a recently widowed woman who moves to an Irish farm mired in strangeness. Bad move indeed. In the wonderfully weird “Bucket of Blood,” the quirky character actor Dick Miller plays a beatnik waiter who stumbles on fame as an artist, when he encases corpses in plaster. “The Terror” is fun to watch, because of a double dose of charisma, supplied by one actor on the brink of stardom, Jack Nicholson, and another near the end of a legendary career, Boris Karloff. Corman himself directed the latter two films, proving again that high entertainment value can be squeezed from low-budget pictures. This very reasonably priced three-disc set is a worthy addition to any film collection.

Yes, there were rock festivals in California between the Monterey Pop era and Coachella. Memorial Day weekend, 1983, hundreds of thousands flocked to a massive open-air field near Devore, San Bernadino. New Wavers, punks and metalheads merged to watch an amazing lineup. The man behind this wild party was Apple’s Steve Wozniak. Though some of the big names are missing from this new release, there are more than enough iconic rock artists here, delivering electrifying performances. Among them are U2 (with Bono making a heart-stopping scaffold climb), INXS (with the incredibly magnetic Michael Hutchence strutting all over the place), Stevie Nicks, Missing Persons, Stray Cats, The Clash, Judas Priest, Divinyls, Men At Work, Scorpions, Berlin, The English Beat and Quarterflash. The documentary encompasses the whole festival experience, not just the blistering performances. Now you can enjoy US without having to worry about sunburns, bad acid or trying to find a Porta-Potty.

This new DVD, featuring everyone’s favorite engine and his friend, contains six episodes, plus games and puzzles. The shows churn along at a brisk pace and the animation looks great. There are positive messages imbedded in the adventures, often dealing with relating to and understanding others. The colorful fun will keep the wee ones enthralled. Sure to please all your little conductors.

The second volume in Ben Model’s series of rare silent film comedies is brimming with unexpected delights. Only a handful of stars from the pre-talkie period have any name recognition today, nearly 100 years since they graced the silver screen. So it’s fun to watch the antics of such now little known, but amusing performers as Neely Edwards, Lloyd Hamilton, Jimmy Harrison, Alberta Vaughn and child actor Malcolm “Big Boy” Sebastian. Silly situations abound. In “Why Wild Men Go Wild,” an ardent young fellow disguises himself as a fearsome Neanderthal to impress a pretty girl with his ruggedness. In “Papa’s Boy,” a wealthy father, determined to toughen up his butterfly-collecting son, sends him on a camping expedition. The results are predictably and hilariously disastrous. The short was directed by Norman Taurog, whose long career later included “Boys Town,” as well as several Martin & Lewis and Elvis Presley vehicles. One familiar superstar makes his presence felt here... sort of. The animated “Charley On The Farm” offers merriment courtesy of a character clearly patterned after Charlie Chaplin. Adding to the enjoyment in this collection are a 1925 advertisement for Christmas Seals and a safety film warning of the danger of blasting caps. The entire volume turns out to be a blast, as well as a valuable chunk of our cinematic and cultural history. Ben Model himself composed and recorded jaunty keyboard scores to enliven these entertaining shorts. Order your copy of these silent film rarities at


Jellyfish created some of the finest retro pop-rock sounds of the 90s, laden with hooks and harmonies. Their albums were lavishly and lovingly produced. But they didn’t need all of the studio accoutrements to serve up irresistible music. Omnivore has released this new set, on CD and vinyl, that’s comprised of 10 tracks taken from live radio broadcasts recorded in Holland and Australia. Acoustic versions of songs from the band’s “Bellybutton” and “Spilt Milk” albums sound great, as do covers of The Move’s “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” and Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” Other high points include “Baby’s Coming Back” and “The Ghost At Number One.”

The blues-rocker captures the essence of life as a touring musician on “Road Worn and Ragged.” Both his vocals and guitar-playing are packed with raw emotion. This gives the record a visceral power. On the rousing opener, “Brunette Woman,” Brandon Santini’s churning harmonica perfectly complements Jensen’s riffs. “Heart Attack and Vine” reveals Hollywood’s dark underbelly. Jensen’s strong take on the classic “Little Red Rooster” will have you strutting, bobbing your head in time. “River Runs Dry” strikes a poignant note. On the final track, “Thankful,” Jensen expresses that, after all the trials and tribulations, ultimately, there is gratitude for bring able to follow his passion, the music.

