New Releases

One Day Like This

Rhydian

Billy's Back On Broadway

Billy Porter

The Mission / How Great Thou Art

The Piano Guys

Solace in the Sun

Jimmy James

Piano Recital 1988

Jorge Bolet

Green Eyes

Enoch Light

Something to Turn To

Jim Chappell

Filmatica

Steen Thottrup

The Legacy Continues Phase II

Swanee Quintet

Ferradini: Al santo sepolcro

Roberta Invernizzi

Straight into the Jungle

The Crystalairs

Wir Geh'n Auf Dieselbe Schule

The Crystalairs

Bartók: Piano Pieces, Vol. 7

Jeno Jando

O Piano de Antônio Adolfo

Antonio Adolfo

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

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

Serenity (Sleep Music)

Deep Sleep Band

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

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

The Best of Andrea Bocelli: Vivere

Andrea Bocelli

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

My Love Essential Collection

Céline Dion

Running cadences of the US Armed Forces

Various Artists
Running Cadences of the U.S. Armed Forces is a collection of cadences taken from the U.S. military. The album serves as a soundtrack for exercising as well as a document of popular military chants, making it valuable to former members of the service as well as those who can use it for motivation.

Bradley Torreano, Rovi

Minecraft World

Wildlife

Nothing But The Best (Remastered)

Frank Sinatra

Spa Music

Spa Music

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection

Sarah Brightman
Despite a long history of pop and musical-theater success in England, Sarah Brightman was not well known in the U.S. until her 1997 album Time to Say Goodbye became a triumph, topping the Billboard classical crossover chart for most of 1998. Really Useful Records, her former husband Andrew Lloyd Webber's label, took advantage of her sudden popularity to release this compilation of recordings of Lloyd Webber songs she'd made between 1985 and 1995, and since she had served as a real muse to the composer, many of his most popular songs were included. Several of them -- "Pie Jesu," "All I Ask of You," "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," and "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends for Life)" -- had been chart hits for Brightman in the U.K. So had "The Phantom of the Opera," the title song of a musical Lloyd Webber had written for her and in which she had starred, albeit in a different recording from the one included here, which was the Original London Cast version featuring her co-star, Michael Crawford. Also included were the most memorable songs from such Lloyd Webber shows as Evita ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina"), Song & Dance ("Unexpected Song," "Tell Me on a Sunday"), Aspects of Love ("Love Changes Everything"), and Cats ("Memory," "Gus: The Theatre Cat," "Macavity: The Mystery Cat"). Even the songs that had not been tailored specifically for Brightman had been written for her kind of voice, a full-bodied, dramatic soprano, and she sang with a thorough understanding of the composer's intentions. The result was an excellent primer for anyone who had first encountered Brightman with "Time to Say Goodbye" and was wondering where she came from.

William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Phase II

Prince Royce
Having taken a few more cues from the R&B crowd -- like dropping his trademark "Royyyyyccce" at the beginning of tracks -- Prince Royce's mix of urban, bachata, and Latin pop felt especially fresh and exciting as this sophomore effort landed on shelves, but this ballad-driven release is far from gimmicky. From the massive "it's the little things" hit "Los Cosas Pequeñas," to the broad and uplifting dance-pop of "It's My Time," Prince Royce proves himself to be a talented, heartfelt singer, pulling a lot of soul out of a soft, amiable -- you could even call if featherweight -- voice. It's that light bit of his delivery that makes him approachable, and even if he's got the pedigree of a Dominican kid growing up in oh-so-cool N.Y.C., he's both hip and growing increasingly true to the music, delivering the album's more Bieber, Black Eyed Peas, and Selena moments in a style that's connectable over just crossover. With the genre-spanning and the man's delivery both more natural, the rewarding Phase II is a substantial step up from Royce's debut.

