Ron Hynes Stealing Genius
Borealis / Linus /True North

Author:
KFM

"Stealing Genius" is a phrase that is usually short-hand for "Talent imitates, genius steals." Given that, we might expect Ron Hynes's newest album to be devoid of originality: his supposed genius, he seems to claim, is in swiping the work of others. But that is not the case in the least. Rather, we find that the act of theft that Hynes is referring to is his lifting of ideas from authors and poets such as Donna Morrissey, Des Walsh and Randall Maggs.

While on a writing sabbatical at Newfoundland's Woody Point, Hynes incorporated the spirit and ideas of these authors and others into a stack of songs that appeal to the dramatic views and stark temperment of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In this sense Hynes's activity bares more resemblance to "translating" than to "stealing"; he is moving the language of narrative into the language of music. ("Translating Genius" isn't much for an album title, admittedly).

Each of Hynes's original songs are arranged and set to music in the ideosyncratic style that fans of Hynes have come to love.

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Second Chance El DeBarge
Geffen / Interscope /UMG

Author:
KFM

Most folks don't get a second chance. Shit, most folks don't get a first chance. And how many chances have been lavished upon El DeBarge? Multiple arrests for crack and coke, drinking problems, domestic disputes, some time in prison, and who knows what else have dotted the decades since El left his family band "The DeBarges" in the mid-80s. And not only is he given another chance by Geffen Records, he's given some of the best producers and collaborators in the business. No, most folks aren't given second chances like this.

Of course, most folks don't have the pipes that El DeBarge has. A falsetto of extraordinary tonal quality, DeBarge has often been compared to the late King, Michael Jackson. The comparisons go beyond the obvious vocal similarities; both men emerged as the chosen star of their childhood family bands, both men exhibited uncanny sense of pop, and both men spent the decade of the 2000s mired in adversity.

With his emergence from prison, completion of a drug-rehabilitation program, and self-professed "born-again" status, it did seem that 2010 would be the year of El DeBarge's next second chance. The close of the year saw considerable commercial success, a planned tour opening for Mary J. Blige and, to many critics surprise, two grammy nominations for the title track of the new album. Yet on Valentine's Day, the day after DeBarge failed to show up at the Grammys, press agents annouced that he had checked himself back into a drug rehabilitation center. How many second chances can one guy get?

Single of the Week: "Format (featuring 50 Cent)"

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Lavender Lane The Flower Machine
Rainbow Quartz / Ultraviolet

Author:
KFM

This is a good, good compact disc. You should get high and listen to this here compact disc. That is why The Flower Machine made this here compact disc.

Seriously, The Flower Machine — a band that mostly consists of songwriter Peter Quinell — are well worth listening to, and, for the $10 price of a CD, will make you feel more strange than same money spent on almost anything else on the market. The Flower Machine has an uncanny knack for complete, un-ironic reproduction of early '70s psych. I'm pretty certain that the late Syd Barrett is Quinell's guiding light. Which is as good a guide as anyone can have in this surreal world. The sounds that warble out of these guitars and synths seem so legitimate, and the straight-forward confidence that underlies the purposely silly lyrics seem so startlingly sincere, that it would be a mistake to cram The Flower Machine in with the freak-folk acts that shared the stage with them at LA's Knitting Factory.

It's purposely strange and stony music from folks who take silliness seriously.

Editor's Note: The road runs through the heart of the world—and so does the album. It's the band at its wildest—both musically and lyrically.

Single of the Week: "Hazel Eyes"

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Jus' Desserts Tas Cru
Crustee Tees

Author:
KFM

Tas Cru and friends team up for a record packed with original songs. On each of the 11 tracks included Cru twists seemingly mundane situations into witty, sometimes heartfelt, odes to the everyday. Like the title track suggests, puns abound in these blues numbers, with a particular penchant for songs about food. But don't let the goofy themes fool you: Cru and slide guitarist Jeremy Walz kick out the jams for real, and drummer Andy Hearn transitions smoothly from dynamic country-and-western boogies to syncopated blues numbers that bear witness to his jazz chops.