Norwegian pianist Gustavsen, joined by tenor saxophonist Tore Brunborg, double bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad, creates meditative music that subtly touches upon many moods and paints seductive sonic landscapes. Wisps of mystery make these excursions even more intriguing, sometimes even otherworldly. Gustavsen’s artistry, through discretion, truth and beauty, takes the listener far from the trodden path.

This rising pianist/composer has performed with many jazz legends. With “Anthem For A New Day,” she establishes herself as one of the inspired artists who will carry the genre into a bright new future. Sung’s original compositions, the title track and the optimistic “Hope Springs Eternally,” are fueled by a fusion feel. On “Hidden,” guest violinist Regina Carter and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen add elegant shadings to Sung’s electric piano stylings. Sung is also a gifted arranger, finding new colors in such familiar tunes as “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and “Never Let Me Go.” Sung’s piano touch displays great fluidity and individuality.

Smith, a singer-guitarist who hails from Forth Worth, simmers with a soulful style. His supple voice can smoothly handle everything from Texas blues-rock to R&B to jazzier inflections. And he serves up just the right amount of true grit. There’s a compelling honesty that makes his music particularly powerful. A versatile songwriter, his guitar even takes on a Spanish flair for “Olhos Verdes [Green Eyes].” His memorable compositions include the subtly stormy “You Get What You Deserve,” a heart-wrenching “Never Got The Blues” and the revealing ballad “The Secret.”

Pioneering alt-country-band Lone Justice, riding the spectacular vocals of Maria McKee, is captured in this new release just as they were about to emerge on the L.A. scene. There’s a tremendous energy to these numbers, which were recorded by engineer David Vaught on a two-track with no overdubs. And nine of the 12 recordings presented here were previously unissued. All the excitement of the group’s early club appearances bursts forth here. There are sparkling original tunes like “Soap, Soup and Salvation,” as well as scorching covers of “Jackson” [made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter], “Nothing Can Stop My Loving You” [penned by George Jones and Roger Miller] and “Working Man’s Blues” [the Merle Haggard classic]. Other electrifying moments come on “Vigilante,” “Grapes of Wrath” and “Cactus Rose.” The foot-stompin’, defiant “This World Is Not My Home” represents another high point. If there’s any justice in the world, this band will be more widely appreciated. Better late than never.

Ready to boogie? You won’t sit still through this Bay Area singer/piano player’s vibrant new album. The title track kicks things off with a New Orleans R&B style romp. Blackman corrals that Fats Domino stride on “What Do I Tell My Heart.” The exuberance continues with a fervent “I Like It Like That,” “Who Shot The La-La” and the rousing “Help Yourself.” Blackman can slow it down soulfully for “Dreams To Remember” and “Just The Same.” Nancy Wright takes a sassy lead vocal on “Somebody Told You,” then duets with Blackman on “Rockin’ Good Way” and the gloriously gospelish “The Good Book.” Blackman and his band, The Mighty Fines, are might fine indeed.

The Swedish organist/vocalist/composer summons up riveting, haunting, cinematic music that is filled with apprehension, foreboding, disquiet and a Gothic mournfulness. Her voice can be delicately affecting and ethereal or a penetrating primal scream of pain and grieving. Swelling, sweepingly supernatural organ passages generate a dark, epic majesty. Contemplation of death doesn’t drag the compositions into a mire. Instead the music soars. It’s strangely exhilarating. Among the highlights are the hypnotic “Funeral For My Future Children,” the solemn “Goodbye” and the gorgeous “Liturgy of Light.” With touchstones ranging from classical to Kate Bush to Bjork, Hausswolff carves out her own mystical musical territory.

Canadian cabaret vocalist/pianist Sarah Silverman [no, not that Sarah Silverman] teams with pianist Bruce Barth to produce an unadorned album of rare intimacy and deep emotion. Silverman’s voice, a delicate, imaginative, nuanced, expressive instrument, entwines with Barth’s intuitive keyboard work. Her interpretations of songs like “Two Sleepy People,” “Nature Boy,” and a medley of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well” are very much her own. But listeners will warm to them immediately. She penned lyrics to Edvard Grieg’s “Arietta” and the results are absolutely exquisite. Her own song, “Waiting On The Weather,” fits in beautifully with the standards. It’s wonderful to hear a new talent blossoming.

