We're offering an after-Labor Day CD clearance column today, touching on some summer releases that kept falling by the review wayside, as well as fresh stuff primed for fall listening.
SHADES OF ROCK: If your taste runs to moody, portentous rock colored with tremulous guitars and haunted vocalists, you'll find the latest, self-titled set from "Interpol" (Matador, B-) arresting. They ooze Euro sensibility, starting with the name, though in fact the group hails from New Yawk.
Howling, paranoid metal music ain't usually my cup of tea. But Stonesour tempers the bellowing on "Audio Secrecy" (Roadrunner, B), summoning some authentic melodies - including earnest ballads - that prove quite fetching.
Do you like romantic-minded, life-lesson-sharing piano men? Billy, Elton, or that dude from Five for Fighting? If so, try on the self-titled set from Brendan James (Decca, B). His brutally honest kiss off "The Fall" and "Different Kind of Love" are especially good fits.
With noted producer Tony Visconti working the dials, Richard Barone (of Bongos fame) sometimes achieves a muffled, Paul McCartney-esque vocal aura on "Glow" (Bar/None, B-). The album-sticker hype - "Like a lost solo Beatle album from a glam-rock future world" - is a bit of an overstatement, though.
ONE STEP BEYOND: With his smartly spiced, sweet-swaying, Spanish-language renderings of songs like "Tenderly" and "Perfidia," vocalist Issac Delgado's "L*O*V*E" (Calle54/Masterworks, A) offers an apt tribute to Nat King Cole as a promoter of Latin-flavored pop. Brother Freddy Cole even pops in to lend a couple of vocal assists.
As "The Trio of Oz" (Ozmosis Records, B), keyboardist Rachel Z, drummer Omar Hakim and acoustic bassist Maeve Royce join the parade of jazz talents riffing on contemporary rock hits - including florid, Keith Jarrett-like twists on Coldplay's "Lost" and New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." Other cites include Alice in Chains (heavy!), the Swedish psychedelic band Dungen (in town at Johnny Brenda's tonight), the Killers, Morrissey, Death Cab for Cutie and the Police.
BLUES 'N' FOLK: Got room in your heart for another blue-eyed emulator of classic soul music? Eli "Paperboy" Reed hopes you'll "Come and Get It!" (Capitol, B-). Don't think that the more newsworthy James Hunter and James Morrison should feel especially challenged.
Tony Joe White, virtual inventor of the "swampadelic" country/blues/rock style and author of Elvis' (and Tony Joe White's) hit "Polk Salad Annie," is captured in a long-lost concert set, "That on the Road Look" (Warner Bros./Rhino, B+), which still wails, even if nobody knows exactly where or when it was recorded.
The Chris O'Leary Band offers a virtual encyclopedia of roadhouse blues styles, from boogie woogie to Southside Chicago electric rockin' to Louisiana Mardi Gras stompers, on the entertaining "Mr. Used To Be" (Vizztone, B+). His Marines tribute, "Dress Blues," and engine-revving ode to a "Grease Monkey Mama" jump out.
I meant to wax nostalgic about the late, great, mountain-music talent Ola Belle Reed around Philadelphia Folk Festival time, since Ola Belle used to play the festival with some regularity, after moving north to Chester County. But truth is, her spartan, spiritually minded songs gathered on the "Rising Sun Melodies" collection (Smithsonian Folkways, B) prove inspiring any time of the year.
SHOW STOPPERS: What's different about the "Sondheim on Sondheim" (PS Classics, A) revue from all those other tributes to the Broadway composer? This musicade, captured on two CDs, boasts entertaining narration by the subject himself and a rich offering of his obscurities - from the first song that Sondheim ever wrote, as a boarding student at Newtown's George School, to the original, less-than-stellar opening number for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and a "Gypsy" set piece for Ethel Merman that the belter got to sing but once on stage at the Shubert (now Merriam) Theater during the show's Philly tryout. Here, the vocal firepower is provided by Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat.
COMIC CAPERS: Oi, the yucks I've been having, digging into the collected works of Allan Sherman, the musical humorist star of the '60s, now being celebrated with multiple CD reissues on the Collector's Choice label. His first and biggest album hit was with the Jewish-schtickler "My Son, the Folk Singer" (B), redoing the "Streets of Loredo" as "The Streets of Miami" and "Frere Jacques" as "Sarah Jackman." But everyone can connect with "My Son, the Nut" (A), from whence sprang "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter From Camp)," his computer kvetch "Automation" and the wacky "You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie" that's still a fave of "Kids' Corner" radio host Kathy O'Connell and her brood. Other rib-ticklers (especially if you know the old tunes he's referencing) are found on the Sherman sets "My Son, The Celebrity" and "For Swingin' Livers Only."
VIDEO CLIPS: Musician-turned-photographer Henry Diltz leads us into the hills of Laurel Canyon to celebrate "Legends of the Canyon" (Image Entertainment DVD, B), a celebration of the Southern California folk-rock revolution of the late 1960s and early '70s. Along with Diltz's old stills and home movies, we get fresh flashbacks from David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Michelle Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas), Van Dyke Parks and America's Gerry Beckley.
I used to play the dickens out of the Barclay James Harvest synth-pop song "Mockingbird" in my WMMR DJ-ing days. But after watching the new DVD of their 1980 "Berlin: A Concert for the People" (Eagle Vision, B-), I'm reminded why the group didn't achieve the same success as sonic contemporaries like the Moody Blues and Supertramp. Simply put, BJH didn't have the depth of catalog, and their lyrics were sometimes insipid.