New Releases

One Day Like This

Rhydian

Billy's Back On Broadway

Billy Porter

Pardon My French

Marc Thomas

The Mission / How Great Thou Art

The Piano Guys

House Candy - I'm In Lounge

Various Artists

Solace in the Sun

Jimmy James

Latin

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Piano Recital 1988

Jorge Bolet

Something to Turn To

Jim Chappell

Filmatica

Steen Thottrup

The Legacy Continues Phase II

Swanee Quintet

Ferradini: Al santo sepolcro

Roberta Invernizzi

Bartók: Piano Pieces, Vol. 7

Jeno Jando

House Candy - Sweet Lounge

Various Artists

Swing Driven Thing

Fiona Pears

Bossa Nova Tunes

Deboa de Bahia, Coco Briaval

Top Albums

Sinatra: Best Of The Best

Frank Sinatra
Finally, a disc that combines Sinatra’s hits for Capitol and his hits for Reprise! Of course, since Capitol is the label releasing Sinatra: Best of the Best, the collection leans heavily on his Capitol sides, but the addition of such ‘60s staples as “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Strangers in the Night,” “Summer Wind,” “That’s Life,” “My Way,” and “Theme from New York, New York” to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Come Fly with Me,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “Fly Me to the Moon” makes this 23-track collection a superb sampling of Frank songs everybody knows by heart. Initial pressings in the fall of 2011 included the then out of print '57 - In Concert, a heavily circulated (and quite good) concert performed with Quincy Jones’ band in Seattle during 1957.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Serenity (Sleep Music)

Deep Sleep Band

Come Away With Me

Norah Jones
Norah Jones' debut on Blue Note is a mellow, acoustic pop affair with soul and country overtones, immaculately produced by the great Arif Mardin. (It's pretty much an open secret that the 22-year-old vocalist and pianist is the daughter of Ravi Shankar.) Jones is not quite a jazz singer, but she is joined by some highly regarded jazz talent: guitarists Adam Levy, Adam Rogers, Tony Scherr, Bill Frisell, and Kevin Breit; drummers Brian Blade, Dan Rieser, and Kenny Wollesen; organist Sam Yahel; accordionist Rob Burger; and violinist Jenny Scheinman. Her regular guitarist and bassist, Jesse Harris and Lee Alexander, respectively, play on every track and also serve as the chief songwriters. Both have a gift for melody, simple yet elegant progressions, and evocative lyrics. (Harris made an intriguing guest appearance on Seamus Blake's Stranger Things Have Happened.) Jones, for her part, wrote the title track and the pretty but slightly restless "Nightingale." She also includes convincing readings of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart," J.D. Loudermilk's "Turn Me On," and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You." There's a touch of Rickie Lee Jones in Jones' voice, a touch of Bonnie Raitt in the arrangements; her youth and her piano skills could lead one to call her an Alicia Keys for grown-ups. While the mood of this record stagnates after a few songs, it does give a strong indication of Jones' alluring talents.

David R. Adler, Rovi

To Be Loved

Michael Bublé
To Be Loved is the eighth studio album from Canadian crooner Michael Bublé. Featuring a mix of classic covers ("You Make Me Feel So Young," "Have I Told You Lately," "To Love Somebody") and special guest appearances from Reece Witherspoon, Bryan Adams, and the Puppini Sisters, this is a charming return to form for the popular singer and will surely delight his legions of fans. It also includes the original composition "It's a Beautiful Day."

Aneet Nijjar, Rovi

Ultimate Manilow

Barry Manilow
Unlike some other MOR pop stars, Barry Manilow never enjoyed the sort of swinging-hipster revival that made him a hot name to drop, ironically or otherwise. Incredibly enough, until the release of Ultimate Manilow in early 2002, there was no comprehensive single-disc hits package on the market -- a shockingly long wait for one of the most popular hitmakers of the '70s, hip or not (and clearly the demand was there; Ultimate Manilow entered the charts at number three). The 20 selections on Ultimate Manilow are arranged in the chronological order in which they became hits, and the emphasis here is on "hits" -- i.e., chart singles. Between 1974 and 1981, Manilow reached the Top 40 20 times, and 18 of those songs are present; the other two (minor early-'80s hits) were bumped by "Bandstand Boogie," Manilow's well-known version of the American Bandstand theme song, and "When October Goes," a track from his 1984 jazz-pop album, 2:00 AM Paradise Café. It's an extremely straightforward approach to a greatest-hits compilation, which is actually something to be commended given Arista's botched Whitney Houston best-of (where they omitted several songs to protect back-catalog sales, although that's not likely a concern with Manilow). So is anything missing? Nothing crucial; the only potential disappointment is for fans who love Manilow's detours into flamboyant, Broadway-style production numbers. The concentration on hits means that several great B-sides in that vein ("New York City Rhythm," "Riders to the Stars," "Beautiful Music," the endearingly awkward "Jump Shout Boogie") are not included. But that's really a small quibble, and there simply wasn't room for them anyhow. Ultimate Manilow lives up to its title by including everything a casual fan would want. The only question is, what took so long?

