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Recent pop-rock albums


Recent pop-rock albums
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Live: That Hot Pink Blues Album

Keb’ Mo’

Sharing only two cuts apiece with the 2003 studio compilation Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Keb’ Mo’ and the 2009 semi-live overview Live & Mo’, this winsome, all-live, 16-cut showcase avoids redundancy. And despite the word “blues” in the title, it’s really a soul album with blues underpinnings, one that emphasizes Mo’s rapport with his audience. Right before “City Boy,” a good-natured heckler calls out for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” “I’m gonna learn that song,” replies an equally good-natured Mo’, “and shut y’all up!”

Good Times!

The Monkees

This 50th-anniversary celebration of the original “Prefab Four” does their legacy proud. All three surviving members are not only aboard but also willing and able to throw themselves into the songs, many of which members of Weezer, XTC, Fountains of Wayne, Death Cab for Cutie, Oasis, and The Jam composed especially for them. Davy Jones even makes a posthumous, miracle-of-modern-technology appearance on a charming Neil Diamond–penned outtake circa 1967. And speaking of miracles, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith sound equally undiminished.

A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead

Reviews of this album have focused more on its sounds and lyrics than on its melodies and hooks, probably because the melodies seem like concessions to mere inevitability and the hooks barely exist. The sounds attracting the most attention are those made by the London Contemporary Orchestra. The lyrics attracting the most attention are those of “Burn the Witch” and “The Numbers.” Neither song deserves the scrutiny. In short, the emperor is naked—that is, unless New Age music masquerading as hollowed-out progressive rock counts as clothing.

The Rough Guide to Gospel Blues

Various Artists

Any 25-track sampling of a single genre risks dead-ending in a stylistic cul-de-sac. This compilation skirts that trap by juxtaposing legendary performers with their obscurer counterparts and by selecting tracks by the latter that actually trump those by the former. Exhibit A: Rev. Edward W. Clayborn’s “Your Enemy Cannot Harm You” (“but watch your close friends”). Exhibit B: Mother McCollum’s “Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane” (which beat Larry Norman’s “U.F.O.” to the Rapture-as-aircraft metaphor by 40-plus years).

Encore

When Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Tom Leadon, and Randall Marsh revived the pre–Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch to make a long-overdue Mudcrutch album in 2008, neither they nor their fans thought there’d be a sequel. Both they and their fans, however, were wrong. Simply titled 2 (Reprise), the just-released follow-up includes 11 new originals, seven by Petty and one apiece by the other four guys. There isn’t a dud in the bunch.

“Dreams of Flying” opens and closes with the “Masters of War” chords that Petty, Campbell, and Tench played while accompanying Bob Dylan in the 1980s. “Beautiful World” showcases Marsh’s affinity for power-pop. “The Other Side of the Mountain” showcases Leadon’s affinity for bluegrass-rock. The romping-stomping “Hope” showcases Petty’s affinity for making grateful promises to God or something like Him. Another album or two like this and people might start referring to The Heartbreakers as Petty’s side project. —A.O.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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