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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five new pop-rock releases reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

Strange negotiations

For most of this album, the world's most famous disgruntled ex-CCM musician (unless Katy Perry counts) sounds more determined than ever to work out his damnation with fear and trembling. But he doesn't sound all that happy about the process. The music drags, and he still protesteth too much (swearing, profanity, album-cover nudity). In the title track, however, he gets, and stays, in touch with his inner prodigal son. And in the next song, he comes, or maybe just admits that he has never really left, home.

McLemore Avenue

In 1970, nine months after "Time Is Tight" had returned them to the top 10 for the first time since "Green Onions" eight years earlier, Booker T. & the MGs upped their already none-too-shabby game by recording a soul-instrumental version of the Beatles' Abbey Road. What resulted was a tribute all right, but not just to the Beatles. Playing the music as three lengthy medleys and "Something," the interracial quartet broke boundaries. Where it ended up still has folks relishing fantasies of what its Half-White Album might've sounded like.

40 Odd Years

If ever a career-summarizing box set felt like both too much and not enough, it's this four-disc, one-DVD collection. It testifies repeatedly to Wainwright's unflinching honesty in pursuit of great punch lines with (unintended?) moral significance, but it sells short his equally significant knack for sheer poignancy. One does, however, catch glimpses, especially when the subject is Wainwright's late parents. "White Winos" is a missing-Mom song that could make even teetotalers weep. And, by the Dad-missing "Dead Man," Wainwright the wise guy has become simply Wainwright the wise.

In the Cool of the Day

If a reflective, acoustic traditional-gospel album is the last thing a young singer-songwriter on Seattle's venerable indie-rock Sub Pop label is supposed to foist upon the world, Daniel Martin Moore seems not to have gotten the memo. Other than changing "O sinner" to "O children" in "Softly and Tenderly," he takes no distracting liberties. In fact, the occasional jaunty arrangement aside, he hardly takes any liberties at all. He does, however, contribute three originals. And, unless you read the credits, you won't know which ones they are.

Spotlight

At a time when $200 buys about four tanks of gas, even diehard Rolling Stones fans will no doubt put buying the band's latest coffee-table compilation, The Singles: 1971-2006 (Universal), on the back burner. Besides being pricey, the set packages the singles discretely, replicating their original seven or 12-inch formats, so enjoying them more than one disc at a time takes work. Anyway, the thrifty will ask, aren't many of the 173 tracks just B-side live versions of the band's '60s hits or remixes (albeit imaginatively trippy ones) of its relatively negligible mid-'80s-and-beyond output?

Yes. But listen to all dozen-plus hours straight through and something like a deconstruction of the history of rock 'n' roll unfolds. Granted, it's not the Greatest Story Ever Told, and the remixes do get redundant. But, if seven mixes of "Saint of Me" are necessary to make Mick Jagger's apparently sincere daring of God to save him a part of the Stones' permanent record, so be it.

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