David Jeffries, Rovi

Symphony

Sarah Brightman
Sarah Brightman took five years between 2003's pop exotica outing Harem and Symphony. The over-the-top gothic excess in the artwork here seems like a cousin to Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell II, so much so that it feels like legendary theatrical rock excess king Jim Steinman -- a former associate of Brightman's longtime producer Frank Peterson (who wrote or co-wrote five of these tunes) -- is haunting the recording. Despite the big duet presences here -- Andrea Bocelli (again) on"Canto della Terra," tenor Alessandro Safina on "Sarai Qui," vocalist and actor Fernando Lima, and Kiss' Paul Stanley -- there are relatively few moments of real inspiration amidst the obvious kitsch. Symphony is trademark Brightman. It sits dead center at the crossroads of classical crossover, pop, and musical theater. Despite the star power on board, this is exactly what EMI wanted from her. The reprise of her first duet appearance with Bocelli is a firm showcase for both voices, and "Sarai Qui" with Safina is among best things here -- even if the arrangements threaten to do in all that vocal power. As for "Pasión," Lima's voice, with all of its high tenor acrobatics, is as lilting as her light soprano. It may work in the theater, or in the movies, but it doesn't here. "I Will Be with You (Where the Lost Ones Go)," with Stanley, is a bit of a campy cheat. Brightman originally recorded this for the Pokeman soundtrack with Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann. Stanley's vocal chops just don't equate with the former. With acoustic guitars all but drowned in strings, the emotional punch of the original is lost. Brightman simply soars, and if her ice queen vocal isn't believable emotionally, it contains enough drama to keep it from falling into the abyss.

Peterson and Carsten Heusmann's cool sound and synth loops on "Gothika" set up the meld of bombastic electric guitars and the London Symphony Orchestra in "Fleurs du Mal." It's full of sweeping textures where a lone clarinet sweeps in before the woodwinds on the third verse; strings shift, swoop, and soar; and a choir comes hammering down on the refrain like thunder trying to bury Brightman in her full but false fragility act. The title track begins as one of the most overblown things on the set, but in comparison to others, it is one of the simplest, breeziest melodies here. There is one genuine surprise: a cover of "Sanvean," written by Lisa Gerrard and Andrew Claxton. Brightman allows Gerrard's words (the English title amounts to "I Am Your Shadow") to haunt her, imbuing them with a classically delivered discipline that showcases the otherworldly and sorrowful melody in the piece. And if there were any radio programmers with brains, they'd choose either the classically tinged and passionate Cordel/LaBionda/Brightman number "Storia d'Amore" or the relatively straight-ahead melancholy pop/rock anthem "Let It Rain" as a single. The latter may be more standard radio fare, but the former would grab the attention of anyone who heard it. The album's nine-plus-minute closer, "Running," is a virtual multi-part suite disguised as a single song. There is an operatic intro that becomes fist-in-the-air uplifting rock & roll bombast in the first half -- it even includes an electric guitar solo, enormous drums, and a choir hammering home the refrain with Brightman before it moves back toward opera, then silence, then more orchestral and vocal drama. This track reeks of Steinman -- and his lyrics would have been far better than what is here. Symphony is stronger than Harem, yet not as adventurous as Luna, and is more self-indulgent than both.

Thom Jurek, Rovi

The Greatest Doo Wop

Various Artists

Your Songs

Harry Connick Jr.
Much like 2001's Songs I Heard and 2004's Only You, 2009's Your Songs finds vocalist/pianist Harry Connick, Jr. coming up with an urbane and passionate set of American popular songs and contemporary pop classics that he both performs and orchestrates. While his previous recordings leaned toward the classicist side -- Only You featured songs of the '50s and '60s -- Your Songs features a more eclectic mix of standards and pop songs with Connick's own lush orchestration lending an overall aesthetic of languid romanticism. To this end, Connick turns Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" into a kind of Herb Alpert-inspired '60s pop nugget and, conversely, the Beatles' 1964 classic "And I Love Her" gets a kind of '70s Latin lounge feel with classical guitar flourishes. However, Connick isn't only concerned with reworking tunes in unexpected ways; on the contrary, longtime fans of Connick's swinging neo-crooner work will be pleasantly surprised by his straightforward takes on "Just the Way You Look Tonight" and "Some Enchanted Evening." Similarly engaging are his renditions of such rock-oriented tunes the album's Elton John title track, his low-key version of Don McLean's "And I Love You So," and the Carpenters' "(They Long to Be) Close to You." Ultimately, Your Songs is a classy and feel-good stroll of an album.

