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Rainbow by Kesha (2017)

It’s been five years since Kesha released an album, and a lot has happen between then and now. If you’ve been following Kesha, you’re probably well aware of her legal battles. Rainbow is one of those albums that highlights how amazing an artist Kesha really is and how much she has grown. A departure from her club pop songs, each song on Rainbow is heartfelt, catchy, and relatable. It also shows her audience a side of Kesha we haven’t seen before.

Did I mention she collaborated with Dolly Parton? Yes, you read that right—Kesha and Dolly! Refreshing, empowering, and fearless, Rainbow earned a space in my CD collection. Highlight songs from this album include singles: “Praying,” “Woman,” “Learn to Let Go,” and “Rainbow.” My personal favorite tracks are “Let ’em Talk” and “Boogie Feet.”
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Push and Shove by No Doubt (2012)

No Doubt’s latest studio album Push and Shove was a much anticipated follow up to their 2001 album Rock Steady. Sadly, this album didn’t get as much commercial promotion that it truly deserved. Push and Shove dives deep into Gwen Stefani’s life, revealing her breaking points and reflecting on her life with then-husband Gavin Rossdale.

Lead single “Settle Down” is a fun summer song that will have you dancing and singing along with it. This album is truly underrated, and my recommended tops songs are “Push and Shove,” “Undone,” and “Dreaming the Same Dream.”
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Joanne by Lady Gaga (2016)

joanneI have not been able to stop listening to Lady Gaga’s newest album Joanne. The album is named in tribute to her long-deceased Aunt Joanne, who passed away at the age of 19 and Gaga never had a chance to meet.

Gaga’s previous albums are much more glam/dance/pop and Joanne is a refreshingly stripped-down showcase of Gaga’s incredible vocal and musical talents.  There is a lot of variety on Joanne – it’s a little bit country, a whole lot of rock, and at times has Latin and Motown influences.

A few of my favorite tracks include: “A-YO” (a party tune that’s just plain fun);  “Joanne” (a heartbreaking acoustic ballad written to her late aunt);  “Hey Girl” (a funky duet with Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine); “John Wayne” (a crowd-pleasing guitar-heavy anthem); “Just Another Day” (perhaps a tribute to the late David Bowie or the Beatles); and “Million Reasons” (a beautiful catchy ballad that you won’t want to stop playing on repeat).  All the songs on this album truly showcase Lady Gaga’s absolutely stunning vocals and her incredible range as an artist.

If you don’t want to wait for the CD, stream it instantly via Hoopla!
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This Is What the Truth Feels Like by Gwen Stefani (2016)

gwenstefaniGwen Stefani has had quite the year. After a much publicized divorce from Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Stefani was on the edge of a breakdown. Much like the breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom (No Doubt – 1995), This Is What the Truth Feels Like takes a familiar tone and reflects what Stefani has been through.

The lead single "Used to Love You" gives listeners Stefani’s true emotion, showing her pain of the love she lost—but the album is not full of anger and disappointment. The album sheds light on Gwen’s newfound love with fellow The Voice coach Blake Shelton with other singles "Make Me Like You" and "Misery." This album is a fresh breath of air from the insecurities she has displayed in previous albums about Rossdale. It is definitely worth the listen.

This Is The Truth Feels Like is Gwen's first solo album to hit #1 on the Billboard top 200 charts. Get the CD in the library or download the album instantly on Hoopla.
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Spotlight: Jazz Vocalists--Some New Recordings

straightnochaserThe Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern  by Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap (2015)

Tony Bennett and pianist Charlap give the gold medal treatment to some lesser known songs by Jerome Kern such as "Yesterdays" and "I'm Old Fashioned." Bennett's voice has aged, but he still has a way with a song and he allows Charlap to occasionally take center stage. A piano and the great Bennett is all it takes to deliver.

macfarlane2No One Ever Tells You by Seth MacFarlane (2015)
MacFarlane's love for Sinatra comes across in his delivery of these standards. MacFarlane's style is perhaps too idolizing of Sinatra. His rendition of "Only the Lonely" seems modeled exactly to Sinatra's phrasing. But MacFarlane, although not revolutionary, sings with a smooth, articulate voice that lands pleasantly on the ear.

foronetoloveFor One to Love by Cecile McLorin Salvant (2015)

Salvant delivers a mixture of original songs and standards with a definite jazz style. She makes the standards her own while still honoring the music and understanding the lyric. In this outing, besides her original compositions, Salvant sings some musical hits including "The Stepsister's Lament" from Cinderella and "Something's Coming" from West Side Story.

Rare Bird Alert by Steve Martin (2011)

rarebirdAlthough this isn’t a new album, it’s possible that many people haven’t heart of it. And since it’s one of my favorites, I felt an obligation to shine a light on it. Rare Bird Alert is a modern bluegrass album by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. What’s that you ask, “Steve Martin of SNL and Pink Panther fame?” Why yes. For fans of Martin, this is good news, since his comedic chops do shine through here, but true bluegrass enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook this album.