Singer Patrick Fitzgerald, guitarist Julian Swales and drummer Dan Goodwin have re-teamed to record 10 songs that are as striking and memorable as the music they made in the 90s. “Oak Tree” talks about surmounting tragedy. The wistful “I Wish It Would Snow” is another high point. After listening to this distinctive album, you’ll wish Kitchens of Distinction would continue making music together for decades to come. Too many reunions disappoint. This one, with thought-provoking lyrics and moving melodies, is a triumph.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more appealing collection of songs than these 10 from New York City-based singer/songwriter/pianist Sarah Dooley. In her gorgeously girlish voice, she sings with joy, melancholy and whimsy. Moods and styles shift smoothly. There’s a welcome winsome, wistful breeziness that sometimes cleverly belies the depth of the lyrical content. Dooley has a very fresh way of delving into very relatable subjects. Melodies are inventive, yet accessible. Among the brilliant gems here are the title track, ‘Peonies,” “Nine Inch Snow,” “Teenage Elegance,” “Shadows,” “I Shook Hands With The Devil,” “I Want You To Wonder” and “Watching Goonies At My House.” This is the kind of album that will grab you instantly and charm you even more with each subsequent listening.

Soulful country-rocker Amy Black has an exceptionally powerful and expressive voice, as well as an understanding of the dynamics that can bring out the perfect emotion for every moment of these 14 spirited tracks. She’s equally effective on ballads and uptempo numbers. In addition to her 11 fine originals, Black delivers top-flight renditions of John Prine and Rodney Crowell tunes, as well as a bonus gospel number. Her version of Crowell’s “Still Learning How To Fly” is transcendentally beautiful. Among her own tunes, standouts include the sizzling “Nobody Knows You,” the frolicsome “Cat’s In The Kitchen,” the bluesy “Old Hurt,” the seething “Stronger,” a lovely “Make Me An Angel” and the poignant “We Had A Life.”

The Canadian blues-rock guitarist/vocalist comes up with a vital, vigorous, completely convincing set of rootsy tunes. “What Would Bo Diddley Do” drives with that infectious Diddley beat. “Let’s Get Together” bristles with a rock edge. Gillespie’s soul-drenched vocal fuels “My Mama.” The clever “It Wasn’t Me” is another strong cut. R&B flavors make “16 Days” (which also has a pinch of funk) and “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” exceptionally stirring tunes. “Early In The Mornin’” sounds like Gillespie was transported back to the 1930s Mississippi Delta. “Her Mind Left First” has a bit of a rockabilly feel. Gillespie adds trumpet bursts to his instant classic, “The Devil Likes To Win.” “She Walks Right In” jumps with a New Orleans boogie sensibility. Gillespie can effectively slow it down for the ballad “Magnolia Tree.” From start to finish, he’s the real deal.

You may know O’Donovan from her lovely vocals with Boston-based alt-bluegrass band Crooked Still or from Alison Krauss’ cover version of her song, “Lay My Burden Down” (which opens this album). But this debut solo effort should elevate O’Donovan, an extraordinary singer-songwriter, to a new level of recognition. Her sweet, gently captivating voice complements these elegantly crafted, distinctive, diverse tunes, such as “Briar Rose,” “Fire Engine,” “Pearls,” “Broken Heart,” “I’m Alone” and “Oh, Mama.” From beautiful ballads to crisp country-rock, O’Donovan impresses.

It you haven’t yet caught up with this album, don’t delay any further. Bostic is an exceptional pop talent. Her voice is powerful, nuanced and expressive. She demonstrates versatility, both in her vocals and her songwriting. Her melodies are strong, moving and memorable. Her lyrics are consistently compelling. There isn’t one weak track here. But the standout numbers include “Change,” “Anywhere But Here,” “Jealous of the Angels,” “Not Yet” and “Just One Day.” Bostic’s uplifting sounds will appeal to a wide-ranging audience.


This is a wonderfully relaxed, sophisticated, collection from Ms. Martin. Softly, smoothly swinging numbers like “I Love Being Here With You,” “Beyond The Sea” and “Nothing But The Best” are hard to resist. The daughter of Dino teams with daddy for a sweet duet of “True Love.” Other highlights include “ the torchy “Gee Baby Ain’t I good To You” and a touching rendition of “Break It To Me Gently” (made famous by Brenda Lee, but also recorded by Deana’s father). This latest album is another reminder that Deana is a top talent in her own right.

