Bob Marley and the Wailers Roots, Rock, Remixed (Quango)
Since most remix/tribute discs bite, the listenability of Roots, Rock, Remixed comes as a pleasant surprise. With a couple of exceptions, the album’s programmers wisely steer clear of the most overplayed Marley material in favor of less known compositions epitomized by “Duppy Conqueror,” “African Herbsman” and “400 Years.” Moreover, mixers such as Bombay Dub Orchestra, Afrodisiac Sound System and DJ Spooky treat the songs with respect rather than as an excuse to cut and paste ad nauseum. Far more agreeable than anyone could have expected. – Michael Roberts
Fionn Regan The End of History (Lost Highway)
A Dubliner by birth, Regan is a singer-songwriter/guitarist who croons in a shy, fragile voice that can’t help but recall a certain British folkie who died tragically during the first half of the ‘70s – you know the one. But despite similarities of songs and sensibility, The End of History (a nominee for the Mercury Prize) winds up making a mark anyhow. “Hunters Map,” “Snowy Atlas Mountains” and the rest draw listeners in to an aural universe as delicate as a glass figurine, and just as precious. – Roberts
Various artists Bratz: Motion Picture Soundtrack (Geffen)
Prima J’s “Rock Star,” which opens this soundtrack, certainly lives up to the Bratz concept: The cut’s so smug and irritating that it deserves to be grounded for a month. Yet smug irritation is preferable to sitting through bland, personality-free offerings by Joanna, Orianthi, etc. If music’s going to blow, it should at least blow in a memorable way. – Roberts
Chet Baker Chet: Keepnews Collection (Riverside)
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The latest releases issued as part of the Keepnews Collection, named for producer Orrin Keepnews, who worked with Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and oodles of jazz giants, are uniformly impressive: Typical is Caravan, a vibrant early ‘60s set courtesy of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The best of the bunch, though, is Chet, one of the most emotionally complex jazz recordings ever pressed into plastic. Backed by a masterful supporting cast led by guitarist Kenny Burrell, pianist Bill Evans and bassist Paul Chambers, Baker explores his psyche via trumpeting that can move from romantic to poignant to optimistic to gloomy in the span of a single phrase. – Roberts
Mick Harvey Two of Diamonds (Mute)
While Harvey, a longtime Nick Cave collaborator, shares some of his employer’s sensibilities, his own sound is generally subtler and gentler, with far fewer tangents into pure melodrama. As a result, some listeners may overlook Two of Diamonds, his latest solo album – and that would be a shame. Tunes such as “Here I Am,” a somber air dominated by James Johnston’s organ work and Harvey’s soft-spoken vocalizing, sound better on the fifth listen than they do on the first. Two of Diamonds is a winning draw. – Roberts