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Pop - Released November 22, 2019 | Rhino

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Rod Stewart first embraced his appeal to the middle of the road way back in 2002 when he recorded It Had to Be You, the first in a series of explorations of the Great American Songbook. Given those albums, it's no great surprise to hear Stewart sing with an orchestra on You're in My Heart: Rod Stewart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. What is a surprise is that he's hopped upon the orchestral overdub bandwagon, letting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra glop on strings and horns over original vocal tracks for such hits as "Maggie May." Clever guy that he is, Stewart contributes a couple of ringers -- including a duet with Robbie Williams on "It Takes It Two" -- but those only wind up illustrating how stilted and stiff the overdubs are. On those hybrids, Stewart doesn't seem to be riding the waves of the music, which is a gift he's had since the beginning. Instead, the vocal tracks are tweaked to suit the needs of the orchestra, which gives You're in My Heart an odd stuffiness. Even on his Great American Songbook albums, Stewart hasn't sounded stuffy, so the fault isn't his, unless he should be blamed for consenting to this project in the first place. The reason why the record doesn't work is the concept itself: it's wrapping warm, empathetic recordings in a lounge robe that winds up as suffocating as a straightjacket. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released October 11, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released October 11, 2019 | Rhino

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Pop - Released October 11, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released October 4, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released October 4, 2019 | Rhino

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The problem with the sizable majority of Christmas albums is they sound pretty much the same. Most yuletide records feature the same songs about Jesus or Santa that have been circulating for decades (if not centuries), and regardless of the genre, someone throws in sleigh bells or a "Ho Ho Ho" to remind you that yes, this is Christmas music. So hats off to Los Lobos for making a Christmas album that does something fresh and interesting with songs of the season. For 2019's Llegó Navidad, Los Lobos sifted through dozens of Christmas songs in a variety of Latin genres from South and Central America as well as Mexico (along with a few obscurities from the United States), and what they've delivered is a collection of tunes that (with two exceptions) has flown far under the radar of mainstream listeners in North America. Here the band celebrate the holiday with songs rooted in salsa, cumbia, ranchera, cancion, son jarocho, and Tex-Mex styles, most sung in Spanish, and while there's a genuine warmth and good cheer to these performances, this sounds less like a typical Christmas album and more like a Los Lobos album, which is most certainly a good thing. The group plugs in on a few tracks, but the bulk of Llegó Navidad is dominated by acoustic material, and fans who loved 1988's La Pistola y la Corazon and 2005's Acoustic en Vivo will especially enjoy this. Either acoustic or amplified, this music is performed with the passion, skill, and joy that this band has brought to their work for over 45 years, and listening to them play together is about as pleasurable as American music gets. The album also includes a fresh original tune, an old-school R&B-influenced track called "Christmas and You," and just to give wary listeners something they already know, they close the set with "Feliz Navidad" played like an enthusiastic singalong where friends and family happily shout the chorus, perhaps aided by a beer or two. If you're looking for something to play at your holiday party that's a change of pace, Llegó Navidad will fill the bill quite well, and don't be surprised if it stays in your personal rotation well into the new year. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released October 4, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released September 27, 2019 | Rhino

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Pop - Released September 23, 2019 | Rhino

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Christmas Music - Released October 11, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released September 13, 2019 | Rhino

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Film Soundtracks - Released September 6, 2019 | Rhino

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Pop - Released September 6, 2019 | Rhino

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Pop - Released September 6, 2019 | Rhino

Bringing together all of Echo & the Bunnymen's John Peel sessions for the first time, this 21-track album charts the band's rise from indie unknowns to household names. Included are session versions of some of their most recognizable songs, including "Villiers Terrace" and "The Killing Moon." ~ Rich Wilson

Rock - Released September 6, 2019 | Rhino

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Soul - Released February 1, 1978 | Rhino

When Betty Wright Live was first released in 1978, there was some speculation on whether or not it was really a live album or simply a studio recording with canned applause. To be sure, the applause doesn't sound authentic, and the original LP's liner notes listed neither a recording date nor a location. But whether it was recorded on stage or in the studio, this album (reissued on CD in 1992) provides much evidence of Wright's vitality as a singer. Live became best known for its version of "Tonight Is the Night," a moving account of a young woman losing her virginity to her first true love. But the gritty Miami soulster is equally expressive on Leon Russell's "A Song for You" and versions of her hits "Where Is the Love" and "Clean Up Woman" (which is performed as the main song in an 11-minute medley). Even if the title Betty Wright Live is an example of false advertising, this is a recording that fans of gritty, emotionally direct Southern soul would do well to experience. ~ Alex Henderson
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Soul - Released January 1, 1973 | Rhino

While Hard to Stop lacked a big classic hit on the order of "Clean Up Woman," it was a very solid and varied platter of early-'70s soul. Distinguished by the tight, lean Miami funk-soul of the backup players (particularly guitarist Willie "Little Beaver" Hale), it did offer a couple of pretty big R&B hits with the jittery rhythms of "The Babysitter" and "It's Hard to Stop (Doing Something When It's Good to You)," which was about as bluesy as soul got in 1973. A far more off-the-wall highlight was the radical reinterpretation of Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," which changed it from a hokey pop tune into something that sounded far more grittily proud and defiant. However, it's a pretty consistent record throughout, with other cuts of note including "We the Two of Us," which has a great effervescent Miami organ, and "If You Think You've Got Soul," which weaves in and out of a quasi-tropical groove. The "Clean Up Woman" guitar rhythm is reprised on "Gimme Back My Man," though to less memorable effect than on the hit single. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Punk / New Wave - Released August 30, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released August 23, 2019 | Rhino

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Rock - Released August 23, 2019 | Rhino

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