Matt Collar, 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

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

A Certain Smile

Johnny Mathis

Rock Swings

Paul Anka
Having written a fair number of them, Paul Anka recognizes a contemporary standard when he hears one, even if it doesn't conform to the historical model as it's existed from the days of Tin Pan Alley to Broadway. And so his songbook of chestnuts plucked from the '80s and '90s rock canon, Rock Swings, fares much better than its closest contemporary, Pat Boone's novelty In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. First of all, there's the material -- a compelling selection of standards that reveals a close inspection and an inspired reimagining of the pop and alternative artists of the period (perhaps not by Anka himself). The disc does commit a few errors by resorting to novelty selections (Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), but the big surprise here is that most of the songs slip into the standards bag with an uncanny ease (Pet Shop Boys' "It's a Sin," Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face," Lionel Richie's "Hello"). No matter how far the stretch, Anka and his inspired primary arranger, Randy Kerber, make these songs work in a swing context; in fact, it takes only a single listen to confirm that the narrator of even Van Halen's "Jump" is at heart quite the ring-a-ding swinger -- casual, cynical, knowing. There are other inspired choices here, tender ballads like R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" or Spandau Ballet's "True," and, astonishingly, the nihilist anthem "Blackhole Sun" by Soundgarden. Most of Chris Cornell's lyrics -- "Hang my head, drown my fear/ Till you all just disappear" -- could easily have found a home on Sinatra's Only the Lonely (although at least one line -- "Call my name through the cream/ And I'll hear you scream again" -- wouldn't have had a prayer). Anka only missteps when he tries to wring meaning from lyrics that require some emotion to carry them; on "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the prime offender, Anka slips into novelty territory when he injects a forceful "Yeah!" immediately after delivering Nirvana's classic lines "A mulatto, an albino/ A mosquito, my libido," as though he can confirm Kurt Cobain's words as a home truth.

John Bush, Rovi

Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By

Kid Koala
Dan the Automator is back under the guise of Nathaniel Merriweather, a man who wants to assist your lovemaking and female-wooing abilities via rhythm. Accompanied by a barrage of extensively talented identites, most notably including Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle, and about a thousand other amazing projects), Jennifer Charles of the Elysian Fields, Kid Koala, Prince Paul and Damon Albarn, he fulfills that intent with an album of trip-hoppy ensembles overlayed with intertwining male and female vocals. The greater moments of the album take place in the mesh of Patton and Charles' soothing vocals, as could be expected given the fact that Patton is arguably the greatest and most versatile vocalist alive. The result invovles some quite peculiar but relaxing amalgamations. 'Book of the Month' sounds like what might happen if Barry White became a member of Portishead. Actually, quite a bit of the album sounds Portishead-ish, which is in no way a bad thing. Something strange and ambient to lay back to, or another brick in the wall of albums for Patton collectors. Overall, 'Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By' is just that, in a very unusual and tongue-in-cheek way.

Blake Butler, Rovi

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

Keith Green Collection

Keith Green
This mid-career anthology of Keith Green recordings contains a trio of precious rarities: three in-concert performances undiluted by producer Bill Maxwell's excessive post-production. Green's best work is done alone with an acoustic piano. The majority of the record showcases Green's studio recordings, which are generally arranged with a pretty typical mix of classic rock guitar and adult contemporary strings. Green's straightforward religious songwriting and predictable rhymes would not be particularly notable were it not for the otherworldly passion of Green's piano and vocal performances. So when the production is stripped down to the source of the passion, the result is impressive: "Rusing Wind" is a dramatic prayer for interaction with the spiritual; "Scripture Song Medley" is a contagiously jubilant romp through a bunch of ordinarily unremarkable campfire tunes; "The Sheep and the Goats" is a one-man dramatization of a Biblical story, in which Green plays all the characters as he scores his own play on the piano (the mixture of melodrama with irreverent humor was typical of Green's unsettling sermons). These live tracks are connected to the studio tracks with impressive instrumental improvisations, and it's always disappointing when one of the live performances crossfades into an album version.

Darryl Cater, Rovi

Top Songs

Fly Me to the Moon (in Other Words)

Frank Sinatra

You Raise Me Up

Josh Groban

Let It Go

The Piano Guys

Haven't Met You Yet

Michael Bublé

Don't Know Why

Norah Jones

Close Your Eyes

Michael Bublé

It's A Beautiful Day

Michael Bublé

My Way

Frank Sinatra

Stand by Me

Prince Royce

The Power Of Love (Radio Edit)

Céline Dion

Feeling Good

Nina Simone

Con Te Partirò

Andrea Bocelli

The Mission / How Great Thou Art

The Piano Guys

Mandy

Barry Manilow

I Dreamed a Dream

Susan Boyle

Weekend in New England

Barry Manilow

Jump in the Line

Harry Belafonte

Day-O - Banana Boat Song

Harry Belafonte

Your Great Name

Natalie Grant