nolead ends In case you weren't convinced Bob Dylan was serious about this standards-singing thing after his first set of Sinatra-associated songs with Shadows in the Night in 2015 or his second with Fallen Angels in 2016, the gravelly voiced Bard has now tripled down on his Great American Songbook concept. This three-disc, 30-song set contains not one word or note written by the recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Instead, it gathers up familiar and not-so-familiar pre-rock romances by Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh, and Jimmy Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn. Haters of latter-day Dylan's acid-bath voice need not apply. But fans of the not-merely-pretty will find plenty to enjoy in the ways his touring band gently swings such equally sentimental and profound masterworks as "The Best Is Yet to Come," "Imagination," and "Stormy Weather," while being moved by the way Dylan, now past the September of his years, teases out meaning from other people's lyrics that he seems to regard with more reverence and respect than he does his own.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Rick Ross
nolead ends nolead begins Rather You Than Me
nolead ends nolead begins (Epic ***)
nolead ends There are many changes afoot for the (other) Boss, Rick Ross. Eleven years since his classic Port of Miami, the baritone rapper/flashy producer has shifted labels (Def Jam for Epic), followed the more caramel-coated R&B muse that filled the moody majority of his last album, the shamefully slept upon Black Market of 2015, and crafted a new pro-black stance with politicized sidebars ("I'm happy Donald Trump became president, because we gotta destroy before we elevate") far from his usual drugs-money-strippers-power mien.
Ross and co-producers Bink and Lil' C take Thom Bell's "People Make the World Go Round" for a swanky new ride (the corny but cool "I Think She Likes Me"). The Boss joins with Philly pal Meek Mill and pensive R&B vocalist Anthony Hamilton for the product-placement-hop "Lamborghini Doors." Then Ricky Rosay pairs with new jack swing king Raphael Saadiq for the groovy, thought-provoking "Apple of My Eye" and some of that aforementioned Trump trash talking. That so much braggadocio and such trash chat continues with "Idols Become Rivals" means the new Boss is the same as the old Boss.
- A.D. Amorosi
nolead begins The Mavericks
nolead ends nolead begins Brand New Day
nolead ends nolead begins (Mondo Mundo / Thirty Tigers ***1/2)
nolead ends It's safe to say no band sounds quite like the Mavericks. Who else weaves such an audaciously big and broad musical tapestry, one that incorporates everything from Spectorian pop to Sinatra swing, along with generous nods to the group's country and Latin roots?
Of course, it helps to have a singer as prodigiously gifted as Raul Malo, who has the pipes to match the Mavericks' dense sound. Even at his most operatically Orbisonesque, he skirts the florid and the bombastic to make a direct emotional connection.
As usual, Malo also cowrote or wrote all the songs on Brand New Day. On "Easy as It Seems," he sings, "Building walls between us doesn't fix a thing." Of course, it's hard not to read that as sly political commentary, but the Mavericks' insistently joyous music also shows what can happen when barriers between musical styles are so skillfully and merrily shattered.
- Nick Cristiano