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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five new releases reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Issue: "How Mark Souder fell," June 19, 2010

Omega

If the best that can be said of this indefatigable progressive-rock super group's lyrics is that they rival those of the Moody Blues for pseudo-profundity, at least they stick for the most part to terrestrial themes (the Crusades, accidentally falling in love with a lesbian), leaving it to the anthemic melodies and Geoff Downes' arena-friendly keyboards to convey the genre's trademark "cosmic" aura. For those who've always found themselves caught, unaware or otherwise, by the undeniable catchiness of the formula, it'll feel like 1982 all over again.

Booker's Guitar

After experiencing an epiphany several years ago while holding one of Booker White's guitars, Bibb found himself "want[ing] to . . . document [his] connection to the Delta blues" by "creating songs that . . . could have been part of [the Delta-blues] repertoire. . . ." So he created 13 of them (intensely delicate compositions for acoustic guitar and human voice including "With My Maker I Am One" and "One Soul to Save"), covered two others (including Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault but Mine"), and ended up documenting less a "connection" than a pilgrimage.

Puristy of Essence

Although partisans of this Australian quartet will disagree, the Hoodoo Gurus haven't seemed like anything special since they debuted with Stoneage Romeos 26 years ago-that is, until now. Against all odds, head Guru David Faulkner gives up on recapturing his garage-rock glory and settles into a groove not unlike what the Rolling Stones might've settled into if they'd given up on theirs. Not slow, but not manic either. And "I Hope You're Happy" reminds zealots of how it feels to be proselytized rather than loved.

Volume Two

Like musician Pete Yorn and actress Scarlett Johansson, whose 2009 album Break Up deserved more attention than it got, musician M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel make charming pop that's unlikely to get what it deserves, namely because of the circumscribed awareness of their relatively youthful audience. The 11 songs that Deschanel wrote herself are pleasant,­ especially with the faux-Spectorian production sweetening her tart voice, but the best are her covers of NRBQ's 33-year-old "Ridin' in My Car" and the considerably older "Gonna Get Along Without You Now."

Spotlight

Before the 80-minute compact disc rendered the concept obsolete, the double rock 'n' roll album-two vinyl LPs in one cover-was a sign of consummate mastery, hubristic self-indulgence, or both. The Rolling Stones' 1972 opus Exile on Main Street was no exception. Not only did it recapitulate the decadent blues-rock for which the band was by then plenty notorious, but it also found Mick Jagger and the Stones dabbling in overt politics ("Sweet Black Angel," about Angela Davis) and, even more surprisingly, overt religion ("I Just Want to See His Face," about Jesus).

Freshly reissued in various deluxe editions, the most expensive of which lists at $179.99, the album is clearly being built up as the group's masterpiece. And for anyone whose favorite painter is Jackson Pollock, it might be, so apparently messy and random-and so obviously energetic and under the influence-is its catching the sounds of an unraveling counterculture on the biggest "canvas" available at the time.

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