This week's CD reviews

Hank Williams and Frank Zappa (Handouts)

Hank Williams and Frank Zappa (Handouts)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

HEAR IT

Frank Zappa

Road Tapes, Venue #1

Finer Moments

Both: 4 stars (out of 5)

It's a good time to be a Zappaphile. Or to become one. In recent months, the late singer-guitarist, modern-day composer and all-around iconoclast's estate has reissued scores of discs from his massive catalog -- including '60s psychedelic-garage masterworks like Freak Out!, '70s guitar-rock classics like Over-Nite Sensation and '80s rock operas like Thing-Fish and Joe's Garage. Even better, the Zappa Family Trust continues to unearth buried treasures -- mostly live fare -- from the master's voluminous archives. Two more have just arrived. Road Tapes Venue #1 (aka Vancouver's Kerrisdale Arena) captures the wry Zappa and his freewheeling Mothers of Invention as they "make an earnest attempt to rock out at the local electric ice box" -- and succeed handily by effortlessly blending rock, avant garde, doo-wop and more into a typically freewheeling and unhinged 88-minute set. Finer Moments earns its title by compiling a dozen-plus previously unreleased MOI live and studio recordings between 1967 and 1972 (including much of their 1969 Royal Albert Hall show). Even if they're only in it for the money, it's hard to gripe too loud.

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SKIP IT

AC/DC

Live at River Plate

2.5 stars out of 5

If the title of the Aussie rockers' self-proclaimed "first live album in 20 years" sounds familiar, it should. This typically tight South American stop on their Black Ice World Tour was released on DVD in spring 2011. Hey, I'll be the first to admit that if you've heard one Acca Dacca gig, you've basically heard them all. But that doesn't mean I want to hear (and buy) them more than once.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Live in California '74

2 stars out of 5

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never gets a proper release. For nearly 40 years, prog-rock trio ELP's mammoth set from 1974's California Jam has been widely bootlegged -- you can even watch most of it (including Keith Emerson's flying piano solo) on the Interwebs. So why shell out for a bare-bones CD with no pics, no video and minimal liner notes? Wait for a DVD.

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ALBUMS

New studio albums and concerts are in short supply this week. Good thing we have live recordings to fill both voids.

Hank Williams

The Lost Concerts

3 stars out of 5

More lost performances -- and another find for the cult of Hank. The Nashville icon's zillionth posthumous outing documents two 1952 concerts, with all the country classics you want and more corn-pone yuks than you'd expect. Pity it sounds like a bootleg.

Buddy Guy

Live at Legends

3 stars out of 5

Come for the main event: A half-hour of high-test blues-rock, volcanic fretwork and powerhouse vocals from the veteran Chicago singer-guitarist, cutting loose in his own club in 2010. But stay for the encore: Three strong studio outtakes from later that year.

Machine Head

Machine F**king Head Live

3.5 stars out of 5

"It's time for everyone in here to headbang until your goddamn head falls off," these Bay Area thrashers demand on their double-live onslaught. That's unlikely -- though based on the intensity captured in these raucous tracks, a sore neck seems reasonable.

12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief

Various Artists

2.5 stars out of 5

Good causes don't always make for great albums. This two-hour download of excerpts from the star-studded Sandy benefit doesn't have McCartney fronting Nirvana, the Bruce-Bon Jovi duets or anything from Kanye. Don't dump the gig from your PVR just yet.

Porcupine Tree

Octane Twisted

3.5 stars out of 5

Now that these prog-metal Brits are on hiatus, fans may have a long wait for new tunes. Luckily, this two-CD offering should tide them over handily. It's got a superb full-length rendition of their psychedelic 2009 behemoth The Incident, plus a disc of older faves.

Elvis Presley

As Recorded at Madison Square Garden: Legacy Edition

3.5 stars out of 5

Love the King, but don't want to pay a king's ransom for the Prince From Another Planet box of his 1972 NYC shows? Fear not; here's the scaled-down version, featuring two full performances and a booklet, but without the inessential DVD. That's all right, mama.

Sonic Youth

Smart Bar: Chicago 1985

3.5 stars out of 5

Thurston and Kim's bustup may have dimmed SY's future hopes, but the noise-rock gods still have a bright shining past. Case in point: This raw, wiry 1985 club show featuring tunes from their early albums (and then-new drummer Steve Shelley). More, please.

Dinosaur Jr.

Chocomel Daze (Live 1987)

3 stars out of 5

A Dutch treat for Dino Jr. fans: To mark the 25th anniversary of 1987's You're Living All Over Me, J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph unveil a vintage 50-minute club gig from the Netherlands. Not quite as incendiary as their later work, but pretty cool anyway.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

Live from Alabama

3.5 stars out of 5

Once a Trucker, always a Trucker? It's been five years since singer-guitarist Isbell left Drive-by Truckers, but his dark, earthy live album includes four of his DBT tunes, plus newer fare, a Neil Young cover, southern soul -- and a horn section. He's his own man.

T.I.

Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head

3.5 stars out of 5

Heavy indeed. Atlanta rapper T.I.'s eighth album rewinds his recent legal woes over guns and drugs -- and over a soundtrack that moves from blaxploitation soul to low-riding gangsta rap, while sampling the likes of Marvin Gaye and The O'Jays. Worth the trouble.

Blink-182

Dogs Eating Dogs

3 stars out of 5

If you want it done right, DIY. Newly indie pop-punks Blink prove that with this self-released EP. Cut in November, its five short shots of pop-punk and reggae-folk feel more real and natural than their last few albums. Hey, even old dogs can learn some new tricks.

Solange

True

3.5 stars out of 5

It's OK if you forgot Solange; it's been four years since we heard from Beyonce's lil' sis. But thanks to this enticing EP -- which sets her supple soul vocals against the silky synths and twinkly tones of '80s pop -- you have no excuse for overlooking her again.

Django Unchained

Various Artists

3.5 stars out of 5

You can't go wrong with a Tarantino soundtrack. True to form, the companion disc to this slave-driven spaghetti western blends new originals (from Rick Ross, John Legend and more), classics (by Jim Croce and others) and sharp-witted dialogue. Cool like Fonzie.

 

 


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