The new Bruce Springsteen album is everything you want it to be. After folky turns on 2005's Devils & Dust
and last year's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
, the Boss—reunited with the E Street Band for the first time since 2002's The Rising—gets back to the business of making crowd-pleasing rock. And Magic shows that, at 58, he is still a wiz at it. "I want a thousand guitars/I want pounding drums," sings Springsteen on "Radio Nowhere," the driving first track and first single. Elsewhere, the harmonica-laced "Gypsy Biker" recalls the epic sweep of Born to Run, as does "I'll Work for Your Love," with its "Thunder Road"-style piano intro. Clearly, Springsteen is working overtime for your love on Magic, and he'll get it.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Livin' in the Future," a spirited arena rocker
The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3
"Sweeter than your favorite ice cream be/Bask in my glory baby," coos Jill Scott on "The Real Thing," the rock-tinged title cut of her third studio CD. It's a come-on that proves irresistible on this, the sexiest album of 2007: No doubt it'll have you speed-dialing your lover. Scott, in all her real womanliness, delves further into the more sensual side she revealed on 2004's gorgeous Beautifully Human
, seducing the listener with her words and sounds. She gets you with both on tracks like the lush slow jam "All I" and "Epiphany," a hip-hop-inflected midtempo groove. While the neo-soul diva does revisit the spoken-word territory of her now-classic debut, 2000's Who Is Jill Scott?
, she's sounding more like the greatest pure singer in contemporary R&B. Seamlessly interweaving jazz, gospel, blues and classical stylings, this is a master class in singing.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Whenever You're Around," a sultry and sassy ode to feeling lonely in a relationship
Songs of Mass Destruction
After the beautiful heartache of 2003's breakup album Bare
, Annie Lennox returns with more haunting melancholy—the kind that her voice was made for—on Songs of Mass Destruction
. Although the new disc doesn't match the heights of Bare
or her 1992 solo debut, Diva
, it's another rewarding listen. Lennox is at her brooding best on sumptuous ballads like "Lost" and "Smithereens," on which her soulful delivery lends real depth to a line like "Everybody is an island to themselves." The vibe is decidedly more upbeat on "Love Is Blind," with its strutting groove, and the feminist anthem "Womankind" (which could have done without the rap). Lennox—along with guests like Madonna
, Celine Dion and Shakira
—also addresses the female condition on "Sing," about the plight of HIV-infected women in Africa. However well-intentioned, though, it's no "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves."
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Dark Road," the richly atmospheric first single
REVIEWED BY RANDY VEST
They may be country boys, but Brooks & Dunn bring a rousing rock vibe to many of the songs on Cowboy Town
. Tracks like the driving title cut, a proud declaration of their rural roots, and "Tequila," a dizzyingly fast-paced nod to that "great big buzz in a little bitty glass," sport influences from the Stones to Springsteen. The guys do take a breather now and then with a couple of ballads. "Cowgirls Don't Cry" is a touching tale of a woman facing life's challenges, while "God Must Be Busy," featuring a wistful lead vocal from Ronnie Dunn, is a somber musing on Middle East strife, AMBER Alerts and natural disasters.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "The Ballad of Jerry Jeff Walker," an affectionate ode to the cult singer-songwriter (who joins in himself)
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• Classic R&B buffs will dig Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul, a new two-disc collection that serves up vintage Aretha in demos, outtakes and B-sides.
MELISSA ETHERIDGE The Awakening
A more nuanced Etheridge gets reflective and spiritual on her first album since beating breast cancer, but one of the lighter moments, the country-rocking "Threesome," provides the highlight.
EDDIE VEDDER Into the Wild
Although this is the soundtrack to the new Sean Penn adventure, it's also essentially Vedder's first solo album. The Pearl Jammer brings an appropriately rustic quality to the original tunes and covers like "Hard Sun."
HERBIE HANCOCK River: The Joni Letters
The venerable jazz pianist transforms Joni Mitchell songs like "Both Sides Now," "Court and Spark" and "River" into beguiling surprises with guests like Norah Jones, Tina Turner and Mitchell herself.
MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams
As the long-winded title might suggest, the singer-bassist's meandering latest is not an easy listen. Still, her fusion of funk, jazz, rock, reggae and African sounds is heady stuff.
• The 44-year-old jazz-pop trumpeter—and Katie Couric ex—salutes his Italian heritage on his new CD, Italia
MILES DAVIS, MY FUNNY VALENTINE This album is a live concert. The reason I play music is because of the first statement I ever heard on the trumpet by Miles Davis, "My Funny Valentine." That's how powerful his sound was to my heart.
FRANK SINATRA, ONLY THE LONELY My very first professional gig was with Frank Sinatra. This is just a heartbreaking album with great arrangements.
KEITH JARRETT, THE MELODY AT NIGHT, WITH YOU It's a very artistic backdrop to whatever you're doing. You're talking about arguably one of the two greatest living jazz pianists in the world.
WAYNE SHORTER, SPEAK NO EVIL Of these, it's the most hardcore jazz music: Shorter [on tenor sax], Herbie Hancock on piano and Freddie Hubbard playing beautiful trumpet. Classic.