Neil Young is like an old sage who comes along every few years to share his wisdom, offer a spiritual helping hand, and say it's OK to be vulnerable in a world filled with sharp edges.
Generally this is not his feedback-frenzied Crazy Horse mode; then he's like a hurricane, wanting to tear everything apart. But over the course of his 40-year career, he's sprinkled in a trio of acoustic albums - "Harvest," "Harvest Moon," and the new one "Prairie Wind" - that represent the quiet part of Young's soul.
Where "Harvest" was fresh and new-sounding, and "Harvest Moon" somewhat dull, "Prairie Wind" is a comfortably rich, warm statement on nostalgia, family love, and a culture that seems to have gone mad.
Young recently lost his father and had his own health scare with a brain aneurysm, both of which are reflected in the fragile nature of the words and music. Strings swell on many of the songs, which are anchored by gently-strummed acoustic guitars, and soft harmony vocals.
Despite the serious nature of "Prairie Wind" the disc is not a downer, thanks to Young's craftsmanship and compositional skills. Instead, it's a meditation on the waning years of middle age and a reflection on counting blessings.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Four years after 2001's "A Funk Odyssey," Jamiroquai returns, once again doing what it does best - mashing up funk, rock, jazz, and touches of electronica into a steaming sonic brew. Opening with the high-energy single "Feels Just Like It Should" the tone is set with a potent arrangement and solid riffing underpinning Jay Kay's vocals. But although Jamiroquai has perfected an individual style there's also a nagging sense that while the signature sound is intact, it doesn't move forward.
- RICHARD PATON
On what is essentially a good progressive jazz album disguised as a soundtrack, New Orleans-based Garage a Trois pulls out all the stops for an acclaimed coming-of-age movie by French filmmaker Klaus Tontine. The quartet showcases a wonderful mix of vibes, sax, guitar, drums, and percussion. And while it has a hint of the Latin, Caribbean, and other spices found in the New Orleans sound, it also has a wide open, eclectic style of modern jazz. Think of it mostly as unconventional nautical, island music with a sense of exploration.
- TOM HENRY
TWO SIDES OF IF, Vivian Campbell (Sanctuary)
The Def Leppard guitarist delves back into the blues on standards like "The Hunter."