Rare Bird Alert includes purely instrumental songs like “The Great Remember,” soothing and meandering, and “Northern Island,” featuring banjo-picking at lightning speed. On some tracks Martin takes the lead on vocals, and on others the Rangers get the honor. Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks make guest appearances.

I love the range of this album, its humor, and the contrasts created. The hilarious break-up song “Jubilation Day” is lively, and although funny, is also a bona fide bluegrass song, a musical treat. Mellow songs like “More Bad Weather On the Way,” always makes me feel like I’m rowing along a river on a sunny day, and “Women Like To Slow Dance” is actually a fast-paced song fit for dancing a jig! While most of the songs are not comedy-album material, the nonsensical “King Tut” is the most likely to make you laugh out loud. “Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia…”
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Dave Koz & Friends: The 25th of December by Dave Koz (2014)

davekozDave Koz is a pro at playing the saxophone. Fans of jazz will love the special holiday CD. Dave Koz & Friends: The 25th of December includes 12 great songs, all with a jazzy twist. It's really fun to listen to in the car on the way to work!

Give Up (10th Anniversary Edition) by The Postal Service (2013)

One of my favorite albums Give Up by The Postal Service has been re-released as a tenth anniversary set. There are only two unearthed songs on the album, but they are fantastic.

The rest of the album serves as reminder of how great Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello are together. Touring for the first time ever this summer, I hope to finally see them live.

http://youtu.be/0wrsZog8qXg
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The Next Day by David Bowie (2013)

After ten years of creative silence, David Bowie's newest album The Next Day came as a surprise to many fans. Apparently crafted over the course of four years, The Next Day was a closely guarded secret by everyone involved in the project up until just two months before its release date.

Composed entirely of new material and produced by Tony Visconti (who previously worked with Bowie on Young Americans, Low, Heroes, and Heathen, among others), The Next Day is a very solid rock album reminiscent of Bowie's later work (Heathen, Reality). It is atmospheric and powerful, with the kind of clever (and sometimes obtuse) lyrics one expects from Bowie-penned songs, making this album certainly worth the wait.

Bowie is a living music and cultural legend, and The Next Day makes it very clear that he is far from retired.

http://youtu.be/gH7dMBcg-gE
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Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones: Live at the Checkerboard Lounge (2012)

On November 22, 1981, the Rolling Stones were in Chicago for a concert and stopped into Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge to hear Muddy Waters and get back to their blues roots. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Ian Stewart joined in. It was incredible watching a young Mick Jagger singing and interacting with the father of modern Chicago blues and Keith Richards jamming on the guitar. Buddy Guy, Lefty Dizz, and Junior Wells are also featured. Bootleg copies existed, but this is the first official film recording of the historic night. The Rolling Stones were named after the Muddy Waters song, “Rollin’ Stone.”

Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones reminded me of the historic night at Sun Records in 1956 when Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley had an impromptu jam session. No film footage exists, but most of the sound was recorded and released as The Million Dollar Quartet. This event spawned the musical, Million Dollar Quartet.

The Music of SMASH (2012)

Loved the show and love this CD! The Music of SMASH features thirteen songs from the first season of the hit TV show.

There's time to catch up on Season 1 before the February 5 premiere of Season 2 on NBC featuring guest actress (and local) Jennifer Hudson.

Gossamer by Passion Pit (2012)

A fabulous and fun album, Gossamer is guaranteed to get you on feet. Despite the upbeat tempo the lyrics tackle some bleak topics such alcoholism, immigration, and suicide.  This is the second album for the electro-pop group, Passion Pit, and it is a wonderful mix of the highs and lows of life. Here is a clip of one of my favorite tracks “Take a Walk.”

httpv://youtu.be/dZX6Q-Bj_xg

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Blunderbuss by Jack White (2012)

If you're a fan of the minimalist tunes of The White Stripes, Blunderbuss by Jack White will have many tunes to please you. Don't miss the song "Love Interruption."

For more on Jack White (half of The White Stripes duo), visit his website.

httpv://youtu.be/iErNRBTPbEc

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [original motion picture soundtrack] (2003)

Another great soundtrack by Howard Shore! The music is very suspenseful and I am usually able to imagine what scenes are playing during each song. I enjoyed listening to this CD when I was in the middle of writing my short story. It gives me a lot of energy and it's very entertaining.

My favorite song from The Return of the King is probably "The Grey Havens." It's the last song during the film, and I think it was a great way to end it.

If you missed last month's review of The Two Towers soundtrack, read it now.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [original motion picture soundtrack] (2002)

I love listening to soundtracks from different films, and The Lord of the Rings movies have some of the best soundtracks. My favorite from The Two Towers is probably "Evenstar." I can listen to it all the time.

Check back next month for my thoughts on The Return of the King soundtrack.

Did you know? You can see what soundtracks we've added to the collection recently.

httpv://youtu.be/im5CIpMFo4Q