Former Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally certainly learned a few things from Frank, and on The Universe Will Provide he puts some of them to use. His compositions are more like min-symphonies than rock songs, which makes sense given the fact hes accompanied by the Metropole Orkest, a 60-piece Dutch orchestra. Keneallys lines are ofttimes jarring, placed almost in opposition to the orchestra; at other times, the two blend, or the orchestra supports Keneallys electric excursions. Keneally touches many bases here, from shred guitar to complex orchestral passages to sweeping melodic grandeur. If titles like Worrywart Spoonguy and Four Slices of Toast intrigue you rather than put you off, chances are the music will as well.
The Chieftains The Long Black Veil (Mobile Fidelity)
Sting, Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Sinead OConnor, Mark Knopfler, Tom Jones no wonder The Long Black Veil garnered notice by the masses and critical acclaim when it was released in 1995. Now this marriage of rock royalty and traditional Celtic music has been given glorious new life by the label famed for its painstaking approach to audiophile quality sound. Listen past OConnors vocals on The Foggy Dew to the rolling drums in the distance and the pipes and bodhran, or the exquisite sound of the harp, flute and pipes on Morrisons Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? that back the singer on a most heartfelt version of his hit. Really, any track here is divine, and is made all the more so by the incredible sound.
Brian Setzer The Ultimate Collection (Surfdog)
The novelty of rockabilly bad boy Brian Setzer fronting a 17-piece big band has long since faded. Now the group can be appreciated for its musicality and muscle, and theres certainly plenty of both on display on this double live CD. From Brand New Cadillac and Sittin On It from the bands debut disc in 1994 to the surprise hit Jump, Jive & Wail to remakes of the themes from James Bond and Hawaii Five-O and big-band treatments of Stray Cat Strut and more, this disc swings and zings. His band boasts great soloists and a tight ensemble sound. Setzer is Setzer, of course, his growling guitar and bluesy vocals taking center stage most of the time.
Karrin Allyson Wild For You (Concord)
Todays best female jazz vocalist save your arguments, its just the truth turns back to her pop roots, with tunes by Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, James Taylor and Elton John, among others. Allysons sex kitten poses on the CD cover are hardly necessary, as the music itself is by turns sensual, playful, engaging, and always soulful. Like the greatest ballplayers, Allyson makes everything seem effortless. Her re-arrangements of Its Too Late by Carole King is a great example of how she keeps the spirit of the original intact even as she and the band stretch out, with a great solo by guitarist Rod Fleeman before Allyson returns to the vocals and melody, then scats out to the end.