UNO, DOS, and TRE
Green Day (Reprise)
As record sales continue to wane, one has to wonder the logic behind separately releasing a trilogy of albums over the course of three months. Maybe when you're a punk band coming off a pair of hugely successful concept albums turned into a Broadway smash, you do things a little differently. Still, it's an unusual way to release your ninth, 10th, and 11th studio albums.
"Tre," the final installment of the trilogy, out this week, is a bit more diverse than the others, with a slightly mellower and more mature sound that embraces a variety of styles. Imagine 1997's "Nimrod," but with more songs like "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." Look no further than the opening and closing tracks to sum it up. There's the country blues-inspired "Brutal Love" to start, and the piano ballad "The Forgotten" to end.
While a common thread runs through the trilogy, each record is distinctly different.
The first, "Uno," returns the band to their pre-"American Idiot" sound with a dozen rocking songs that are melodic and highly energetic. The songs are also more mature, with themes such as married men on the brink of infidelity. Standout tracks on this riffy guitar assault include "Fell For You" and "Oh Love."
"Dos" attempts to capture the no-frills sound of a garage rock band, but feels like a drop-off after "Uno." Some of the tracks work well, namely, "Stray Heart" and "Lady Cobra," but others don't fire on all cylinders.
Overall, this last installment of the trilogy shows another direction of the band's evolution.
-- JOHN CARUCCI, Associated Press
BUDDY AND JIM
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale (New West)
Based on their respective bodies of work, you'd have to think this was a dream pairing even before you heard a note. And that's indeed what it turns out to be.
Buddy Miller is an in-demand guitarist and producer who's perhaps best known for his work with Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, and others, while Jim Lauderdale is an exceedingly prolific songwriter who excels at country and bluegrass.
They begin in a country and folk vein, with Lauderdale taking the lead on their own "I Lost My Job of Loving You" and a recharged version of the traditional "The Train That Took My Gal From Town." But they don't stay there. Miller steps up on the sublime, soul-tinged ballad "That's Not Even Why I Love You," cowritten by the duo and Miller's wife, Julie, and Lauderdale charges through the rock-fueled atmospherics of "Vampire Girl" before the set concludes with a couple of R&B chestnuts.
Nothing underscores the duo's compatibility quite like their vocal harmonies, which are showcased throughout the album but perhaps to no better effect than on the penultimate number, a strutting take on Joe Tex's "I Want to Do Everything for You."
-- NICK CRISTIANO, Philadelphia Inquirer
THE VERY BEST OF VINCE GUARALDI
Vince Guaraldi (Concord)
In the modern history of jazz, it's rare for a player to enter the national consciousness. The late Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi succeeded where few have gone, embedding his music into Christmas via the Charlie Brown TV specials.
Guaraldi, who often described himself as a reformed boogie-woogie player, was far from a technical wizard. But he knew the way into wistfulness, and he achieved the highest level of jazz, which is to compose memorable songs and be a recognizable soloist.
The joy of these 14 sides is that they release him from the elevator and capture him in more unbridled, improvised moments. The Christmas chestnuts are included, like the famed "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmas Time is Here." But Guaraldi is working the bandstand here, stretching tunes from the film Black Orpheus and veering wildly from Latin to a rockish New Orleans thing on "Treat." The recording is tinny at times, but there's no doubting the heart.
-- KARL STARK, Philadelphia Inquirer