This record is affable and slightly tawrdy, and is careful to avoid taking itself too seriously. And then it sneaks up on you with a seriously sad song. With "Time and Time," Tas Cru reminds his listeners of the kind of emotive capacity of Otis Redding or Eric Clapton. Give this record a listen if you're ready for some suprises, and give it a second listen if you're ready to become a fan.

Editor's Note: A very high orgasm is a way of communion with our creator.

ARTIST TO WATCH

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Icon: Scorpions Scorpions
Mercury / UMe

Author:
KFM

The idea of a "Greatest Hits" record for the Scorpions initially struck me as silly: did they have any hits that weren't on "Love at First Sting,"? Little did I realize that the anthemic "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and the rock-ballads like "Still Loving You" on "First Sting" were only a fraction of what this consumate rock band has to offer.

On this collection, issued under Mercury's "Icon" imprint, you'll find all the necesseties for keeping the party rockin', but you'll also find some tunes that might be unfamiliar to the casual listener of today. Most impressive is "The Zoo," where the lessons of early punk and late prog rock are handily absorbed into the Scorpion's well-polished style. This record won't do much for the millions of die-hard Scorpions fans out there, who already own all of the original tracks. But if, like me, your knowledge was limited to what gets played on VH1 and at bars, give this disc a spin... it'll rock you.

Editor's Note: Any band with Klaus Meine on vocals and Michael Schenker on guitar creates a fully finished sound polished by the full band, very slick, mixing crunch and melody in a recipe that was perfect for the '80s pop-metal market. I worship the gold record that they put on my wall.

Late But Great

Single of the Week: "Rock You Like A Hurricane"

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Natural Forces Lyle Lovett
Curb / Lost Highway /Universal

Author:
KFM

The uncouth observation has been made before, and in less flattering terms, but it bares repeating: Lyle Lovett bares a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. Tall, lanky, looming, with a penchant for strong words and big hats.

And like Lincoln, Lovett likes to hold it all together. Or, at least, that's what he accomplishes with "Natural Forces." The variety of country songwriters that appear on this album is rarely seen outside of compilations: Don Sanders, Eric Taylor and Vince Bell contribute tunes, as does Robert Earl Keen and the late, beloved, Townes Van Zandt. The songs are as varied as the songwriters, from whimsical and somewhat salacious joke-songs to the clear and plaintive take on "Loretta." Lovett succeeds, as always, at pulling it all together.

Of course, die-hard fans will be somewhat disappointed by the relatively sparse offering of songs newly penned by Lovett himself. But it's his iconic voice and unique style that comes through, track after track, and it would be a mistake to write off any of these splendid songs.

Editor's Note: I saw Lyle Lovett in New York City's Bottom Line, where his stories were as great as his songs. First he puts you on the floor in laughter and then he makes you cry like a baby.

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A Moment In Time Lorrie Morgan
Country Crossings / Ronnie Gilley

Author:
KFM

If Lorrie Morgan's most recent album sounds a bit old fashioned to you, there's a reason. Actually, there are a number of reasons:

The record, "A Moment in Time" is a collection of country standards from the '50s onward, standards that lend Morgan something of their respective eras.

Then you have the way in which it was recorded. Unlike the overwhelming majority of modern albums, which are characterized by over-dubbing and studio trickery, "A Moment In Time" was recorded as straight takes of a band playing classic songs.

Finally, that old-fashioned sound owes a great deal to the vocal stylings of its leading lady. Lorrie Morgan's voice has been favorably compared to Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton for years, but she may finally have hit a true stride in recent years. Morgan says that she gave up cigarettes a few years back (a tough thing to do for a working woman who has been in the boys club since she was a little girl at her daddy's side), and though smoking is known to add to the sultry undertones of country divas, this diva's voice has never sounded better.

