In my rush to get last week’s record store report published, I regretfully missed a pair of titles that definitely warranted discussion. So before we move on to this week’s goodies, allow me a moment to correct my foolishness:


One of the finest performers I’ve ever seen in my life is the terrific, utterly ravishing Beth Hart, who is best known for her riveting 1999 smash
“L.A. Song (Out of This Town),” and who last week staged phase one of what deserves to be a ferocious comeback effort with an appearance on guitar god Slash‘s brand new eponymous all-star mixtape, which also features contributions from and collaborations with Kid Rock, Fergie, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, Chris Cornell, and the fabulous Myles Kennedy (late of Alter Bridge). But it’s with the peerless, authentically gritty Hart that this project explodes to life, and hearing her tear through the “Mother Maria” is like getting a genuine master class in gorgeous, gut-wrenching singing. Beth, my dear: you’ve never sounded better, you’re still kicking ass a decade after your breathtaking breakthrough, and welcome the hell back, babe.

Not a clue in the world how this one got past me, but I almost fainted last week when, while at Best Buy doing my CD shopping for the week, I stumbled across Dance Classics, Vol. 1, a thrilling new collection of toe-tappers from those genuises at Total Music. And don’t think for a second that they’re just joshing with that title: with legendary club hits from the likes of Everything But the Girl (Todd Terry’s iconic remix of “Missing,” easily one of the twenty-five best tunes of all time), Brian Transeau (“Blue Skies,” whose haunting vocal is provided by the invaluable Tori Amos), Groove Armada (“I See You Baby”) and the divine Deborah Cox (“Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” an R&B smash for the ages), these truly are the thumpa-thumpa triumphs of our time. If your dance music edumacation is sorely lacking, I assure you there is no better place than here to start your tutorial work.

As for this week’s new material, the major release comes from the incredible Natalie Merchant — the blisteringly brilliant former lead singer of pioneering neo-folk band 10,000 Maniacs — who returns from an interminable seven-year hiatus (save for a 2005 best-of set, we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of her since 2003’s muted The House Carpenter’s Daughter) with her fifth studio album, a double-disc effort entitled Leave Your Sleep. I’ve heard exactly none of this new record, but the intoxicating Merchant is one of those few women (think Sade, or Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins) who can make anything sound fantastic. I can’t imagine that this won’t be sensational.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Sherry Ann sent me a pair of text messages earlier in the week literally imploring me not to forget to include up-and-coming singer/songwriter Justin Nozuka, whose sophomore effort You I Wind Land and Sea arrives in stores this week.

  • I used to lovingly refer to him as the Happy Busking Hobo during season seven of American Idol a pair of years ago; let’s see if that poor fool Jason Castro has gotten any better at all with his self-titled debut.

  • Fresh off of a surprise Grammy nod for Best New Artist, buzz band
    of the moment MGMT try to beat the sophomore jinx with their latest project, Congratulations.

  • Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck tackles some ambitious titles
    (“Nessun Dorma,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and gets help
    from the likes of Joss Stone and Imelda May for his latest album,
    Emotion and Commotion.

  • Finally, Fox’s lovably deranged smash Glee triumphantly returned to the air this week after a four-month hiatus — a break which had my notoriously impatient boyfriend nearly apoplectic — and if you missed the cast’s showstopping rendition of The All-American Rejects’ instant classic “Gives You Hell”  Glee Cast - Gives You Hell (Glee Cast Version) - Single - Gives You Hell (Glee Cast Version), or Lea Michele and the priceless Jonathan Groff’s gloriously heartbreaking take on Lionel Richie’s ’80s standard “Hello”  Glee Cast - Hello (Glee Cast Version feat. Jonathan Groff) - Single - Hello (Glee Cast Version feat. Jonathan Groff), don’t fail to pick them up on iTunes.


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