Style: Fifteen early rock 'n' roll classics (plus an informative behind-the-scenes DVD) faithfully and lovingly recreated by someone who should know.
Worldview: "I want to give people a glimpse of who Cliff Gallup was . . . James Burton . . . Scotty Moore. Guitar innovators who infused fire into the music of Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley" (DiMucci's liner notes).
Overall quality: There's no agape as such, but there's also no denying the underlying phileo or DiMucci's analysis (on the DVD) of the eros awareness contained in "I Walk the Line."
Style: Thirteen alternate takes and outtakes (1964-1967), 13 radio-station promos (1964), and a 26-minute radio interview (1963).
Worldview: Officially: Make love, not war, and Matthew 7:7; unofficially: "When I see you, lover, my buns turn green, my eyes get mean, my mind goes counter-clockeyed" ("Love Poem #1").
Overall quality: Unlike Peter, Paul and Mary, these guys could apostatize into outright apolitical hilarity; if NPR were as irreverent, spontaneous, and lively as the radio broadcasts included herein, it wouldn't need taxpayer support.
Style: The latest installment of the sparsely acoustic, beguilingly forthright, and idiosyncratically childlike music that Richman has been recording for the last 31 years.
Worldview: "When we refuse to suffer, / when we refuse to feel, / . . . that's when the Prozac pill wins, / and you lose" ("When We Refuse to Suffer"); "I got a lot of nerve and I'm not afraid of being laughed at" (Richman's liner notes).
Overall quality: Songs of experience for the innocent, songs of innocence for the experienced, another song for fans of Vermeer.
Style: Rockabilly-inflected fast songs and countrified slow songs recounting the ease with which Chrissie Hynde remains bemused by love and other mysteries.
Worldview: "Allah, have a little mixed mercy on me. . . . / Jesus Christ came down here as a living man. / If he can live a life of virtue, then I hope I can" ("Boots of Chinese Plastic").
Overall quality: Neither wiser than when she sang "I've got a kid, I'm 33" a quarter century ago nor less talented, Hynde retains a feline touch, sometimes even retracting her claws.
Almost immediately after emerging as the leader of the proto-punk quartet the Modern Lovers in 1976, Jonathan Richman went acoustic, establishing himself as the guitar-strumming equivalent of the child who declares that the emperor is naked. Sometimes accompanied by no more than a drummer, he has steadfastly resisted every pop-music trend (production values especially) while singing, in what must surely be the least-trained voice ever to inspire a following, the unpretentious praises of pop-cultural minutiae (chewing-gum wrappers, ice-cream men), icons of yore (van Gogh and Vermeer, Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson), and the sweetness of romance-of anything, in short, that makes him feel alive.
It's no surprise then that he also occasionally sings the condemnation of anything that deadens the senses. On his latest album, Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild (Vapor), even sweat, suffering, and death ("As My Mother Lay Dying") are preferable to the artificial comforts of air conditioning, air fresheners, and anti-depressants.