Country music is obsessed with nostalgia for an era that is mistakenly remembered as simpler or more wholesome than our own. Though that nostalgia is misplaced and ill-conceived, it is surely a wise move to produce more records like this one, which drive at the sound and the spirit of those times through simple and wholesome production.

Editor's Note: My world stands still when I hear Lorrie Morgan sing.

Single of the Week: "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

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Bright Morning Stars The Wailin' Jennys
Red House

Author:
KFM

Irreproachable three-part harmonies and heterodoxical instrumentation have been emblematic of the The Wailin' Jennys since their fateful inception in 2004. Such abilities works wonders on the festival circuit and amongst the NPR lot, so it is little wonder that the group have been a favorite on A Prairie Home Companion in recent years. But with the release this week of "Bright Morning Stars," The Wailin' Jennys might find that they have out grown their base of birkenstock-and-sock sporting ladies and turned into a true phenomenon.

That's partly because the thirteen songs on "Bright Morning Stars" are impeccably arranged and carefully conceived. And it's partly because, unlike their previous releases, "Bright Morning Stars" was produced without haste — carefully crafted, as it was, during a break from touring to care for Nicky Metha's new twin sons. But mostly it is due to an insatiable public appetite for those ethereal harmonies.

In an era when pop music isn't simply over-produced, but inevitably auto-tuned, a thirst for the authenticity of, say, the Carter Family, isn't hard to grasp. It found outlet in Gillian Welch and The Be Good Tanyas, and now The Wailin' Jennys may have perfected the recipe. It is little wonder that "Bright Morning Stars" has rocketed to the top of the Bluegrass chart, immediately upon release, and debuted at 10 on the Billboard folk chart as well. Expect greatness from these Jennys, but, more importantly, listen to them sing.

Let The Good Times Roll!

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Rising Sun Melodies Ola Belle Reed
Smithsonian Folkways

Author:
KFM

"You cannot separate your lifestyle, your religion, and your politics from your music, it’s part of life.” That's how Ola Belle Reed simply put it in a 1976 interview. At that time feminists around the world were still trying to drive home the same point: the personal is political. And though affinity between feminisms and God-fearing Ola Belle might not have been obvious at the time, it isn't that hard to pick up retrospectively.

Ola Belle Reed grew up in one of the great families of folk music. When still a young girl she was a member of the North Carolina Ridge Runners, a hillbilly band that made a name for themselves traveling between the music parks and carnivals of the mid-atlantic states in the late years of the great depression. Those years left an indellable impression on Reed, who never forgot the lessons of empathy and struggle that she and her family learned in the lean years. Such lessons are evident throughout Ola Belle's songwriting and singing, but are maybe most palpable on "Tear Down the Fences:" 

"I wish that God would give us strength to know just what to do/ then we would tear down the fences, that fence us all in / fences created by such evil men / tear down the fences, that fence us all in / then we could walk together again."

It is a dream of community and family that exceeds the petty and commonplace yearning for simpler times that characterizes politically retrogressive country music: Ola Belle Reed was praying that God would help her reconvene with the whole of humanity. Her humanitarianism and her Christianity can't be amputated from her music anymore than her traditional claw-hammer banjo style could. With "Rising Sun Melodies" we find a testament to the whole, inseparable, Ola Belle Reed in all her glory.

Political Album of the Week

Single of the Week: "Foggy Mountain Top"

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How the Caged Bird Sings The Brute Chorus
Tape

Author:
KFM

The Brute Chorus hail from London, where their peculiar mix of indie-pop, folk, blues and hard rock is sure to off set the foggy weather nicely. This is rainy-day music for those who don't like to go outside that often any-ways. The obvious and immediate comparisons are to the White Stripes or Devendra Banhart, but, to the band's credit, there is much here that harkens to the old British Blues of John Mayall and the proto-hipster poesis of Leonard Cohen. Listening to the fifth track, "Wife," — a stripped down writerly song, steeped in quietude, that recalls early Radiohead hits — the debt to Cohen's pantheon of mystical-historicism is particularly obvious.

