Krall, Jones top CD reviews

Diana Krall and Danko Jones. (QMI/handout photos)

Diana Krall and Danko Jones. (QMI/handout photos)

DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

Before you stuff yourself full of turkey and fall asleep on the couch, give thanks for some of these new releases:

Diana Krall
Glad Rag Doll


If the title and va-va-voom cover remind you of Boardwalk Empire, no wonder. The jazz singer-pianist rummaged her dad's Prohibition and Vaudeville-era 78s to find material for this bluesy effort — then enlisted retro-minded producer T-Bone Burnett and some of his sidemen to bring them back to life, striking a perfect balance between old-timey and contemporary. It’s the bee’s knees.

Download: There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears; I'm a Little Mixed Up

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Danko Jones
Rock and Roll is Black and Blue


The Mango Kid growing up? Well, maybe a little. Fear not, fans; with his sixth album, the Toronto rocker is still writing all the songs about sex, Satan and rock ’n’ roll that KISS, AC/DC and Thin Lizzy never got around to. But he's also penned some melodic and sincere cuts about missing home, digging a beautiful day and begging his woman not to leave. Just call him The Mango Man.

Download: Get Up; I Don't Care

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Van Morrison
Born to Sing: No Plan B


Still on top. And back in the swing. After exploring country and roots on his past couple of discs, Van the Man returns to the jazzier side of things for his 34th studio album. Recorded live in the studio with a sextet in his native Belfast, the understated effort balances laid-back late-night jazz and blues grooves with some topical lyrics about materialism and greed. Predictable but solid.

Download: If In Money We Trust; Pagan Heart

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

A.C. Newman
Shut Down the Streets


Even pornographers have families. And feelings. New Pornos singer-guitarist Newman’s uncharacteristically personal third album delves deeply into both, as the songwriter’s songwriter divulges joys and terrors of new fatherhood — and mourns the death of his mother — to the sweet strains of his impeccably crafted indie-pop (with harmonies from work wife Neko Case). Touching stuff.

Download: Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns; There’s Money in New Wave

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

David Usher
Songs From the Last Day on Earth


It’s the end of the world as he knows it — and Usher feels fine. The erstwhile Moist frontman’s eighth solo release is a concept disc about friends sharing reminiscences and regrets on their final get-together. Naturally, it’s a wistful affair, based around intimate folk-pop meditations full of strong emotions and strong melody. He’s going gently into that good night. Perhaps a bit too gently. 

Download: Rice Paper; Operator

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Papa Roach
The Connection


Sometimes machines know. When I copied the Cali rockers’ seventh album into my player, the titles came up ALL. IN. CAPS. Fair enough; after all, Jacoby Shaddix and co. were never big on subtlety. This time, they also lack direction, pitching everything against the wall — alt-metal, hip-hop, electro-pop, you name it — hoping that something connects. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE. Delete.

Download: Not That Beautiful; Still Swingin’

RATING: 2 (out of 5)

Jeff Lynne
Long Wave


Electric Light Orchestra
Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of


No man is an island, but Jeff Lynne is an orchestra. Or two. The ELO mastermind one-man-bands it here, playing, singing and producing every note on a pair of nostalgic releases. Long Wave celebrates and updates ’50s and ’60s standards and classics that inspired him; Mr. Blue Sky reproduces a dozen ELO hits for no good reason whatseover. Too much work for too little reward.

Download: Mercy, Mercy; Evil Woman

RATING: 3/2 (out of 5)

Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore   
YOKOKIMTHURSTON


“Look out!” someone yells midway through this album. Truer words were never spoken. An hour-long collaboration between eternal oddball Ono and Sonic Youth leaders Moore and Gordon, this is less album than art project. There are no songs; just Ono moaning and screaming and cackling and babbling while Gordon and Moore scratch, scrape and noodle on guitars. Look out, indeed.