Douglas’ 50th birthday is a cause for every music lover to celebrate! This must-have box set contains his three latest releases plus a bonus DVD. The album “Be Still” teams trumpeter/composer Douglas’ eloquent, juicily jazzy playing with Aoife O’Donovan’s winsome alt-folk vocals. The results are endlessly alluring, on such spiritually uplifting numbers as “Be Still My Soul” and “Living Streams.” On the “Time Travel” album, Douglas’ horn entwines in exhilarating fashion with his fellow instrumentalists, particularly tenor saxophonist Jon Irabgon. On the third album, “Pathways,” Greg Tardy takes the tenor chair, as well as creating clever clarinet passages. The contemplative elements of the title track are especially arresting. The DVD offers quintet and sextet performances, plus music videos. Throughout all the discs, Douglas displays a richness of emotion, as well as an impeccable and inventive technical prowess.

The fact that the pop-rocker’s new album is self-titled could be an indication that she’s particularly proud of this one. And she definitely should be. These tunes are infectious, hooky with just the right amount of sizzling edge. Lavigne delivers plenty of snap and crackle with her pop, on such instantly memorable numbers as “Rock N Roll,” “Bitchin’ Summer,” “Here’s To Never Growing Up,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Hello Kitty” and “Slippin’ On Sunshine.” She can effectively go a bit softer and sweeter for a song like “Give You What You Like,” “Hello Heartache,” “Falling Fast” or “Hush Hush.” Her husband Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) co-wrote most of the album and joins her on “Let Me Go.” Marilyn Manson guests on “Bad Girl.” On this, her fifth studio album, Lavigne is consistently pleasing and definitely on top of her game.

Indie rock-pop singer-songwriter Brookings, returning with his sixth album, serves up 11 wonderfully crafted tunes. “No Regrets” has an alt-Americana vibe. “The Greatest Songwriter No One Ever Heard” could be every indie artist’s anthem. “The Dream Is Over” and “I’ll Wait Up For You” shimmer with a folk-rock feel. “If I Don’t Make It Back” is fueled by a Rubinoos-like energy. The pretty ballad “I’ve Got No Game Now” is tremendously appealing. “Cora,” “Heroin Donna” and the title track also register strongly. Brookings draws on classic rock influences, while creating music that sounds totally fresh.

The wondrous works of Harry Nilsson seem to be enjoying a welcome rediscovery these days. These new covers remain true to spirit of the original versions, but reinvigorate the songs by presenting delightfully diverse and lively perspectives. A wide span of artistic styles are at play here. Langhorne Slim gives a jaunty Professor Longhair feel to “Early In The Morning.” Low Cut Connie rips through a searing rendition of “Jump Into The Fire.” “1941” gets a sweetly nostalgic treatment from Jenn O. “Me and My Arrow” is whimsically winning and Beatle-ish via this Mommyheads performance. The Wiyos give a bouncy, ironic, Americana rendition of “Nobody Cares about The Railroads Anymore.” Brian Dewan offers a quirky performance of “Coconut. The cello-driven Rasputina brings a dramatic flair to “Sweethaven.” There’s a psychedelic swirl to Josh Kaufman’s offering, “I Said Goodbye To Me.” Johnny Society’s performance of ”Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song,” Blueberry’s “Poli High” and Stellacutta’s “Everything’s Got ‘Em” are also among the top tracks. Every one of these Nilsson compositions demonstrates a timeless appeal. Two huge Nilsson hits that he didn’t write are included here, Tracy Bonham’s enchantingly sings “Everybody’s Talkin’” and Johanna Warren performs “Without Her.” Perhaps the tribute album’s most touching moment comes on “Gotta Get Up,” sung by Harry’s daughter, Annie Nilsson. She’s joined by her brother Zak, who plays drums and sings background vocals. This is a fabulously entertaining album, honoring an amazing artist. Let’s hope there’s a volume 2 in the works.

These beautiful new Shelby Lynne songs glow with gratitude and resilience. She’s a true artist, never predictable, always creating music that is fascinating, honest and moving. A country-soul-gospel thread runs through this remarkable, spiritually uplifting EP. And her lovely, profoundly expressive voice helps make such tunes as “Walkin,” “Forevermore,” “This Road I’m On” and the title track memorable.

Lyricist Carolyn Berk, producer/performance artist Kerby Ferris and producer/percussionist Emily Kingan met in 2002. More than a decade later, with this, their seventh album (second as a trio), the group shows that they’ve fully flowered, artistically. Their excursions into folktronica and synth pop are intelligent, intriguing and alluring. Witty, thought-provoking feminist sensibilities and complex rhythms season these hypnotic songs.