This is the second full length release from the Brute Chorus, but their first time producing a proper set of studio recordings (their self-titled album was recorded live). Their sound is steadily maturing and growing in variety and precision. If "How the Caged Bird Sings" fails to demarcate original or groundbreaking territory, it is doubtless due to this band's sincere commitment to the well-worn path of contemporary rock and roll: honing their own template might take a bit of time, and a bit more experience in the studio. A few of the tracks on this record are likely to worm their way into your ear and onto your iPod, and the future looks bright for these brit brutes.

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Susan Hickman Susan Hickman
4L Clover

Author:
KFM

Susan Hickman has the vitality and the pipes to be a major vehicle for Nashville. And with her eponymously titled first release she has found a skilled batch of songwriters and studio musicians to back her brand. On songs such as "Sunday Paper" and "You Just Missed This Train" she nails the familiar "too little, too late, boy" theme with a wit and grace that is only partly blemished by the desire for one of those sappy punchlines that the radio DeeJays love. Throughout the record Hickman's vocals play up her Texan origins and make good use of that sing-songy whispering thing that obvious influence Carrie Underwood makes such use of.

That sort of dramatization always makes me feel like I'm listening to a Disney soundtrack rather than a country record, but the appeal is broad and clear enough. Hickman's crew plays on other familiar tropes with songs about good deeds, redemption and, of course, love-lost. But it is on the final track of the record, a clean and savvy cover of the Allman Brothers hit "Whipping Post" that the album is really impressive. Hickman appropriately reverses the genders of the narrator and the anti-hero and comes away with a compelling rendition of one of the songs that first introduced the full sound of electrified country to rock audiences.

 

NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK

Single of the Week: "Sunday Paper"

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Returns (2 Disc Set) Return to Forever
Eagle Rock

Author:
KFM

When, in 1971, Chick Corea formed the jazz/rock powerhouse Return to Forever, he surely had his finger on the pulse. As pianist and keyboardist for Miles Davis's quintet for the three years preceeding (possibly the most explosive and influential three years in the history of popular music) he had been exposed to, or directly involved in, all of the revolutionary changes that were sweeping across jazz. Foremost amongst those changes, and pioneered with devestating grace by Miles on "Bitches Brew" and elsewhere, was the move to seize rock-and-roll back from the pop-charts, and return it to the experimental kitchens of blues and jazz from which it emerged.

Return to Forever met with considerable critical and popular acclaim throughout the '70s, but, like so many of the experiments of "the long 1960s," the band petered out and went seperate ways in the early 1980s. Their reunion in 2008, after 30 years of sparse shared activity, sparked considerable excitement among a large fan-base both old and new: the past decade has witnessed a respectful re-evaluation of the fusion genre to which Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra belonged, accompanying the accute interest that has emerged around the prog-rock bands from whom they took cues.

This two-CD set is an impeccably recorded and produced live recording, laying bare the possibilities of fusion and the expertise of each of the players before anappreciative audience. Drummer Lenny White (also a Miles Davis alumni), in particular displays incredible energy and vitality on "El Bayo de Negro" with a seven-minute solo that, dispite the retutation, is thrilling throughout. While noone would expect Corea and Return to Forever to re-emerge as the fusion locamotive of yesteryear, "Return" is a great testiment to the enduring vision and friendship of a band that will last, it seems, forver.

Editor's Note: They take me back to a magical time in my life.

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Put the Big Stone Down Geoff Bartley
MCR

Author:
KFM

Decades of dedication and study of traditional American guitar work have granted roots/ blues artist Geoff Bartley mastery of his instrument: fingerpicking, flat picking and traditional folk styles crop up in his playing with confidence and ease. Here, on "Put the Big Stone Down," we are treated to thirteen varied tracks that demonstrate that mastery, but also open a window into the heartfelt interior life of this affable and sincere musician.