Download: I Missed You Listening; Mirror Mirror

RATING: 2 (out of 5)

Grateful Dead
Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It


A Grateful Dead live set? Well, there’s something you don’t see every day. Just every other day. Snark aside, however, the zillionth archival concert release from the late, great psychedelic jammers is actually a pretty strong entry in their catalog, featuring 20 highlights (including a six-pack taped in Hamilton) from their limited-edition 18-disc Spring 1990 box set. Glad they made it.

Download: West L.A. Fadeaway; Loser

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Corin Tucker Band
Kill My Blues


She’s getting warmer. Former Sleater-Kinney singer-guitarist and riot grrrl punk Tucker toned it way down for her 2010 solo debut 1,000 Years — but less than two years later, the self-described “middle-aged mom” with the Patti Smith yowl is plugging in and rocking out again on this re-energized followup. It may not totally kill the blues of SK fans, but it should ease their pain somewhat.

Download: Groundhog Day; Constance

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

John Cale
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood


Once in the underground, always in the underground. It’s been seven years since Velvet avant-gardian Cale released an album — but clearly he hasn’t lost his touch. These dozen cuts continue his sonically and stylistically adventurous ways, as he (and his Morrisonian baritone) dabble with everything from Auto-Tuned electro-pop to dark funk-rock with Danger Mouse. Welcome back.

Download: I Wanna Talk 2 U; Nookie Wood

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Andre Williams
Life


It’s never too late to change. Look at notorious R&B derelict Williams; the 75-year-old reportedly kicked booze and drugs a few years back. With this typically rough ’n’ tumble batch of blues and funk, he’s cleaned up his musical act slightly as well, shelving his gritty tales of coke whores and murder for more mundane fare like love, money and (believe it or not) politics. The quiet life.

Download: Blame it on Obama; Shake a Tail Feather

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Frank Turner
Last Minutes & Lost Evenings


Have you met Turner? No? Then it’s about time. Acclaimed in his native Britain, the Billy Braggish folk-punk troubadour is still relatively unknown on these shores, despite the inroads of 2011’s England Keep My Bones. To rectify that, his label raided his first three albums for this compilation of sharp-eyed songs about rock ’n’ roll, love, getting older and hangovers. A fine introduction.

Download: I Still Believe; Nashville Tennessee

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

The Whigs
Enjoy the Company


You can’t stay in the garage forever. So on their fourth full-length, Athens singer-guitarist Parker Gispert and his bandmates continue to distance themselves from their scrappy, post-grungy youth by penning poppier melodies and sharper hooks, fleshing out their arrangements with horns and steel guitars and generally steering toward a brighter mainstream future. Good company.

Download: Staying Alive; Summer Heat

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Patrick Wolf
Sundark & Riverlight


There are two sides to Wolf. And plenty of history. It’s been nearly a decade since the theatrical English-Irish singer-songwriter released his debut Lycanthropy. So it’s natural for him to revisit his past — and get back to basics — by re-recording lush acoustic versions of 16 songs from his first five discs. Sundark favours ballads; Riverlight is sunnier fare. It’s the best of both worlds.

Download: The Magic Position; The Libertine

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

DVDs

Divinyls
Jailhouse Rock


Perhaps you recall what Divinyls singer Christina Amphlett does to herself when she thinks about you. Or perhaps you don’t remember these Australian new wave rockers at all. Either way, you might get a kick out of this energetic 85-minute performance from a 1993 festival held to celebrate the closure of a notorious local prison. Just keep both hands where we can see them, mister.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Stratovarius
Under Flaming Winter Skies


Nope, it’s not a parody of a White Stripes live album. It’s a concert DVD from long-serving Finnish power metal band Stratovarius, capturing one of their final shows with their last drummer. All those who need two-plus hours of grandiose metal full of symphonic flourishes, epic solos and plenty of hair-swinging action, look no further. Bonus footage includes a half-hour documentary.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)


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