Minor Alps combines the tantalizing talents of alt-rockers Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws (Nada Surf). Their voices blend beautifully, in unison and harmony, on warm, inviting folk-rock, as well as punk-infused energy bursts. They co-wrote all 11 songs. Top Tracks include “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands,” ”If I Wanted Trouble,” “Buried Plans,” the dreamy “Maxon,” a grabbingly jangly “Far From The Roses” and the wistful “Wish You Were Upstairs.” With this kind of tingling chemistry, Hatfield and Caws should continue the successful experiment that is Minor Alps. Following this vibrant initial musical leap, they’ll undoubtedly be able to climb to even greater heights.

The State of the Union may be depressing. But the “State” of Todd is just fine, thank you very much. Bold and adventurous, even after 24 solo albums, the innovative artist explores a scintillating spectrum of sounds here, romping through the rhythmic “Party Liquor,” driving through the insistent electronica of “Angry Birds,” and surging with the spiritually soaring “Something From Nothing.” This sold “State” is a worthy addition to Rundgren’s awe-inspiring body of work. His imagination continues to take flight.

Valentine on your mind? Frank will be happy to help you set a romantic mood. With his ingenious, intuitive phrasing, he gets every drop of meaning out of each lyric. The Chairman of the Board makes each tune uniquely his own, whether he’s invitingly swinging through numbers like “Love Is Here To Stay,” “Nice ‘N’ Easy,” “My Foolish Heart” and “The Way You Look Tonight” or silkily crooning ballads such as “Moonlight Becomes You,” “It Could Happen To You” “It Had To Be You,” “Love Looks So Well On You” and a deliciously lush “Misty.” Making perfect use of his rich lower register, Frank smoothly glides on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave.” Culled from Sinatra’s Capitol and Reprise recordings, this 16-song collection presents one gleaming gem after another.

The former percussionist of Dead Can Dance takes us on a meaningful musical journey with his “Caravan.” The myriad musical influences include acid-folk, Celtic, Indian, 60s psychedelic rock, to name just. In some moments there are echoes of Fairport Convention. Imaginative world instrumentation complements the evocative vocals, sung most stunningly by Sara Wendt. Ulrich’s own vocal turn on “The Secret Gardener” proves riveting. His lyrics are absorbing. Sometimes he tackles political issues, as on “Children of the Rain” and “Drug of War.” Among other top-flight tracks are “In This Or Other Skin,” “Starship,” “Hanging Man” “Love’s Skeleton” and the ethereal “Pureland,” with it’s beguiling harmonies. Ulrich and his collaborators have created music that deserves to be embraced.

His first album since 1998 was well worth the wait. This ranks as quite possibly his greatest work to date. He writes gorgeous melodies, evidenced here with such tunes as “Everything Changes,” “Hold On,” “Guess It Was Me” and the poignant piano ballad “Beautiful” and “Disconnected.” His earnest, insightful lyrics and plaintive vocals make the music moving. Steven Tyler joins him on the optimistic “Someday,” an endearing ditty. Bloodlines are irrelevant. The simple fact is, Lennon has matured into one of our finest singer-songwriters.

Chosen by Bennett himself, this collection of timeless tunes is yet another reminder of Bennett’s glorious pop/jazz magic. “Classics” is available in a standard edition (20 songs) and expanded, deluxe version (with 10 additional tracks). On songs you’ve heard performed 1,000 times by 1,000 different vocalists, such as “Blue Velvet,” “My Favorite Things” or “Just In Time,” Bennett will make you forget all the others, making his version the definitive one. Of course, his signature tunes, like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Rags to Riches” are included. Bennett imbues each note with passion and meaning. This package also includes some terrific Bennett duets with stars ranging from Ray Charles to Barbra Streisand to Stevie Wonder to John Mayer to Lady Gaga. Bennett’s magnetism has long transcended genre and generation boundaries.

After a decade with the Wisconsin band Union Pulse, Redding has moved to New York and released a solo album. It’s an impressive debut, brimming with gripping, but low-key alt-pop-folk. This singer-songwriter etches vivid stories and characters. His literate lyrics bristle with wit and bite. Among the most striking numbers are “A Girl Named Elizabeth,” “Irony Is Not A Type of Metal,” “Incredible,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Something’s Wrong,” “A Bird Can Sing” and “3,000 Miles.” Redding has taken the relationships he has experienced, the trials and tribulations he has endured, and transformed them into cogent songs. He’ll hold your attention throughout this musical “Walk.”

