“Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne”, Various Artists

81si31zna5l-sl1500-1395950189Don Henley, Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt are just a few of the artists contributing tracks to Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. The 23-track album from Music Road Records premieres at USA TODAY, a week in advance of its April 1 release.

“The album was supposed to be only 15 tracks on one CD,” says Tamara Saviano, one of the album’s co-producers. “As these things happen, the more people hear about it, they more they want to be part of it.”

Henley was one of the first artists to commit to the proejct, Saviano says. “Don Henley immediately said he wanted to These Days, and, of course, we all thought that was perfect,” she says. “He found Blind Pilot on YouTube. He went to Portland and worked with the band and their engineer and producer. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”

“Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard”, Various Artists

Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard, released April 1merle-haggard1 on Broken Bow Records. The album includes performances fromJason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Kristy Lee Cook, Ben Haggard, Randy Houser, Toby Keith, Dustin Lynch, Joe Nichols, Jake Owen, Parmalee, Thompson Square andJames Wesley.

Mickey Jack Cones, Derek George, Michael Knox, Jeff Stevens, andMark Miller are the producers behind the project.

“Merle Haggard is a founding-father of country music and is an inspiration to us all. I am honored to be a part of such a significant collaboration between today’s biggest artists and a one of the greatest country music legends of our time,” says Cones.

Leon Russell, “Life Journey”

91q8n5veqpl-sl1280-1395948666After 50 years as a session player, producer, songwriter, label owner, rock star and – on 2010′s The Union – as Elton John‘s duet partner, Leon Russell could tell tales strong enough to curdle milk. Instead, the 72-year-old pianist crafts a less slanderous but equally colorful musical autobiography on Life Journey, a wry collection of blues, jazz and pop oldies fleshed out by two Russell compositions, the ribald rocker “Big Lips” and the big-band finale, “Down in Dixieland.” Russell’s croon may be raspy, but it’s always eloquent: Dig the fondness he brings to “Georgia on My Mind” while coaxing from his keys a kindred finesse that’s alternately yearning and joyous.

Mac DeMarco, “Salad Days”

71iftvufj7l-sl1400-1395949283“Macky’s been a bad, bad boy,” Mac DeMarco declares on his second album. Glance around the Internet, and you can see why: The 23-year-old Montreal indie rocker loves to get naked, smoke and crossdress. It’d be easy to write him off as another product of Generation Selfie. But Salad Days is packed with wry, knowing lyrics and washed-out vocals, like a meeting of Stephen Malkmus and Marc Bolan. On “Let My Baby Stay,” he ruminates on relationship paranoia, and “Brother” philosophically urges you to “let it go” over groovy, pot-fueled guitars – it’s slacker rock that (sort of) has a message.

 

 

Rihanna, “Nobody’s Business”

Chris Brown only shows up once on Rihanna’s seventh LP, during the defiant “Nobody’s Business.” But the abusive ex she took back is like a co-writer throughout, sort of the way Germany was a co-writer on World War II: “I was flying till you knocked me to the floor,” she sings on “No Love Allowed.” Unapologetic‘s stark, shadowy R&B is confrontationally honest and sung within an inch of its life, whether she’s turning a strip-club anthem into a declaration of independence (“Pour It Out”) or pleading at the piano (“Stay”). When she sings, “I’m prepared to die in the moment,” on “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary,” a clichéd line pulses with real terror and impossible resolve.

 

 

Peter Buck

Peter Buck is the first ex-member of R.E.M. to take the solo plunge, and the guitarist has totally done it his way: cutting the whole thing in five days, on analog tape, with his friends, including R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, R.E.M. associates Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, and members of the Decemberists and Sleater-Kinney. And it’s only on vinyl. No turntable? Tough luck. Or get one, because there is great fun here, including crackling garage rock (“10 Million BC”), acid-ballad whimsy (“Travel Without Arriving”) and two dusky jangle-pop jewels, “Nothing Matters” and “Nothing Means Nothing” (the latter sung by Corin Tucker), that would have fit just fine on another, classic R.E.M. album.

Aerosmith, “Music From Another Dimension!”

And just like that, Steven Tyler’s solo career seems like a strange dream we all had. The Aerosmith reunion album is the first collection of new tunes the bad boys from Boston have managed since 2001. Nobody knows why Aerosmith can’t seem to do anything the easy way – you’d think these five guys could knock out an Aerosmith album in their sleep. (And it wouldn’t be the first time they made a record that way.) But that’s all just part of their long-running mystique as rock & roll’s ultimate dysfunctional family.

Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes

On this EP, former Animals singer Eric Burdon – who seemed to have disappeared until Bruce Springsteen invited him onstage at SXSW in March – teams with Cincinnati garage-rock trio the Greenhornes for 17 minutes of raw, rugged fun. Producer Brendan Benson lets the volume needle rock the red zone as the combo blasts through bruising meditations on dread and despair; “Cab Driver” edges close to Muslim-bashing, but “Out of My Mind” evokes the haunted blues Burdon’s always done well. Ragged isn’t always right here, but this taste leaves you wanting more.

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Rush, Clockwork Angels

It’s not exactly a news flash when at the beginning of Rush’s latest album, “Clockwork Angels,” frontman Geddy Lee pro

claims, “I can’t stop thinking big.” The Canadian trio has always stretched large ideas across an expansive soundscape, blending hard rock, prog and metal. And the five years since the band’s last album, “Snakes & Arrows,” have given Rush plenty of time to create a lot of new music. “Clockwork Angels” weighs in at a formidable 66 minutes, time enough for a kitchen-sink’s worth of ideas and a weighty conceptual focus by drummer/lyricist Neil Peart about one man’s journey to realize his dreams. (Look for the novel soon.) The album’s seven-minute opuses range from tight (“Headlong Flight”) to the messy title track, while fans of Rush’s classic, riff-driven approach and ensemble virtuosity will find aural nirvana in “The Anarchist,” “Seven Cities of Gold,” “The Wreckers” and “Wish Them Well.”

Rita Wilson, “AM/FM”

Sensuous U.S. radio hits from the Sixties and Seventies have a surprisingly able proponent in Rita Wilson, the L.A.-born actress and producer who debuts as a singer with this collection. Helped by Sheryl Crow (“Angel of the Morning,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”), Chris Cornell (“All I Have to Do Is Dream”), Faith Hill (“Love Has No Pride”) and others, Wilson renews Watergate-era gems with an expressive denim-and-suede soprano; on “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” she andJackson Browne sing a song from 1971, but the stripped-down, bossa-nova-flavored arrangement, like much of AM/FM itself, feels timeless.

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