Get The Feeling, and be transported to the halcyon days of Britpop - think anything from the Beatles to 10cc - with crisp songwriting, perky melodies, lush harmonies, and rich production.
Radio-friendly? Sure. Unashamedly pop? Absolutely. Trivial? Not at all.
"Twelve Stops" - the title references stops on the London Underground train system - is a dozen tracks that have a retro air but also sound totally current, starting with the harmony-drenched lead-off track "Sewn."
This is the British band's debut, and it is tempting to play spot-the-influences - definitely a touch of Supertramp here; sounds like Queen there; echoes of the Beatles on "Same Old Stuff" - but that shouldn't detract from the pleasure of this top-notch collection.
The songs can be peppy and guitar-powered - "Love It When You Call" with the great chorus "I love it when you call/But you never call at all" wrapped in ELO-like harmonies, and "I Want You Now" - and several have terrific hook-laden choruses, including "Strange" and the pop/rock "Anyone."
So get on board, and enjoy the ride for these "Twelve Stops."
- RICHARD PATON
Wynton Marsalis is known for his intensive, if not academic, appreciation of jazz roots music and the classics. But on this album he gets down and angry with one of his more bold, risky statements.
Starting with the complicated backbeats and against-the-grain vocals of the title track, Marsalis probes some of the pitfalls Americans have encountered in pursuit of their dreams and happiness. He is at times mocking and raises questions about anything from capitalism to the accountability of public leaders, all in the context of his penchant for a more loving world.
Complex melodies are advanced by Marsalis' own fine trumpet solos, of course, but also by the vocal prowess and timing of 21-year-old singer Jennifer Sanon, who captures the album's style and mood transitions.
The disc ends with a rare spoken-word vocal by Marsalis on "Where Y'all At?" in which he gets on a rap-like soapbox to express a yearning for leadership and questions where the spirit of '60s radicals and idealists has gone.
- TOM HENRY
One of the silliest criticisms of the new Stooges disc, the first in 34 years, is that the lyrics are nonsensical and packed with non sequiturs and dumb metaphors.
Those who mistake Iggy Pop for the second coming of Bob Dylan are missing the point so badly they ought not bother listening to "The Weirdness." Because it's pretty stupid stuff when Iggy's going on about ATMs, greedy awful people, and anything else that gets under his leathery 59-year-old skin.
Working with the Asheton brothers - Scott on drums and Ron on guitar, both of them original Stooges - and Mike Watt (formerly of the Minutemen) on bass, Iggy's in full punk mode, ranting and raving, and while some of it doesn't make any sense, remember this is the guy who wrote "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
Over the course of 12 songs, tedium sets in, thanks to the Igster's monotonal yowl, but the razor-edged rush of Ron Asheton's guitar work holds up, and the opening track, "Trollin'," is a profane slice of cockiness that's worth the price of admission.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
If you are a fan of well-played instrumentals in the rarefied land between pop and old-time-y melodies, then look no further. Rauhouse, a genuine master of pedal steel guitar, banjo, and assorted other guitars, has assembled a chill-out package of an unlikely mix of oldies, stirring the pot with a few vocals. There's even an occasional heavy dash of Hawaiian and bluegrass elements.
Rauhouse's lightning dexterity on the strings, with featured assists throughout from Tommy Connell on more guitars, keeps all these numbers from being ordinary and, in fact, breathes a whole new life into some of them. The otherwise unremarkable theme song from television's Mannix has rarely been done so well, and "Big Iron" gets an exciting rendition, with a truly great vocal by Kelly Hogan.
The songs move from laid-back ballads to punchy and slightly uptempo pop, showcasing splendid musicianship all along the way. "Ballad Of The Black Chihuahua" puts all this instrumental magic together in an energetic but slightly dark tune. "Begin The Beguine" adds sax and trombones as needed in a creative arrangement, but a bassoon and pedal steel give it an unusual but welcome touch.
- KEN ROSENBAUM