In Rainbows (independent)
How much would you pay for the new Radiohead album? The question's hardly speculative when In Rainbows is made available for download from the band's website for however much you're willing to shell out. Seriously. It's up to you. Helmed by long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, the album will be available as a standard download or as a deluxe box set (including a second disc of new songs) that will ship by early December.
Rare And Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul (Rhino)
The vault-digging Rhino crew have been at it again, this time coming up with pure gold in the form of stunning stripped-down demos and unheard session outtakes cut by soul great Aretha Franklin during her 1966-73 peak years with Atlantic. Franklin's leftovers are better than most singers' top-dollar best, so this two-disc set is a godsend.
Disco Romance (Paper Bag)
The reclusive Swedish disco pop queen's album has already been enjoying considerable praise overseas and high ratings from some influential online sources for its otherworldly crystalline sparkle and quirky pop sensibility. There's a subtle push and pull between the warm melodies and cold synth textures, and a seductive juxtaposition of disposable synth-pop references with a quiet, wistful melancholy.
Chrome Dreams II CD and DVD (Warner)
As with any new Neil Young release, the details are sketchy, but it's believed that Chrome Dreams II (a reference to the famously shelved Chrome Dreams album of 77) will include 10 tracks, seven of them new compositions, including two epics that clock in at more than 13 minutes apiece. About the album's diversity, Young says, "Now that radio formats are not as influential as they once were, it's easier to release an album that crosses all formats, with a message that runs through the whole thing regardless of the type of song or sound."
It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land (V2/Red Ink)
Already issued in the UK to wide critical acclaim, the latest project of the Soulsavers is considerably darker. Mark Lanegan was brought in to lend his expressively bluesy howl to eight of the album's 12 tracks, which also involve contributions from Will Oldham, PW Long and the Doves' Jimi Goodwin.
La Cucaracha (Rounder)
It's an impressive feat to bluff their way through a country album with Nashville session types, but signing a deal with roots music label Rounder could be the kooky cut-ups' greatest subversive triumph ever. Evidently, Dean Ween is thrilled to have a Ween recording released by the people who put out George Thorogood records, because he drinks in the same dive bar where some cheesy Thorogood album sleeves were shot. Gotta love it.
Rokku Mi Rokka (Nonesuch/Warner)
The title might suggest that the soulful Senegalese singer has decided to follow up 2004's Grammy-winning Egypt - a more traditionally oriented musical celebration of Sufi mysticism - with a crack at the devil's music. Nope. "Rokku Mi Rokka" means "Give And Take" in Wolof, referring to Senegal's heady mix of musical styles that N'Dour covers on the fab new album. Along with a reunion of his Super Etoile bandmates, the album features appearances by Neneh Cherry and Orchestra Baobab's Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis.
As I Am (J)
Considering that contemporary R&B star Alicia Keys has been working on this third studio album since her 2005 concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (heard on her MTV Unplugged disc), she's had ample time to fuss over the details with song doctor to the stars Linda Perry and John Mayer. Let's hope she's able to capture some of that fiery passion she brings to her live performances.
Red Carpet Massacre (Sony BMG)
One the reason for Duran Duran's long delay in putting out lucky album 13 was that the band decided to rewrite it from scratch when Andy Taylor abruptly quit right around the time that Timbaland was brought in for some production tweaking. So although they lost Taylor, they've gained two vocal cameos by Justin Timberlake - which they'll need to sell this thing.
The 8 Diagrams (Street Records)
The first full-on Wu-Tang throwdown since Ol' Dirty Bastard's death in 2004, 8 Diagrams has no shortage of collaborators tapped to fill the gap. There's Q-Tip, Marley Marl, Nile Rodgers, Gerald Alston and George Clinton. Among the 40 to 50 songs recorded during the sessions for the 14-track album is a George Drakoulis-produced cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps featuring George Harrison's son Dhani Harrison, a big Wu fan apparently.
This B-sides and rarities collection is getting more attention than most thrown-together holiday-season cash-ins, not because it includes their version of Joy Division's Shadowplay or Kenny Rogers and the First Edtion's hit Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town, but because of the unlikely guest appearance by Lou Reed, who adds his own special vocal magic to the song Tranquilize.
Sadly, there are no long-lost gems uncovered on Rhino's two-disc Mothership retrospective, but the 24 tracks selected by surviving members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones make for a helluva best-of set. A limited-run vinyl release is a nice touch. It's also an excellent companion to Warner Home Video's deluxe DVD reissue of the Song Remains The Same concert film that comes with 40 minutes of bonus footage, slated for release November 20.
Alive 2007 (Virgin)
Judging from the swath of destruction and fawning reviews left worldwide by Daft Punk's 2007 tour, people do still care about the French duo a decade after Homework. Wisely, they've decided to latch onto that momentum by releasing a live album recorded at the Paris date of the tour. If only they could package the light show, too.