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Listening Room: The Roches, Eddie Money and more...
The Roches, “Moonswept” (429 Records) ***
Twelve years ago, the Roches asked “Can We Go Home Now?” — and they did, at least as a trio. The sisters filled the time with their own projects, including a pair of duo albums by Maggie and Suzzy, but their reunion on “Moonswept” is both welcome and lives up to any expectations that might have built up over the break. First and foremost, they still sing sublimely together, with a harmonic sensibility unique to any other group and as distinctive as Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Mamas and the Papas or any of pop’s other great vocal groups. And this time out, the Roches play most of the instruments themselves — mostly guitar, piano and bass, with Terre throwing in some ukulele and Tibetan damyen guitar. There are references to loss and resolution throughout “Moonswept” — “I wish we made up,” they sing in the album-opening “Us Little Kids” — but the confl icts are always mitigated by the sweet sound of the Roches singing. The album’s 14 songs cut a wide swatch, from the jaunty rootsiness of “Huh” and “Only You Know How” to the light samba touch of “Piggy Mask,” the New Orleans fl avor of “Gung Ho” and richly textured pieces such as “Us Little Kids,” “Long Before” (written and sung by Suzzy’s daughter Lucy) and the title track. There are big grins to be had on “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” “No Shoes” and Paranoid Larry’s politically pointed “Jesus Shaves,” while the lullaby-like “September 11th at the Shambhala Center” is both poignant and proudly optimistic. It’s taken longer than we might have liked, but the Roches have come “home” again — thank goodness.
Eddie Money, “Wanna Go Back” (Big Deal/Warrior) *1/2
Summer concert favorite Eddie Money doesn’t forget the Motor City on his rock ’n’ roll covers album; he touches on Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” and Mitch Ryder’s “Jenny Take a Ride” and duets with his daughter Jesse on the Motown gem “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Those and the album’s other tracks tap into the bar/basement band sensibility that’s always been part of Money’s forte, and there’s a little extra passion in his weathered and well-husked vocals on Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me” and the James Brown Medley of “Please Please Please”/“Oh Baby Don’t You Weep.” It’s a relatively shrewd move by the Money man, although nothing here comes close to replacing, or even competing with, the originals.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
The Alternate Routes, “Good and Reckless and True” (Vanguard) — The label debut by a craft-loving Connecticut sextet that financed its independent releases via poker winnings.
Aqualung, “Memory Man” (Columbia) — Matt Hale and company open up the tank to let this British concern get faster and louder on its second U.S. outing.
Eightball & MJG, “Ridin’ High” (Bad Boy) — The Memphis rap duo do a little more than just “Relax and Take Notes” on their eighth album.
The Fratellis, “The Fratellis” (Interscope) — The Scottish glam rock trio crosses the pond with an album that’s been stirring plenty of buzz in the U.K.
Lucy Kaplansky, “Over the Hills” (Red House) — The New York singer-songwriter’s latest work is a cycle of songs about her family’s history in America.
Jorma Kaukonen, “Stars in My Crown” (Red House) — The former Jefferson Airplane guitarist continues his American roots music exploration accompanied by an ace group of players.
Musiq (Soulchild), “Luvanmusiq” (Atlantic) — The Philadelphia soul traditionalist breaks a three-yearplus gap with his fourth album, already buzzed thanks to the fi rst single, “Buddy.”
Graham Parker, “Don’t Tell Columbus” (Bloodshot) — The British New Wave expatriate maintains a topical stance and sharp lyrical bite more than two dozen albums into his career.
Artimus Pyle, “Artimus Venomus” (Cleopatra); Various Artists, “All Star Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd” (Cleopatra) — A double-shot of Southern rock from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s bestknown drummer and from pals such as Molly Hatchet, Charlie Daniels, Rick Derringer and Black Oak Arkansas.
Rich Boy, “Rich Boy”
(Interscope) — The Alabama rapper kicks it again with help from Snoop Dogg, Akon, Kanye West, Timabland, Lil’ Jon, Mannie Fresh and more.
The Sterns, “Sinners Stick Together” (Omnirox Entertainment) — The Boston quintet’s national debut comes directly from the school of pure pop for now people.
Rosie Thomas, “These Friends of Mine” (Sing-a-Long/Nettwerk) — The Detroit-born singer-songwriter recorded her fourth album in fellow troubadour Sufjan Stevens’ Brooklyn apartment.
Type O Negative, “Dead Again”
(Steamhammer/SPV) — They may have written a “Symphony For the Devil,” but this extreme rock quartet from Brooklyn also can wish for a “Halloween in Heaven.”
Uncle Earl, “Waterloo, Tennessee” (Rounder) — Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones handled production for the second album from this allfemale Colorado string band.
Hayley Westenra, “Celtic Treasures” (Decca) — The 19-year-old vocal virtuoso from New Zealand puts a bit of shamrock soul into her third album.
Neil Young, “Live at Massey Hall” (Reprise) — The second edition of Young’s archival series comes from a vintage 1971 show in Toronto.
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