Style: Dapper Big Band arrangements of several generations' worth of hits.
Worldview: That you can't keep a good song down, whether popularized by the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, or the Drifters.
Overall quality: Still selling 70-plus weeks after its debut, Bublé's latest studio album no longer feels faddish; meanwhile, the question of whether historians will rank it with similar albums by Mel Torme or Frank Sinatra remains open.
Style: New Orleans funk and R&B (represented herein by Allen Toussaint and the Crescent City Horns) meets traditional English pub rock (represented herein by Elvis Costello and the Impostors).
Worldview: That post-Katrina charity can cover one too many conceptual sins.
Overall quality: Loath as his most ardent admirers are to admit it, Costello's stylistic meshes never quite "take," and, although this one has its moments, it's ultimately no exception.
Style: Gossamer, gently wafting paeans to idealized romance and, on "Spider's Web," war and peace.
Cautions: Casual cursing ("Blue Shoes").
Worldview: That a pretty face and a voice and a song sense to match are terrible things to waste.
Overall quality: Like Norah Jones only more so, Melua and her music sound the way she looks: dreamy, youthful, seductive, languorous, and thin-sometimes in that order, sometimes not.
Style: Elegantly hollowed-out standards for big-name cameo vocalists and romantic, candle-lit dinners.
Worldview: Schmaltz sells.
Overall quality: There's no denying that when fore grounded by singers such as Michael Bublé, Sting, Paula Cole, Jill Scott, and Gladys Knight, Botti's easy-listening jazz beats Kenny G's; there's also no denying that when fore grounded by Aerosmith's Steven Tyler or no one at all, Botti's commercial ambitions defeat his artistic ones.
Style: Classic, smooth-as-silk crooning with occasional Big Band changes of pace, circa 1936-1963.
Worldview: "The constellation that [Cole] made shone over every man in every land-and brightest over his enemies. It would never be extinguished. In time, it outlived [him], for in the end he was only a man" (the notes).
Overall quality: At 28 highlights-only, career-spanning songs, the ideal single-disc overview of this quintessentially American entertainer.
Beginning with Linda Ronstadt's What's New (1983) and culminating in Rod Stewart's American Songbook albums (2002-2005), mining the vintage-pop catalog has provided veteran singers with a respectable and often lucrative way out of creative and commercial ruts. In 1973, however, when Harry Nilsson recorded the all-standards A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night with the arranger-conductor Gordon Jenkins (best known for collaborating with Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra), friend and fan alike feared he might be shooting his career in the foot if not the head.
In retrospect the album, which RCA/Legacy has just reissued with six bonus tracks, not only anticipated a trend but also achieved a timelessness resulting directly from its lack of commercial ambition. In other words, what comes through in Nilsson's cool, concentrated performances of songs such as "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" and "As Time Goes By" is an aesthetic purity commensurate with his unsullied love of the material.