Bartley is known as a musician's musician, especially in and about Boston, where he is the driving force behind a weekly acoustic music night at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge's Central Square. While the Harvard and MIT brats that bustle by outside might know little or nothing about the blues, Bartley's weekly sets have become a landmark and a mainstay for blues musicians from across the Boston area. As such, it is little wonder that the record that Bartley presents here is as much about promoting other independent musicians as it is about self-promotion.

While it is clear from the outset that singing and playing tunes in the tradition of pre-war folk and blues bring Bartley much joy, it is on several instrumental tracks that this album really comes to life. "Occam's Razor," in particular, carries something of the late John Fahey: the song pulsates with darkness and rhythmic drive that remind us that Blues aren't just about chord progressions or lyrical clichés, but about a life lived on the margins, thrust into the shadows by circumstance and by power.

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A Part of Me Tom Principato
Powerhouse

Author:
KFM

On the title track of Tom Principato's newest collection of original blues numbers, Principato sings, "Melancholia is my name, because I've only got my self to blame... still the truth remains, you'll always be a part of me." And with that he accurately, almost clinically, identifies the condition that is at the heart of the blues. It isn't that bluesmen simply suffer and struggle, it is that melancholia is as much a sorrow for the loss of a part of ones self as it is for the lost love.

Without indulging too much arm-chair psychoanalysis, Principato has gone so far as to plaster the cover of his record with photographs of his childhood, suggesting, as it were, that it is his parents, his youth, his family that he has lost. They'll always be a part of him.

Throughout the record Principato brings this nuanced conception of the blues to bare on formally pristine guitar work. Long known in his native DC area for expert note-bending and epic solos, Principato took to the road to make the recordings that appear here. Traveling around the country to record in the homes of friends and former band-mates, Principato seems to have uncovered something about the nature of the bluesman: always on the road, and always looking back, he sings passionately even as the song, like the road, slips away beneath him.

SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE! (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

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Green Light on the Southern, Norman Blake
Western Jubilee / Plectrafone

Author:
KFM

A few years back I got an inkling that songs about trains would make a good concept for a mix-tape for my then-sweetheart. You got your Rolling Stones version of "Love in Vain" and the corresponding Robert Johnson track, something from Utah Phillips, Dylan's take on "Freght Train Blues," that lovely song by Niko Case, "Folsom Prison Blues"... and what else? I ran out of steam and never finished the tape.

When folk roots guitar hero Norman Blake wants to make a mixtape of songs about trains, he not only doesn't run out of songs, he goes and records his own version of each and every one of them. That's what we have, here, as "Green Light On the Southern" : Norman Blake's collection of songs about trains. If, admittedly, the subject lends its self a bit too easily to the petty nostalgia that is often the death knell of contemporary americana music, reserve judgement until you give a listen to the complexity with which songwriters of the early twentieth century addressed those great chunk of steel flying through town.

Norman Blake is just the guy to take on such a task: he's been playing the music of the southern Appalachians since he was a child in Georgia, and has proceeded to do so with the likes of Dylan, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, June Carter and, the man himself, Johnny Cash. Blake is best known for his expert renditions of traditional tunes, and that's mostly what he presents here. He does include one song of his own (the title track), though, curiously, "Slow Train Through Georgia" — the tune for which Blake is probably best known  — does not appear. Regardless, an excellent record from an American treasure.

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AB III Alter Bridge
Roadrunner / EMI

Author:
KFM

Never having been able to stomach nu-metal may have pre-disposed me to a distaste for Alter Bridge, who arose from the ashes after Creed disbanded in 2004. Something about the self-seriousness of the vocals combined with the campiness of wanky guitar riffs always strikes me as the worst possible meeting of emo and tacky '80s hair-metal.

That's probably not what kept Creed fans at bay with the release of "One Day Remains" (2004) and "Blackbird" (2007). But something did: Alter Bridge has largely failed to live up to their own commercial expectations, or those of their labels and management.