Steve Huey, Rovi

My Love Essential Collection

Céline Dion

Crazy Love

Michael Bublé
Buoyed by the popularity of the hit contemporary pop ballad "Home," singer Michael Bublé's 2005 album, It's Time, clearly positioned the vocalist as the preeminent neo-crooner of his generation. Bublé's 2007 follow-up, Call Me Irresponsible, only further reinforced this notion. Not only had he come into his own as a lithe, swaggering stage performer with a knack for jazzing a crowd, but he had also grown into a virtuoso singer. Sure, he'd never drop nor deny the Sinatra comparisons, but now Bublé's voice -- breezy, tender, and controlled -- was his own. It didn't hurt, either, that he and his producers found the perfect balance of old-school popular song standards and more modern pop covers and originals that at once grounded his talent in tradition and pushed him toward the pop horizon. All of this is brought to bear on Bublé's 2009 effort, Crazy Love. Easily the singer's most stylistically wide-ranging album, it is also one of his brightest, poppiest, and most fun. Bublé kicks things off with the theatrical, epic ballad "Cry Me a River" and proceeds to milk the tune with burnished breath, eking out the drama line by line. It's over the top for sure, but Bublé takes you to the edge of the cliff, prepares to jump, and then gives you a knowing wink that says, not quite yet -- there's more fun to be had. And what fun it is with Bublé swinging through "All of Me," and killin' Van Morrison's classic "Crazy Love" with a light and yearning touch. And just as "Home" worked to showcase Bublé's own writing abilities, here we get the sunshine pop of "Haven't Met You Yet" -- a skippy, jaunty little song that brings to mind a mix of the Carpenters and Chicago. Throw in a rollicking and soulful duet with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings on "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)," and a fabulously old-school close-harmony version of "Stardust" with Bublé backed by the vocal ensemble Naturally 7, and Crazy Love really starts to come together. All of this would be enough to fall in love with the album, but then Bublé goes and throws in a last minute overture by duetting with fellow Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith on Sexsmith's ballad "Whatever It Takes." A devastating, afterglow-ready paean for romance, the song is a modern-day classic that pairs one of the most underrated and ignored songwriters of his generation next to one of the most ballyhooed in Bublé -- a classy move for sure. The result, like the rest of Crazy Love, is pure magic.

Matt Collar, Rovi

Hiding Place

Selah
On its fourth recording, Selah don't step far from their unusual yet successful formula of marrying traditional hymns to contemporary pop and blue-eyed R&B arrangements, African folk songs, Irish melodies, and modern-day praise & worship songs. Siblings Todd Smith and Nicol Sponberg were born to missionaries and raised in central Africa, while Allan Hall was reared in Nashville. The trio met at Belmont College and recorded their first album, Be Still My Soul, for $2000. The rest is history: They've earned four Dove Awards and played Carnegie Hall, as well as holding the dubious distinction of playing on political evangelist Pat Robertson's 700 Club program. Hiding Place's best moments are in its traditional songs, such as "Essengo," a Congolese folk song sung in Kituba, while the old nugget "By and By" is arranged as a chanted African singalong, making it fresh and interesting. However, the trio's attempt at a funky rock arrangement -- which may be edgy for conservative churchgoers -- is almost laughably bad as pop music. The arrangement of "Through It All" is respectable, but largely because Sponberg finally cuts loose a little, thanks to being prodded by a host of real gospel singers in the background. Also, it is interesting to note that Selah's "Irish" tune, "You Raise Me Up," is actually about as new age a Celtic melody and arrangement as is possible to put on tape. As a marketing gimmick, each member gets a solo track tagged on as a bonus at the end of the set to promote upcoming solo projects (all to be released simultaneously). Ultimately, it comes down to whether you dig this group on a basic level or not. If you do, this will be another delight. If you find Selah's music rather bland, Hiding Place will do nothing to change your view.

