Billy Corgan emerges from the wreckage of Smashing Pumpkins with an in-your-face, guitar-driven blast of power pop, hard rock, and balladry as the leader of four-piece Zwan.
Corgan lifts the shroud of melancholy that blanketed much of the Pumpkins' work and gives “Mary Star of the Sea” a brighter, tighter, and lighter sound without sacrificing the guitar dynamics that make him so interesting as an arranger.
“Settle Down,” the disc's second cut, is a brilliant tune, with a happy Corgan offering up a chorus of “lah-di-dah” while unleashing a typically artful solo. “Mary Star” brims with great moments, from the guitar roar of “Declarations of Faith” and “Ride A Black Swan” to the understated acoustic ballad “Of A Broken Heart.”
Corgan's voice, an odd, nasally instrument, takes some getting used to. But he conveys an honesty that comes across on every cut, and once you get accustomed to his limited range there's something charming about his voice's ragged honk.
“Mary Star of the Sea” is a confident, powerful disc that proves Corgan has moved on from Pumpkins, one of the most intriguing and confounding bands of the last decade.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
One of the progenitors of electronic and ambient music, Jarre returns with a disc of six-tracks that are more soundscapes than actual tunes. They are evocative and atmospheric, combining electronic and acoustic instrumentation - piano and bass blend with loops and other synthesized sound on the opening “January 24,” for example. The disc can be somewhat meandering but it has a distinct personality and, thankfully, a strong rhythmic pulse on occasion.
- RICHARD PATON
McCusker's fiddle runs from haunting to rousing, melding new compositions and arrangements with the timeless feel of Celtic traditionalism. He adds occasional bass, guitar, trumpet, and accordion for texture, and the voice of Kate Rusby on “The Bold Privateer” is a perfect complement to McCusker's fiddle on a haunting tune. If you think Celtic fiddle is merely a collection of jigs and reels, then you're in for a treat with “Goodnight Ginger.”
- KEN ROSENBAUM
Miscast as a country musician earlier in his career, Lovett and his famed Large Band offer an incredible collection of songs from feature films they've reinterpreted. One minute, he's got you sold on a sleek and sultry tempo for “Mack the Knife,” and the next, Lovett's showing striking similarities to Ray Charles on “What'd I Say.” His talent and ear for music grab you right off the bat with his serene and whiskey-voiced rendition of the classic “Blues Skies” jazz ballad.
- TOM HENRY
Steve Turre, one of today's trombone masters, and a crew of trombonists including Robin Eubanks, take the instrument and Johnson's compositions from subdued harmony to inspired solos. The disc, which is based on a quintet, leads off with Johnson's up-tempo “Overdrive,” and then moves into “We Dot,” a jamming blues scripted for four trombones, marvelous in its complexity. What Turre is offering here is the chance to experience the trombone as an expressive lead instrument.
- LARRY ROBERTS