Elvis Costello does covers, Celine Dion sings in French, Herbie Hancock goes hip-hop and Isaac “Shaft” Hayes makes a double-disc comeback as part of May’s album releases.
Bob Dylan goes ‘Unplugged” (Columbia) with eight tracks from his MTV broadcast (“All Along the Watchtower,” “With God on Our Side,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” etc.) plus another five that didn’t make the TV cut, including “Desolation Row,” “I Want You” and “Absolutely Sweet Marie.” Yeah, it’s (ironically) heavy with the classics of Bob’s early electric years.
The all-star soundtrack to Melvin and Mario Van Peebles’ “Panther” film features a veritable army of female soul stars (Vanessa Williams, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Salt ‘N Pepa, Karyn White, En Vogue, Queen Latifah and more) on the lead single “Freedom,” plus appearances elsewhere by Funkadelic with George Clinton, Bobby Brown, Da Lench Mob, Black Street, Joe, Tony Toni Tone, Sounds of Blackness and more.
Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore explores “Psychic Hearts” (DGC) on vinyl only; the CD arrives next week. Yoko Ono premieres her stage score to “New York Rock” (Capitol) and Barbra Streisand dishes “Highlights from the Concert” (Columbia), timed to the CBS-TV broadcast.
Singer/songwriter Kate Jacobs charms on “What About Regret?” (Bar None). Steel Pole Bathtub get “Scars from Falling Down” (Slash/ London). Yo La Tengo are “ElectrO-Pura” (Matador/Atlantic). Rub-adubster Masta Ace is “Sittin’ on Chrome” (Delicious Vinyl).
Terence Trent D’Arby sets a new world order on the grandiose “TTD’s Vibrator” (WORK). Bluesman Robert Cray performs on “Some Rainy Morning” and the soundtrack to “French Kiss” (both Mercury). The Penguin Cafe Orchestra dishes daffy lounge jazz on “Concert Program” (Windham Hill). The Allman Brothers pick up the concert beat again with “2nd Set” (Epic).
“For the Love of Harry (Everybody Sings Nilsson)” (Music Masters/BMG) is a tender tribute to the late composer by admirers Randy Newman, Marc Cohn, Aimee Mann, Fred Schneider, Joe Ely, Ringo Starr with Stevie Nicks, Steve Forbert, Jennifer Trynin, Al Kooper, Victoria Williams, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Wilson, Jellyfish, Adrian Belew, the Roches and Jimmy Webb. All the artists paid their own recording costs. Proceeds benefit Nilsson’s pet project, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
History-minded British singer/ songwriter Al Stewart contemplates periods “Between the Wars” (Mesa/ Bluemoon). “Kenn Kweder” (Pandemonium) spotlights Philadelphia’s most durable and street-savvy singer/songwriter.
Elvis Costello’s long-in-gestation “Kojak Variety” (Warner Bros.) features his interpretations of songs done originally by Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Mose Allison, Aretha Franklin and Nat “King” Cole.
Cutting-edge Bad Brains mix hardcore punk and reggae on “Gold of Love” (Maverick), produced by Rick Ocasek. Babes in Toyland rock with “Nemesisters” (Reprise). Multiplatinum rappers Naughty by Nature dish the vinyl version of “Poverty’s Paradise” (Tommy Boy). The CD version arrives two weeks later.
Dianne Reeves sings to the jazz crowd on “After the Storm” (Blue Note), featuring a posthumous appearance by sax great Julian “Cannonball” Adderly. Jamiroquai pumps British funk blues on “Return of the Space Cowboy” (WORK).
French-Canadian Celine Dion goes to her roots on “The French Album” (Sony 550). Janis Ian finds a harder edge on “Revenge” (Beacon). Disappear Fear are “Live at the Bottom Line” (Philo), fleshed out with bonus studio tracks. “Shadow Dancer” (Upstart) by Tav Falco’s Panter Burns traverses tango, rock and roll, blues balladry and torchy cabaret. “Craftsman” (Philo) collects three great Guy Clark country-folk albums on a double CD.