The Greatest Doo Wop

Various Artists

Classic Sinatra: His Great Performances 1953-1960

Frank Sinatra
A good single-disc compilation of his Capitol years, covering 1953 to the beginning of the 1960s. His Capitol output was so extensive that it's impossible for a 20-song anthology to give a comprehensive overview even of the highlights. Also, as this focuses on the albums he made with Capitol, some of his biggest hits of the time are omitted, such as "Learnin' the Blues," "Hey! Jealous Lover," and "High Hopes." Still, a lot of the performances much of the public identifies with the singer are here, including "I Get a Kick out of You," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Witchcraft," "All the Way," "Come Fly With Me," "One for My Baby," "Young at Heart," and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Jewel: Lullaby

Jewel
Clearly intended to appear at the end of Jewel's run on Dancing with the Stars -- a run that was pre-empted due to injury -- Lullaby finds her delivering her first children's album, appropriately appearing on Fisher Price Records. That label and title, along with versions of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and "Brahms Lullaby," are the strongest indication that Lullaby is intended for little ones; if it was taken as pure sound, it's almost indistinguishable from Jewel's earliest albums, particularly her crawling, portentous sophomore effort, Spirit. To her credit, Jewel never panders to kids, never creates something sickly sweet or cutesy, she merely delivers a collection of lullabies intended to relax and soothe. She succeeds so well in that regard that none of the individual songs stand out, they all blend together in a sweet, sometimes haughty sigh, something that will ease plenty of children into slumber.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage

Susan Boyle
Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage is the fourth studio album from Susan Boyle. This album documents the singer’s love of musicals from the stage and screen. Packed with iconic songs, Boyle’s renditions of classics such as ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, ‘Send In The Clowns’, ‘Memory’ are show-stoppers. With collaborations with Michael Crawford on ‘The Music Of The Night’ and with Donny Osmond on ‘All I Ask Of You’ and ‘This Is The Moment, Rovi

A Certain Smile

Johnny Mathis

Encore of Their Golden Hits

The Platters

It's Time

Michael Bublé

Closer

Josh Groban
In a short period of time, Josh Groban went from being a talented vocalist ready to enter college to the new prince of romantic music with a best-selling debut album and highly rated PBS special. The successful combination of his classical crossover croon, boyish good looks, and association with überproducer David Foster helped Groban become a sensation. His sophomore studio disc, Closer, stays comfortably within the boundaries built by his debut collection as Foster once again helms a modest set of pseudo-classical pop songs dreamily sung in various languages. Listening to Groban, it is easy to understand why this MOR style suits him so well as his maturing voice is not grand enough to fully embrace operatic material yet remains too rich and technical for typical mainstream pop music. On Closer he works within his limitations and the result is a more consistent listen than the scattershot debut with his voice sounding comfortable performing these emotional European-inspired pop songs. The best tunes bookend the disc as the atmospheric opener, "Oceano," sets an ominous tone while the mysterious "Never Let Go" is a welcome collaboration with Deep Forest that allows Groban to successfully move away from the saccharine ballads and grow as a vocalist. However, there is still plenty of romance included for the PBS crowd as "When You Say You Love Me" painfully cries out like a rejected Celine Dion cut and the Celtic-infused bombast of Secret Garden's "You Raise Me Up" plays like the sequel to his debut's most famous song, "To Where You Are." In addition to his improved vocals, Groban contributes three co-writing efforts that include "Never Let Go," and shows that there is a future for him to evenly match his skills as a vocalist and a songwriter. Although the disc still focuses on bland rose petal confessions, its highlights point in the right direction and bring Groban Closer to creating an album that eliminates the sick sweetness while remaining a tasty, satisfying treat. [A Japanese version added a bonus track.]

Duets

Barbra Streisand
In her lengthy career, Barbra Streisand has never shown much inclination to share the spotlight. In the movies, she must endure a leading man, but in her recordings, she has gone it alone for the most part. In 1978, however, a disc jockey edited together her and Neil Diamond's recordings of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," and she and Diamond quickly cut a real duet, resulting in a number one hit. Thereafter, she cannily coaxed others into sharing the microphone, resulting in chart singles with Donna Summer, Barry Gibb, Kim Carnes, former boyfriend Don Johnson, Bryan Adams, and Celine Dion, and album tracks with Johnny Mathis, Michael Crawford, and Vince Gill. The material mostly consisted of mediocre adult contemporary ballads that were outshone by the star power of the singers. This album collects all those duets, plus a couple of newly recorded mediocre adult contemporary ballads sung with Barry Manilow and Josh Groban, and a few stray tracks from the 1960s and early '70s when Streisand joined another singer. Her unsuitability to the duet format is repeatedly evidenced, as she seems virtually incapable of shutting up when her partner is trying to take a solo, invariably humming in the background to draw attention back to herself. The only real exception to this rule is the version of "I've Got a Crush on You" recorded for Frank Sinatra's own Duets album, a track Streisand did not control. Naturally, the best performances occur when she is paired with a singer who is more than just a cipher -- Sinatra, Ray Charles, or Judy Garland, the latter two in TV performances. Then, of course, there's the medley of "One Less Bell to Answer" and "A House Is Not a Home" on which she finally finds the perfect duet partner, her overdubbed self!

