>> Annie Lennox: Medusa
A covers album given Annie’s unique treatment.
>> Miami Sound Machine: Primitive Love
The Latin pop band fronted by Gloria Estefan finally started to see crossover success in the US with this 1985 album featuring “Conga”.
>> Renaissance: Novella
Symphonic prog masterpiece from 1977. Renaissance blended progressive rock with orchestral arrangements to great success in the ’70s, and this album was no exception. The new reissue includes a 2CD bonus concert from 1977 at The Royal Albert Hall performing with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
>> Diana Ross: Playlist: The Very Best of Diana Ross
Unlike many “best of” compilations, the full-length album versions of the songs are used here, which is especially welcome when some of the songs are of the disco or dance variety, where single versions don’t give the song enough time to properly stretch out.
>> Roxette: Joyride
Roxette may have been more popular in their native Sweden, but after their breakout Look Sharp! in 1988, this followup from 1991 benefitted from some of that momentum overseas as well, including the title single.
>> Emily Bear: Five Years Wise
>> Emily Bear: The Love In Us
>> Emily Bear: Once Upon A Wish
>> Emily Bear: Always True
>> Emily Bear: Hope
>> Emily Bear: Diversity
>> Emily Bear Trio: Into the Blue
Don’t let the cute little girl on the album covers fool you. She is a piano prodigy who wrote her first song at age three, has been mentored by the likes of Quincy Jones, and all but the first of these albums are comprised of her own compositions (and even that first one still has a few). These albums were written and recorded from ages five to fourteen, and are mostly in the classical/new age vein, but not tied down to any one style. As she grew up she began exploring jazz more (Diversity and Into the Blue) and most recently popular music. Now seventeen, I happened to see Emily performing a new jazz/pop crossover song on TV recently, then I watched a live performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with a full orchestra filmed when she was thirteen, and I became a fan, ordering her complete discography to date directly from her website.
>> Renaissance: Live at Carnegie Hall
>> Renaissance: A Song for All Seasons
More remastered and expanded Renaissance reissues, including their grand live album from 1975 and their memorable 1978 album. Both sets include additional live performances as bonus tracks, including a full show from 1978 in the latter.
>> Joe Hisaishi: Princess Mononoke
Released as part of the GKIDS Princess Mononoke blu-ray collector’s set is a reissue of the original Japanese edition soundtrack CD of the film. It includes an additional vocal version of Princess Mononoke’s theme, which was omitted from the 1999 US release of the soundtrack. The ending theme is also the original Japanese language version. (The 1999 US edition had the English version of the theme.)
>> Seal: Crazy
CD maxi-single from 1990 with an assortment of remixes of the famous song. Found this at a library booksale for all of 50 cents!
>> Masakatsu Takagi: Mirai
The score for Mamoru Hosoda’s latest cinematic masterpiece.
>> The Cranberries: In The End
Swan song for the Irish band, which had begun recording demos before Dolores O’Riordan’s passing. With O’Riordan’s family’s blessing, the rest of the band completed the songs which had been started, sending The Cranberries off and honoring their departed singer and lyricist.
>> Henry Jackman: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Score for the Disney film.
>> King’s X: Out of the Silent Planet
>> King’s X: Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
>> King’s X: Faith Hope Love
>> King’s X: King’s X
>> King’s X: Dogman
Long overdue physical copies of the power-prog trio’s first five albums are at last mine, thanks to a budget-priced box set. I’ve been a King’s X fan for quite a while now, thanks to a good friend of mine, and I saw them put on a great live show for the XV album tour about a decade ago.
>> Mike & The Mechanics: Out of the Blue
Artists covering themselves is sort of an odd trend, and Mike Rutherford’s band (originally a solo splinter from Genesis but now his main focus) is the latest to join in. Sort of a “reverse” live album, the current lineup of the band records new studio versions of many of Mike’s earlier hits first recorded by the original Mechanics lineup (or to put it another way, studio versions of what they currently play live on tour), after three new songs open the album. Also included in the deluxe edition, which comes as a hardback photobook, is an EP of acoustic versions of two new-Mechanics and four old-Mechanics tracks .
>> Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum
A 2018 concert recording from the Super tour at London’s Royal Opera House. The show’s full audio is included as a 2CD set with the concert film on blu-ray. The setlist is a nice mix of new songs and old ones with new arrangements (or remixes, as it were).
This was no coincidence. As soon as Will started walking towards that glowing door in Stranger Things 2, I knew exactly what scene was being recreated.
>> The Cranberries: Something Else
The band revisits songs from their past with new acoustic and string arrangements on this 2017 album, their last before Dolores O’Riordan’s untimely passing in 2018.
>> Prince: Sign “☮” the Times
Prince’s ambitous double album from 1987 is one I’ve wanted to add to my collection for years. “U Got The Look” has been a favorite song of mine for more than three decades now.
>> Renaissance: Ashes Are Burning
Newly remastered edition of the iconic 1972 symphonic prog album. Also features three recently discovered live BBC tracks.
>> Snail Mail: Lush
Apparently Snail Mail was the big news last year, but that shows you just how tuned into music pop culture I am these days. My sister showed me a recent performance of Lindsey Jordan’s band Snail Mail from one of the late night shows, and I was intrigued. She isn’t even 20 years old yet, but is a talented guitar player and songwriter. She has an unrefined “raw” voice (which is actually refreshing for a change), and her sound brings to mind the “indie” scene of the 1990s: clean electric guitar with lots of reverb, somewhat distant vocals (also with reverb), drums and bass.
>> Devin Townsend: Empath
Townsend’s latest musical horcrux is a widely varied selection of music summarizing his personal journey over the last few years. And in typical Devin fashion, he wrote enough music for a double album, but didn’t want to release a double album, so he included the rest of the songs anyway as a bonus disc of highly polished “demos”.
>> Phil Collins: Serious Hits… Live!
>> The Phil Collins Big Band: A Hot Night in Paris
Newly remastered editions of Phil’s live albums from 1990 and 1999, respectively. The latter, of course, is his big band project from the late 1990s, where he led the band from the drum kit (à la Buddy Rich) with big band arrangements of solo and Genesis songs, with a few other covers as well.
>> Dream Theater: Distance Over Time
A welcome return to form after the unfortunate
The Disappointing The Astonishing, which was actually a Petrucci/Rudess project performed by Dream Theater. This time, the whole band wrote the album together, John Myung is writing lyrics again, and Mike Mangini is finally fully integrated into the band. The best from the current lineup by far.
>> The Glenn Miller Orchestra: In The Christmas Mood II
Volume two of Christmas classics performed in vintage big band style.
>> Anthony Phillips & Andrew Skeet: Seventh Heaven
New remastered edition of the 2012 orchestral collaboration from the Genesis founding member. This set includes the original 2CD album, plus a new disc with ten bonus tracks, and a DVD with the entire album in 5.1 surround.