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The Listening Room: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Calvin Harris, Bette Midler and more...
During his nearly 50-year career, Neil Young has thrown more curveballs at his audience than a baseball Cy Young Award winner. But even by those standards, "Storytone" is wickedly unexpected, a 10-song set that pairs Young -- sans guitar or piano -- with a full-scale symphony orchestra, an unusual crooner/diva setting for someone not particularly not for vocal virtuosity. You have to applaud the ambition, but not surprisingly the lush, string-laden treatments of songs such as "Plastic Flowers," the environmental protest "Who's Gonna Stand Up," "Glimmer" and "Glad I Found You" don't have the same staying power as their counterparts on "Storytone Solo;" Young with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, after all, has long been a potent prospect, and the hushed intimacy of the solo album -- especially songs that seem to openly reference the end of his marriage to wife Pegi (who has her own say on her recently released "Lonely in a Crowded Room") and his new relationship with Daryl Hannah -- suits the material better than the orchestrated arrangements. Conversely, "Storytone's" brassy, bluesy tracks -- "I Want to Drive My Car," "Like You Used To," "Say Hello To Chicago" -- are more exciting in their fleshed-out "Storytone" versions. "Storytone's" ending pieces, "When I Watch You Sleeping" and "All Those Dreams," thread the stylistic needle and are the most natural fit on that album, and those who mix and match the two sets will find a compelling body of work that lives up to Young's iconoclastic legacy.
New & Noteworthy:
Ani DiFranco, "Allgeric To Water" (Righteous Babe): Recorded in New Orleans, DiFranco's latest features guest appearances from local icon Ivan Neville as well as violinist Jenny Scheinman.
The Doobie Brothers, "Southbound" (Arista Nashville): The Doobies have always had a little country in their sound, and they let that go whole-hog on this collaborative set with, among others, the Zac Brown Band, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and Vince Gill.
Bob Dylan, "The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11" (Columbia/Legacy) and "The Basement Tapes Raw (Columbia/Legacy): Dylan's 1967 recordings with The Band in Woodstock, N.Y., is a legendary treasure trove that gets its best official representation yet on this six-disc compendium and it more compact, two-disc companion.
Calvin Harris, "Motion" (Columbia): The EDM star loads up on star guest singers -- Gwen Stefani, Haim, Ellie Goulding, Detroit rapper Big Sean and more -- on his latest artist outing.
Daniel Lanois, "Flesh and Machine" (Anti-):The producer-artist adds an electronic and ambient edge to his latest solo effort, recalling his work with Brian Eno with U2 and others years ago.
Bette Midler, "It's The Girls" (Warner Bros.): The brassy entertainer pays homage to girl groups of yore on her latest, including Motown icons such as the Supremes, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and the Marvelettes.
Also Out: Jonathan Antoine, "Tenore" (Sony Classical); Eric Bibb, "Blues People" (Stony Plain); Black Milk, "If There's a Hell Below" (Computer Ugly); Cavalera Conspiracy, "Pandemonium" (Napalm); Jeff Coffin & the Mu'tet, "Side Up" (Ear Up); Crobot, "Something Supernatural" (Wind-Up); Ronnie Fauss, "Built to Break" (Normaltown/New West); Neal McCoy, "Pride: A Tribute To Charley Pride (Deluxe Edition)" (Cracker Barrel); Moors, "Moors" (Haven Sounds); Newsboys, "Hallelujah For the Cross" (Capitol Christian); Nick Oliveri, "Leave Me Alone" (Schnitzel); Ben Ottewell, "Rattlebag" (The End); Damien Rice, "My Favorite Fantasy" (Warner Bros.); Andre Rieu, "Love in Venice" (UMe); Nell Robinson, "The Rose of No Man`s Land" (Compass)' Lyn Stanley, "Potions" (A.T. Music)
From The Vaults: Big Star, "Live in Memphis" (Omnivore); John Denver, "All My Memories: The John Denver Collection" (RCA/Legacy); King Crimson, "Starless" (Discipline Global); Paul McCartney and Wings, "Venus and Mars" and "Wings at the Speed of Sound" (Hear); Ronnie Milsap, "The RCA Albums Collection" (RCA/Legacy); The Rolling Stones, "From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum" (Eagle Rock)
New Holiday Albums: Larry Carlton, "Four Hands & A Heart Christmas" (335); Rosemary Clooney, "Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Expanded Edition)" (Real Gone); Frank DeVol and the Rainbow Strings, "The Old Sweet Songs of Christmas" (Real Gone); Robert Goulet, "The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings" (Real Gone); Seth MacFarlane, "Holiday For Swing" (Universal Republic); Over The Rhine, "Blood Oranges in the Snow" (Great Speckled Dog); Kim Walker-Smith, "When Christmas Comes" (+180)
Soundtracks: Various Artists, "A Merry Friggin` Christmas" (Lakeshore)
New Music DVDs: Eric Clapton, "Planes, Trains & Eric" (Eagle Rock); Drivin' N' Cryin', "Scarred But Smarter" (evh Pic/Shanzing Films); Florida Georgia Line, "Life On Stage" (Woodridge); Genesis, "Three Sides Live" (Eagle Rock); Guns N' Roses, "Appetite For Democracy 3D: Live at the Hard Rock Casino-Las Vegas" (UMe); One Direction, "Tour & More" (Intrinem); The Rolling Stones, "From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum" (Eagle Rock)
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