This compilation, put together by National Public Radio, starts off with a bang. Do the 45 by Ryan Shaw harkens back to the heyday of soul shouters like Sam Cooke and Al Green. Eli Paperboy Reed keeps up the momentum with Am I Wasting My Time? complete with spine-tingling yelps. Both feature instrumental backing reminiscent of the best soul music of the 60s and 70s, with chittering rhythm guitars, organ, handclaps and horns. Raphael Saadiqs 100 Yard Dash is more sedate than the title might suggest, and Chaka Khans Disrepectful with Mary J. Blige is an unqualified treat. Imagine a whole CD like that. Now stop imagining and listen.
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez The New Bye & Bye (Train Wreck Records)
Songwriter Chip Taylor (Jon Voights brother, composer of Wild Thing and Angel of the Morning among others) teamed up with young fiddle player/vocalist Carrie Rodriguez after hearing her at SXSW in 2002. This is a compilation of some of their best work alongside four new songs. Perhaps the best testament to its success is that its impossible to tell which are the old songs and which are the new. Taylors rough-edged voice is complemented by Rodriguezs sweeter hue. It would be nice if they could sing more in tune, but those who like their folk with a generous dose of twang will likely enjoy this recording.
Lang Lang Live in Vienna (Sony)
Theres no doubt that Lang Lang is the most celebrated pianist in classical circles and beyond, from gigs at the Grammys and the Olympics to this recital in Vienna. His bravura style is occasionally over the top, but its hard to argue with the results. On this two-disc set, he performs two Beethoven sonatas, including Appassionata, as well as one each by Prokofiev and Albeniz. As a tribute to Chopins 200th anniversary, he also performs three of that composers works. Lang Langs playing may be overly enthusiastic at times, but its never florid. The Appassionata in particular rings with joy and passion, from hushed pianissimos to strident fortes.
Gary Husband Dirty and Beautiful Volume 1 (Abstract Logix)
British drummer/keyboardist Husband has played with loads of folks in the jazz/rock firmament, and theyre all here with him. John McLaughlin, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, Allan Holdsworth, Robin Trower, Steve Hackett, Mark King and a host of others join him for a bracing set that touches on fusion, soft jazz, ambient rock, all with aplomb. Husband seldom lets things get out of control; the one criticism might be that its just a little too polite. Best tracks? Probably Moon Song with Hackett and English bass ace Laurence Cottle, or the spooky Afterglow, with Husband conjuring up images of fire and ice with his keyboards. But truly any tune is worth the price of admission.