All that might have changed with AB III. Having moved from Universal Republic to highly-reputable metal arsenal Roadrunner in 2009, AB III witnesses the emergence of some truly heavy sounds from a band that has for too long tried to inhabit the middle-ground of post-grunge rock. Sure, the operatic and solipsistic singing is still present, but so are some clever lead hooks above mechanically chugging rhythm guitar. Drummer Scott Phillips lends imaginative fills to driving blast-beats but isn't afraid to let slow it down, with jazz-influenced grace, for melodic moments.

Some of the elegiac tendencies will never be my thing, but fans of Creed, and, indeed, fans of hard rock in general, are sure to find plenty to rave about in AB III.

IF YOU LIKE MUSIC, YOU'LL LOVE THIS!

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Porchlight Todd Sharpville
MIG / String Commander

Author:
KFM

It was probably a mistake to take any of the British Blues all that seriously (Rolling Stones aside, of course), but when its coming from an heir to a viscountcy, it takes quite a stretch of the imagination. The blues — at least any thing that we might call authentic blues — just don't come all that easily to the aristocracy, even if the guitar lessons and nifty hooks do. The highly produced recordings on this two disc set are almost exclusively penned by Sharpville, who pairs his over-wrought electric blues with lyrics in which melodrama attempts to sit in where grief ought to live. Witness his words for "Used": 

"Black shadows surround me...black flies in my home... Used / by the system, used / by my friends..." Sharpville puts the emphasis on "black" and on "used" — as though he knows something beyond flies about blackness. Further, he seems to indicate that he used to be a user/ a drug abuser, but has changed his ways; that would be in keeping with the "family values" portrayed throughout the record (most palpably on "Lousy Husband (But a Real Good Dad)").

Sharpville does little to disguise his conservative politics, and is even said to have considered running for Parliament in the last election. Apparently appropriation of the blues doesn't extend to appropriation of compassion or empathy that have always been at the heart of the music.  

Still, Sharpville's guitar work is admirable, and the songs are carefully crafted. The double album finds its high-notes on "If That Ain't Love What Is?" (a raunchily funny cover of the classic Shel Silverstein number) and the title track "Porchlight", wherein Sharpville provides a moving account of waiting for the light of heaven, where he expects to be reunited with his father (the recently departed Viscount and Baron).

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Ear to the Ground Coyote Grace
Mile After Mile / Hearth

Author:
KFM

Folk/ Americana duo Coyote Grace make no secret about their queer identities, either in their songwriting or in their public relations. That's not simply a testament to the group's courage and forthrightness (though they are couragous); in Sonoma County, where Coyote Grace herald from, Bluegrass night at the local bar is as likely to be packed with middle aged lesbians as it is to draw a dozen good-old boys. When it becomes clear that guitarist Joe Stevens has changed his gender, FTM, those good-old boys might be put off, but most of the room won't skip a beat—and, in fact, are all the more likely to become serious fans.

Still, fixation on gender-bending can function as a gimic at times, and distract critics and audience alike from what's really going on: the music. That's not likely to be the case with Coyote Grace: the group combines a generational understanding of punk and indie-rock with a sincere appreciation of traditional American folk music for a sound that recalls, alternately, The Be Good Tanyas and the mellower songs of Pete Bernhart of The Devil Makes Three.

At core a duo, Stevens and Elizabeth are joined on tracks by Michael Connolly on fiddle, piano, organ or mando, and by Katherine Monnig on drums adn Courtney Robbins on guitar and vocals. Though the effect fleshes out the album, it can tend to obscure the intimacy of the dynamic between Stevens and Elizabeth.

Lyrically, Elizabeth in particular is sure to remind us that the toughness and certitude that is a hallmark of queer communities has a deep genealogy in country and folk: referances to Patsy Cline and the Carter Family might not win over all the good-old boys, but they do position Coyote Grace to take the stage and take on the crowd.