The jazz saxophonist/composer, who divides his time between Oakland and Seattle, is back with his first new recording in seven years. He and his top-notch ensemble - Grammy-nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti, drummer Lorca Hart, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci and bassist John Shifflett - play off one another seamlessly and soulfully, exploring exciting musical directions and creating a tight and tantalizing group sound. Among the colossally cool tracks are “Spurious Causes,” “Epistrophy,” “Swamp Thang” and “Cumulonimbus.” A warmth emanates from “Dawn Song.” Schwartz and company make music that’s filled with fresh ideas, a potent undercurrent of energy and plenty of melodic and rhythmic surprises.

Having already amassed five Grammy nominations, Vincent has been called “The New Queen of Bluegrass.” Though this outstanding two-disc set is divided into country and bluegrass disks (six tunes on each), Vincent blurs the lines and seems entirely at home in both styles. Her pristine, penetrating, poignant vocals make each track unforgettable. Material ranges from the Vincent’s wonderful weeper, “Teardrops Over You” to a frisky rendition of Bill Anderson standard, “Bright Lights and Country Music.” Willie Nelson and Daryle Singletary make guest appearances. Throughout, spot-on harmonies and blue-ribbon instrumental work help Vincent make this album a crowd-pleaser from start to finish.

Swing Fever Presents Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs and Jackie Ryan. San Francisco’s Swing Fever brings the real excitement of the big band era back to life. Joining them on this new CD/2-DVD set are truly masters of their art forms - Clark Terry (flugelhorn), Buddy DeFranco (clarinet), Terry Gibbs (vibes) and Jackie Ryan (vocals). Even in this glorious company, the members of Swing Fever, led by trombonist Bryan Gould, more than hold their own. Guitarist Jim Putman is among the standouts. These tracks were recorded at several locations, between 1998 and 2001. There are 14 songs (plus intros for each GrandMaster). The two DVDS are comprised of four live sets - two by Gibbs, one each by DeFranco and Terry. From ballads to bebop to swing classics, this collection is laden with treasures.

The accomplished jazz-pop vocalist/songwriter, a Grammy nominee, achieves a rare level of intimacy, delicacy and sensitivity with this remarkable album. Her melodies are breathtaking, her lyrics exceptionally intelligent. Feather’s crystalline voice is astonishingly rich in subtleties and expressiveness. Whether a moment is piercingly painful or slyly amusing, Feather makes it relatable and universal, regardless of how deeply personal its origin might be. Tunes like “We Have The Stars,” “Anna Lee,” “Hearing Things,” “True,” “A Little Like This,” with its classical violin intro, and the epic “The Veil” will touch the listeners’ souls.

With an official release date of Feb. 25th, this marks Cliff Richards 100th album. It will be made available on CD from Friday Music and as a digital download from Rhino. The U.K. legend recorded these rock ‘n’ roll classics live in a Nashville studio, backed by some extraordinary musicians from that area. There’s some great, James Burton-style guitar and Jordanaires-like support vocals. Rockabilly numbers like The Everlys’ “Wake Up Little Susie” and the Ricky Nelson smash “Stood Up,” suit Richard perfectly. He also works wonders with pop numbers like Johnny Tillotson’s “Poetry In Motion” and Bryan Hyland’s “Sealed With A Kiss.” Bobby Darin’s bouncy “Dream Lover,” gets a soul-drenched intro here. The British Elvis successfully tackles a few Presley tunes - “Such A Night,” “Stuck On You” and “Teddy Bear/Too Much.” Charlie Gracie’s “Fabulous,” the finger-poppin’ title track, also works well. And there’s one smooth new Richard tune, “One More Sunny Day.”

The Canadian-born Haan, singer, songwriter and lever harp player, moved to the Bay Area 15 years ago. Well known for her vocal work with Oakland jazz ensemble Leftover Dreams, she has also collaborated with numerous folk artists. Her entrancing new solo album draws from both genres to create a uniquely compelling collection of hauntingly beautiful songs. Guests include David Morris, Rick Elmore, Maureen Brennan, Diana Rowan and The Angel Choir. Haan’s supple voice proves captivating on such lovely tunes as “Since You’re Away” and “Mrs. Collinson’s Piano.” And her harp spins its own special magic. Haan’s compositions are poetic and moving. You’ll find that this extraordinary, timeless album affects you more deeply with each subsequent listening.