William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Breathless

Kenny G
One among many huge hit albums featuring the shimmering, willowy soprano sax solos of Kenny G. He's the best-selling saxophonist of all time, and has never claimed to be a jazz musician, which is accurate. These are simple, sometimes enjoyable, pop tunes with forgettable melodies, and no harmonic tension or rhythmic excitement.

Ron Wynn, Rovi

Live: Barefoot At The Symphony

Idina Menzel
Stage, film, and television star Idina Menzel's Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, was recorded in Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music headquarters in Toronto. Backed by the 52-piece Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony conducted by the legendary Marvin Hamlish, the 16-track set features some of Broadway's biggest hits. Barefoot at the Symphony is also available on DVD. ! James Christopher Monger, Rovi

Catch Me If You Can

Original Broadway Cast Recording
Based on Steven Spielberg's 2002 film of the same name, the Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can follows the true life adventures of teenage con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. Boasting a book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray), the original Broadway cast recording features 17 tracks from the Tony Award-winning musical, including “Live and Living Color,” “Don’t Break the Rules,” “Stuck Together (Strange But True),” and "Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year."

James Christopher Monger, Rovi

Prince Royce

Prince Royce
Most notably featuring a smash hit bilingual version of the Ben E. King standard "Stand by Me," the eponymous album debut by Prince Royce is typical of the urban bachata style that arose in the wake of Aventura. The sensational success of Aventura during the 2000s led to innumerable other urban bachata acts from New York such as Bachata Heightz, a group from the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan that made its album debut a couple months earlier. Fortunately, Prince Royce is one of the more promising urban bachata acts to emerge in some time. Hailing from the Bronx, the photogenic 20-year-old bachatero has an enchanting voice and drops seductive asides throughout his debut album, often switching from Spanish to English when the moment comes to whisper something sexy. Granted, he has a tendency to name-check himself far too often (not just on the lead single either, but on practically every song on the album), but it's easily excusable when the music is as well produced as it is here. Credit Andrés Hidalgo with the crisp production job, which is often spare but adds touches of urban beats here and there. The final ten seconds of album highlight "Corazón Sin Cara" are a perfect example of this. It's not until those final ten seconds that the urban beats kick in after three and a half minutes of more or less typical bachata graced with an elegant string arrangement. The restraint on behalf of Hidalgo is remarkable. After a couple listens to the song, you'll find yourself eagerly awaiting those precious few beats, which fade out almost as soon as they kick in. Of course, the smash hit cover version of "Stand by Me" is also notable. Though it's sung primarily in English, the few times that Royce switches to Spanish are memorable. It's a tasteful, surprisingly straightforward cover version that once again shows great restraint by Hidalgo. While there are other standout songs, "Tu y Yo" in particular, Prince Royce is a short album. If you subtract the superfluous remix of "Stand by Me," there are only nine songs that barely surpass a half-hour's worth of music.

Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Top Songs

Fly Me to the Moon (in Other Words)

Frank Sinatra

Don't Know Why

Norah Jones

You Raise Me Up

Josh Groban

Let It Go

The Piano Guys

It's A Beautiful Day

Michael Bublé

Stand by Me

Prince Royce

Haven't Met You Yet

Michael Bublé

Feeling Good

Michael Bublé

Come Away With Me

Norah Jones

My Way

Frank Sinatra

Your Great Name

Natalie Grant

The Power Of Love (Radio Edit)

Céline Dion

On My Own

Patti LaBelle

Hallelujah

Susan Boyle

Te Me Vas

Prince Royce

The Prayer (feat. Celine Dion)

Andrea Bocelli

Day-O - Banana Boat Song

Harry Belafonte

I Write the Songs

Barry Manilow

Mandy

Barry Manilow

Requiem for a Dream

Jennifer Thomas

I Dreamed a Dream

Susan Boyle

Hallelujah

The Canadian Tenors