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Up, Down, Turn Around Circa 80 V/A
Starbucks / Rhino

Author:
KFM

Finding the right music to set the tone in a coffee house used to be a task that the barrista and the junior manager haggled over; taking turns with mix tapes and favorite discs was a tradition set in stone, even if their adolescent tastes sometimes irritated the customers. Along came Starbucks, and the music was piped in from the corporate office, or at least it sounded like it was.

That's not the impression you'll get, however, if you walk into your corner cafe when this Starbucks collection is on. The compilation geniuses at the coffee-mega-mart have teamed up with Rhino records for absolutely fabulous collection of glam and new wave hits from the early '80s.

Digging deep into the Rhino vault, they serve up a taster from each of the greats: Bowie, Talking Heads, Roxy, The Cure, New Order and Love and Rockets. Then they round it out with the killer tracks of slightly lesser known bands like The Style Council, Split Enz, China Crisis and Yaz. Put it all together and you've got an incredible mix— one that will keep the barrista and the junior manager BOTH happy, even if it sends the average starbucks customer back to his or her nicely insulated SUV.

Single of the Week: Roxy Music "Over You"

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Reality Killed the Video Star Robbie Williams
Astral Werks /Virgin / EMI

Author:
KFM

Reality Killed the Video Star is worth listening to for the joys of trying to understand Robbie Williams' obsession with extraterrestrials alone. An album that otherwise stumbles between bombastic bravado and a shaky self-doubt that anticipates the scorn of critics finds its true and unwavering candor in "Deceptacon" — a sweet and strange love ballad written on behalf of all of us terrestrials to all of them out there.

And the creepy thing is that after a couple of listens, it isn't too hard to buy into Williams's logic: there must be aliens out there someplace (there just must ) and the odds are that their first experience of humans will be listening to one pop song or another. After all, who pushes more powerful bandwidth than FM radio broadcast towers?

With more hit singles on the UK charts than anyone but God and the Beatles, and thronging crowds of fans from Montevideo to Bologna, it probably is Robbie Williams that the little green men will be tuning into in their intergalactic SUVs. In the decade and a half since then-drug-rattled Williams walked out on pop super-group Take That, Williams has dominated the charts with  variations on the theme of his own gregarious greatness.

So the guy took a couple years off to travel and hunt for UFO evidence in the desert? Big deal; his prerogative. Which is why, all told, Robbins is right when, in the opening lines of "Last Days of Disco," he pleads, "don't call it a comeback." It's not a comeback; he's been here for years.

Editor's Note: EMI signed Williams to a mega-million dollar deal and declared its intention of pushing him hard in the U.S. He proves it's easier — and more profitable — to be disconnected than connected.

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The Music Inside Waylon Jennings and friends
Scatter / Big Machine / Universal Nashville

Author:
KFM

The shadow cast by the late Waylon Jennings extends from Nashville to L.A. and from Austin to Winnipeg, but nowhere is his influence and his departure more keenly felt than in the circle of friends and family. It turns out that that inner circle itself casts a pretty large shadow: it includes such country luminaries as Trace Adkins, John Hiatt, Kris Kristofferson and, of course, Jenning's son Shooter. These artists have come together to produce a collaborative album of Jennings songs, in tribute to the music that came from inside this sometimes mysterious man.

Jennings is remembered for his contributions to Big-C-Country Music: music made in Nashville, even if reluctantly. But we do well to remember that Waylon got his start playing bass for Buddy Holly. The close ties between rock and country (ties that are more a cliché today than a conduit) were long awake inside Jennings, as they were for his fellow Highwaymen Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Those connections are present here in the form of a contribution from country-rock greats Alabama. But, more, they're present in the turn that country, and, yes, even Country, have taken due to the influence of Jennings and his friends.

Editor's Note: Waylon Jennings, who died in early 2002, was the archetypal outlaws-outlaw right up to the very end. When the Nashville establishment finally got around to inducting him to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Jennings refused to attend. He created a delicate mystery that is beyond us.

BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK

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