Well known for his work with the rock band The Harpoons, Furman shines on his new solo album. Earnest vocals deliver penetrating lyrics on urgent indie rockers like “I Wanna Destroy Myself” and “Tell Em All To Go To Hell.” Furman can sound plaintive on “My Zero,” quirky on “Cold Hands,” liltingly Lennon-esque on “Cherry Lane” and soaring on “Anything Can Happen.” A hot sax solo helps “And Maybe God Is A Train” surge. “Been So Strange” and “At The Bottom of the Ocean,” with its Bo Diddley rhythm, are other top tracks. Backed by his band The Boy-Friends, Furman proves that his day has come.

Based in Larkspur, Ca., Jewkes is one of the Bay Area’s most acclaimed saxophonists. His latest release is an homage to the legendary Lester Young, master of the tenor sax. Jewkes captures the transcendent spirit of Young, the tone, the flair, the inventiveness, the melodic drive. Jewkes and producer Akira Tana have assembled elite musicians to breathe new life into such Young classics as “Tea For Two” and “I’ll Never Be The Same.” Jewkes also cleverly imagines how Young might have interpreted other numbers, like “If You Were Mine.” Jewkes’ artistry meshes with Young’s to create sounds that are extraordinarily engaging.

Now in his 70s, Corea returns after a long recording absence with one of his most vibrant albums yet. With “The Vigil,” the adventurous pianist and his new group take the listener on a laid-back, eclectic jazz fusion journey that travels through acoustic and electric arrangements, in and out of Latin/Brazilian flavors, tantalizing with each and every step. Bassist Stanley Clarke and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane guest on his father John Coltrane’s “Pledge for Peace.” Other top tracks include the sprawling “Portals To Forever” and the flamenco-tinged “Planet Chia.” An innovative composer, Corea consistently challenges and entices with this otherworldly new work.

With the glorious voice of Hannah Reid as the focal point, this U.K. threesome is rapidly rising to the top of the pop world. Their touchstones range from contemporary electronica/dance music to vintage folk-rock. Songs like “Strong” and “Wasting My Young Tears” resonate powerfully. London Grammar embarks on a North American tour soon.

Fronted by Miho Hatori and Yuka C. Honda, the indie rock band returns with its first new album since 1999. The release date for ‘Hotel Valentine” is, appropriately, February 14. Guests include Wilco’s Nels Cline. Ready for an early taste? They’ve already created a video you can view for “MFN,” an irresistibly trippy hip-hop number that features keyboardist Reggie Watts (“Comedy Bang Bang”).

Electric jazz/fusion is alive and well in the hands of drummer DeRose. Here he’s joined by four of the Bay Area’s other top musicians - guitarist Hristo Vitchev, bassist Dan Robbins, keyboardist Murray Low and sax player Dann Zinn. Each of these imaginative players is allowed his own chance to sparkle. And the interplay amongst them is seamlessly beguiling.

The Welsh singer-songwriter, now based in Los Angeles, presents delectably, eccentrically alluring songs. Le Bon can be folky, funky, wistful, sprightly, soulfully sad or sensuously strange. But she’s always intriguing, both in terms of melody and lyrics. Inventive instrumentation complements her riveting, versatile vocals. Songs like “Are You With Me Now?,” “Wild,” “Mirror Me” and “Cuckoo Through The Walls” will leave you enchanted. Le Bon is an artist well worth discovering.

Pianist Connie Crothers and tenor saxophonist Jessica Jones, both of whom grew up in Northern California, returned to Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse to record this finely entwined set, primarily comprised of standards. They imbue such classics as Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” with their own distinctive musical personalities. The duo closes with some brilliant improvisatory flourishes on Jones’ appealing original tune “Family.” Jones and Crothers, who’s a Palo Alto native, bring a wealth of experience and intuitiveness to their musical conversations. It’s fascinating to listen in.


If you’ve been jonesing for another edition of Sweet & Hoffs’ fantastic covers, your wait is over. Shout! Factory has released a the third volume. This one focuses on the 80s. They preserve the original glories of songs made famous by such artists as The Pretenders, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths and Roxy Music. But the duo puts its own sweet stamp on the tunes. Their voices blend so beautifully, you’d think you were listening to blood harmonies. Sweet and Hoffs are related musically and we’re glad they’re sharing their fave tunes with us.