David Cook

This Loud Morning |

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POP-ROCK

"Give me one more quiet night 'fore this loud morning gets it right and does me in," sings David Cook on rootsy stunner "Rapid Eye Movement." Mined for the album's title, the line marks one of the record's themes: finding strength to face the day. The American Idol winner lost older brother Adam to cancer in 2009, and his raw vulnerability is on display on his sophomore effort. Cook's rasp is especially haunting on the rapturous "Circadian" but becomes tedious on the Ryan Tedder co-penned "The Last Goodbye." The sweeping "Goodbye to the Girl," though, will make Bono lovers proud.

Dolly Parton

Better Day |

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COUNTRY

As spunky as ever at 65, Parton displays her signature sass throughout this excellent set of self-written odes to optimism. Uplifting tunes such as the bluesy title track and the upbeat "In the Meantime," a call to "drop this doomsday attitude and get on with the show," offer the kind of straight talk that has endeared her to fans since the 1960s. Other standouts include the rock-tinged "Shine Like the Sun" and the hoedown-ready "Country Is as Country Does." The milder moments are equally engrossing, especially the kiss-off ballad "Get Out and Stay Out" and the piano-laced "I Just Might," both showing that an artist can keep getting better with time some 50 years into her career.

IN CELEBRATION OF THE NEW 10TH-ANNIVERSARY REISSUE OF SONGS IN A MINOR, HERE ARE HER MOST MAJOR TUNES

1. "FALLIN'" (2001)

From her first a cappella moments sounding like a young Michael Jackson, it was an unforgettable debut, fusing classical and classic soul.

2. "NO ONE" (2007)

No one can get in the way of what I feel for Alicia here.

3. "IF I AIN'T GOT YOU" (2003)

This gutsy declaration recalls vintage Aretha.

4. "SUPERWOMAN" (2007)

Channeling another R&B great-Stevie Wonder-Keys soars to transcendent heights championing female empowerment.

5. "YOU DON'T KNOW MY NAME" (2003)

For the spoken interlude alone.

6. "TRY SLEEPING WITH A BROKEN HEART" (2009)

After covering "How Come You Don't Call Me" on Songs, she came up with her own Princely gem.

7. "BUTTERFLYZ" (2001)

Spreading her wings on one of the first songs she wrote, Keys displayed both tender innocence and a maturity beyond her years.

8. "HEARTBURN" (2003)

Her funkiest jam ever, sizzling with Superfly swagger.

9. "UN-THINKABLE (I'M READY)" (2009)

At her most sensual with Drake.

10. "LESSON LEARNED" (2007)

Love the soothing support from John Mayer.

HONORABLE MENTION: "EMPIRE STATE OF MIND" (2009)

It's really more Jay-Z's song, but A-Keys took it to a whole 'nother place with that killer chorus.

Six months ago, after being rejected by yet another record label, JAVIER COLON, 34, was ready to bail on his pop-star dreams and go into teaching to support his wife and two girls (Solana, 3, and Amaia, 22 months). Good thing his brother told him to try out for The Voice: Fans voted Colon the NBC show's first champ June 29. "It feels amazing," says the West Hartford, Conn., resident. Now with a record deal, $100,000 and a No. 1 iTunes single, "Stitch by Stitch," the avid golfer says his upcoming album will be "soulful" and may feature coaches Adam Levine (his Voice adviser) and Cee Lo Green. Says Colon: "There's a lot of good things in my future."

MARVIN GAYE & TAMMI TERRELL (right inset)

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" It's got soul and melody, and to say no wind, no rain can keep me from you is the ultimate statement. Tammi had a great voice-and it doesn't get any better than Marvin Gaye.

CELINE DION & ANDREA BOCELLI

"The Prayer" An absolute masterpiece. It's basically a mix of classical and pop with an amazing arrangement.

DOLLY PARTON & KENNY ROGERS

"Islands in the Stream" It's a musical moment with a power unto itself.

JAMES INGRAM & PATTI AUSTIN

"Baby, Come to Me" They made it come to life. James is one of the best singers in the business.

STEVIE NICKS & TOM PETTY (left inset)

"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" To me, it's an unusual pairing. But sometimes a great song will pull people together.