Blue Rodeo, K'naan top CD reviews

Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy (left), and K'naan (right). (QMI Agency/Reuters file photos)

Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy (left), and K'naan (right). (QMI Agency/Reuters file photos)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

This week: Blue Rodeo box up the past, K’naan goes Country, Fagen sells Condos, Springfield rocks out and much more. 

Blue Rodeo
1987 - 1993


Good timing. For their 25th anniversary as recording artists, Canadian country-rock kings Blue Rodeo collect their first five albums — Outskirts, Diamond Mine, Casino, Lost Together and Five Days in July — in an eight-piece box. Along with the usual remastered albums, you get a remixed version of Outskirts, Casino demos and a disc of odds and ends. A diamond mine indeed.

Download: Room for Rent; Shine On

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

K’naan
Country, God or The Girl


Let the bells ring out and the flags wave: K’naan is back to save the world. Or at least his label’s quarter. The Somali-Canadian phenom’s fourth full-length is more pop juggernaut than political manifesto, with stylish hip-hop hybrids, stadium-sized anthems, lovelorn lyrics and VIP visitors (Bono, Keef, will.i.am and more) outweighing social consciousness. The sound of superstardom.

Download: Waiting is a Drug; Is Anybody Out There (feat. Nelly Furtado)

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Donald Fagen
Sunken Condos


He’s doing it again. Nearly a decade after the last Steely Dan album — and six years after his last solo outing — singer-keyboardist Fagen resurfaces with a new assortment of black-turtleneck jazz-pop grooves, lounge-lizard melodies and cocked-eyebrow lyrics about middle-aged love, lust and jealousy. Longtime foil Walter Becker is MIA, but that won’t spoil things for the Dan fans.

Download: Slinky Thing; Out of the Ghetto

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Rick Springfield
Songs for the End of the World


Springfield rocks. No, seriously. The Australian singer-guitarist and Jessie’s Girl hitmaker is in remarkably feisty form on his darkly titled umpteenth release, balancing guitar-driven modern rock reminiscent of Foo Fighters with arena-sized power-pop anthems a la Bryan Adams — and pondering everything from the political to the personal. This working-class dog still has plenty of bite.

Download: Wide Awake; I Hate Myself

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Brandy
Two Eleven


What’s in a number? The title of Brandy Norwood’s repeatedly delayed sixth disc reportedly refers to her birthday and the day Whitney Houston died — neither of which has much to do with the darkly intimate, artfully edgy R&B canvases that underpin Norwood’s scratchy-meets-supple vocals and romantic lyrics. It doesn’t exactly qualify as rebirth, but at least it isn’t by the numbers.

Download: Wildest Dreams; Let Me Go

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Wanda Jackson
Unfinished Business


The party still ain’t over. But she’s got a new dancing partner. Growling rockabilly queen Jackson follows up her 2011 Jack White-produced comeback by inviting Justin Townes Earle to helm a clutch of country, blues, gospel and hillbilly boogie covers. Rootsier and more relaxed than its predecessor, it’s also a better fit for her in some ways — though it does lack Jack’s feistiness.

Download: Graveyard Shift; Pushover

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

David Hidalgo, Mato Nanji, Luther Dickinson
3 Skulls & The Truth


Guitar-hero alert! Los Lobos’ Hidalgo, North Mississippi Allstars’ Dickinson and Indigenous’ Nanji have joined forces on this platter of muscular, meat-and-potatoes ZZ Top-style blues-rock. Naturally, fiery fretwork abounds. But the real joy — and biggest surprise — is how well they play together, sharing the spotlight and making room instead of getting in each other’s way. Find it.

Download: Have My Way With You; Make it Right

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Jamey Johnson
Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran


Set ’em up again. Modern-day outlaw Johnson tipped his hat to singer-songwriter Cochran on his 2010 release Guitar Song, covering the oldie Set ’Em Up Joe. Here he goes whole-hog, enlisting VIPs from Merle and Willie to Hank himself on a reverently rendered roster of honky-tonk hits like I Fall to Pieces, I’d Fight the World and Make the World Go Away. One for the old-schoolers.

