Justin Hayford, The Roches, Belinda Carlisle, Toni Braxton, Spring Awakening, Norah Jones, Kelly Sweet, Echo & The Bunnymen, Bette Midler sings Kurt Weill, and more…
It All Belongs to You
You’d think that being an AIDS advocate in his hometown of Chicago would keep this crooner busy enough. But no. Hayford also found time to not only play piano and do all the vocals on this collection of obscure Cole Porter tunes, but also to arrange them. De-lovely! From LML Music (www.lmlmusic.com). — Preview: Nancy Ford
Goofball and endearing, simultaneously sweet, sultry, and silly — yes, it’s the same Roche sisters who debuted in 1979 with their quirky folksy three-part harmony, reunited for the playful, swinging Moonswept. I laughed out loud at “Jesus Shaves” — Jesus portrayed as a factory worker with a crush on Magdelena in accounting — but on subsequent listens the thoughtfulness sinks in, the moodiness, the hope. A delight. From 429 Records (www.429records.com). — Review: Ann Walton Sieber
A radical departure for the pop diva, Carlisle returns with 11 classic French pop songs. Her sultry voice makes these classics undeniably sexy. The album is a mix of arrangements from the flamenco-infused “Jezebel” to the heartbreaking “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (“If You Go Away”). Included: a bonus disc with English versions of songs from the album. From Rykodisc (www.rykodisc.com). — Review: Andrea Rodricks
The Essential Toni Braxton
Dr. Dre (“Just Be a Man About It”), Tupac Shakur (“Me & My Boyfriend”), and Il Divo (“The Time of Our Lives”) provide vocal assistance on this collection of the multi-Grammy-Award-winner’s hits. Contains two versions of “Un-break My Heart” — the original and a club mix. Stick with the original. From LaFace/Legacy (www.legacyrecordings.com). — Review: N.F. Spring Awakening
It could have been titled “Sex, Violence and Suicide: The Musical!” Based on a late 19th-century drama, this version unfolds through the eyes of three teens. Penned by Steven Slater and Grammy-nominated Duncan Sheik, standouts are “Totally F–ked” (because he rhymes it with “self-destruct”) and the discordant “The Bitch of Living.” What’s not to love? From Universal Music Classics Group (www.deccabroadway.com). — Review: N.F.
Original Cast Recording
Not Too Late
In her most personal album to date, this confident performer wrote or co-wrote every track on this record performing them with an irresistible voice and a soulful captivating style. Largely acoustic, Not Too Late combines several genres of music painting a vivid picture of life, love, disillusionment, and longing. From Blue Note Records (www.bluenote.com). — Review: A.R.
We Are One
Without doubt, this is the best English/Italian/French/Sanskrit recording we’ve ever heard. Multi-lingual and multi-talented, this 18-year-old could be the by-product of an Enya and Sarah McLachlan genetic union (if only). Her self-penned “I Will Be Waiting” is painfully hopeful and beautiful. From Razor and Tie Media (www.razorandtiemedia.com). — Review: N.F.
Last First Kiss
This jazz vocalist and pianist ambitiously combines standards, classics, and original tunes for his sophomore outing. We like “Gee, Baby Ain’t I Good to You?” and his own title track just fine, but his re-do’s of Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” and Prince’s “Kiss” are oddly creepy. From Telarc International (www.telarc.com). — Review: N.F.
Original Cast Album
Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht’s Happy End
Bette Midler’s 1973 cover of “Surabaya Johnnie,” a Happy Ending staple, revived contemporary interest in this early 20th-century duo’s work. But probably only true ‘philes will appreciate this sole-authorized English adaptation of the theatrical classic, focusing on the battle between good (Salvation Army workers) and evil (gangsters) in pre-WWI Chicago. From Ghost Light Records (www.ghostlightrecords.com). — Review: N.F. The Very Best of Echo & The Bunnymen
Subtitled “More Songs to Learn and Sing,” this CD/DVD compilation reminds us why we loved the ’80s (or what we can recall of them). Contains alt faves “Bring on the Dancing Horses” and “Nothing Lasts Forever,” plus lesser-known tracks including their respectable treatment of The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” From Rhino Records (www.rhino.com). — Review: N.F. Katharine McPhee
Despite her handlers’ annoying penchant for attaching a McPrefix to anything connected to her, this gifted almost-American Idol‘s debut album is satisfying without the prerequisite hoke. Especially enjoyable are “Home” and “Open Toes” as well as the disc’s first single, “Over It.” From RCA Records (www.rcarecords.com). — Review: N.F.
Echo & The Bunnymen
Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire
The hits of the ’70s and ’80s supergroup are served up deftly in the hands of Chaka Khan (“Shining Star”), Meshell Ndegeocello (“Fantasy”), and Kirk Franklin, whose “September,” dedicated to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, achieves new spiritual heights. Funkalicious. From Concord Music Group (www.concordmusicgroup.com). — Review: N.F.