Download: A-11 (with Ronnie Dunn); Everything But You (with Leon Russell, Willie Nelson & Vince Gill)

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Smoke & Jackal
EP1


Can two people be a supergroup? Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill and Mona singer-guitarist Nick Brown are giving it their best shot. After teasing us with their lascivious single No Tell, the duo head for second base with this six-track EP of slow-burning seductions fashioned from deep bass grooves, ringing guitars, electronica textures and sleepy-to-soaring vocals. Try to resist.

Download: Fall Around; You’re Lost

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Down
Down IV Part I: The Purple EP


Let there be sludge. And more sludge. Ex-Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo, guitarist Pepper Keenan and their southern-metal antiheroes go back to basics and play it straight on this EP, bashing out straightforward, stripped-down, Sabbathy slabs of doom-metal and Satanic boogie — all forged from vulcanized guitar abuse, thundering drums and demonic invocations. Bring on Part II.

Download: Levitation; Witchtripper

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Trash Talk
119


Odd bedfellows indeed. These Cali punks are signed to rebellious rap collective Odd Future’s label. OF’s Hodgy Beats and Tyler, The Creator even vocalize on one cut (Tyler has directed one of their vids). But this is no rap-rock hybrid; their hip-hop connections don’t affect their aggressive metallic hardcore, which harkens back to the mosh-pit glory days of Black Flag and Circle Jerks.

Download: Eat the Cycle; Blossom & Burn

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Devin Townsend Project
Epicloud


You can always expect the unexpected from Townsend. The prolific Canadian singer-guitarist’s 15th album (and fifth DTP disc) in about as many years is another eclectic excursion to infinity and beyond, fusing a myriad of styles — from ’70s prog and bombastic glam to gospel, folk and synth-pop — into an over-the-top space-rock opera that exceeds the sum of its parts. Blast off.

Download: Lucky Animals; Liberation

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Diamond Rings
Free Dimensional


Strap on the shoulder pads and fire up the Keytar: It’s time for another ’80s night with Diamond Rings. Toronto glamazon John O’Regan’s sophomore disc takes up where its predecessor left off, with pulsing retro synths and hand-clap beatboxes sharing space with wiry guitars, massive dance-rock grooves, robotic Vocoder raps — and O’Regan rich baritone. Don’t you want him, baby?

Download: All the Time; I’m Just Me

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

DOWN/STREAM


Black Keys
Tour Rehearsal Tapes EP


Two for the show? Not any more. For their recent tours, singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney expanded their ranks with a bassist and keyboardist. All the better to play their keyboard-laced new material with — as demonstrated by this six-cut EP of El Camino and Brothers songs recorded live in the studio last December. It’s the next best thing to a live album.

www.itunes.com


Tig Notaro
Live


“Good evening! Hello. I have cancer. How are you?” With those words, L.A. comic Notaro kicks off one of the most moving standup sets you’ll ever hear — a revealing monologue that details a stunning string of personal tragedies that include pneumonia, her mother’s death, the end of a long-term relationship and yes, the big C. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad you spent the $5.

louisck.com

Kanye West
White Dress


Even for Kanye, this seems imprudent. The rapper’s latest missive — from the soundtrack to the upcoming RZA movie The Man With the Iron Fists — is basically a musical marriage proposal, presumably to his girl Kim K. “You’re the type of girl that probably deserve a new last name,” he proclaims. And West is the type of guy who’s likely going to need a divorce lawyer in short order. 

soultemplemusic.bandcamp.com

DVDs

The Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour: Deluxe Box Set


Roll up, Beatlemaniacs. The Fab reissue cavalcade continues with this upgrade of the band’s freewheeling 1967 road film. Spearheaded by Paul McCartney and made up as they went along, the short, strange trip through the British countryside on a psychedelic coach confused viewers and was widely panned when it aired in glorious black and white on the BBC. But as with most things Beatle, it has come to be revered as ahead of its time. So, for its 45th anniversary, here comes the Deluxe Box Set reissue. It has a refurbished version of the 53-minute film on Blu-Ray and DVD, with all the audio remixed for 5.1 of course. Along with that, you get a commentary track by Macca, 53 more minutes of documentary footage and outtakes, a 60-page book with a diary and pics, and a reproduction of the original two-disc vinyl EP containing I am the Walrus, Fool on the Hill, the title cut and more. Everything you need to enjoy yourself within the limits of British decency. For those not on board with the $95 fare, single-disc Blu-Ray and DVD editions are also available.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)


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