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…these CDs right now:

The Bird and The Bee “Guiltless Pleasures: Volume 1 – A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates”
This synth-pop duo started covering Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That” during their live shows and the reaction from fans was always a positive one. So why not try their hands at a full-length of nothing but Hall and Oates covers, right? Is it gimmicky? Of course. But try listening to this disc even once without singing along. These are great old classics as covered by a fantastic new band, and I’m a sucker for every ounce of it.

Mulatu Astatke “Mulatu Steps Ahead”
Astatke first came onto the jazz scene in the sixties and seventies, blending his Ethiopian heritage with the Latin and jazz sounds of the day. Because of this, he became known as the father of Ethio-jazz. He’s been quite experimental in recent years (including last year’s collaboration with the funk ensemble The Heliocentrics), but here Astatke returns to his roots. The album sways and shifts between Ethio-inspired influences and Western jazz melodies, giving us a new take on an old sound. Mulatu steps ahead, indeed.

Keb Darge & Paul Weller “Lost & Found: Real R’n’B & Soul”
A veritable treasure trove for DJs, “Lost & Found” collects long-forgotten soul obscurities from the fifties and sixties. Scottish DJ Keb Darge and English singer/songwriter Paul Weller of The Jam have dug through the depths of old vinyl crates to dig up lost b-side tracks like Big Mama Thornton’s “They Call Me Big Mama,” The Creation’s “A Dream,” and Slim Harpo’s “I Got Love If You Want It.” The album collects 28 tracks of music you’ve never heard before, but will now never forget.

Soulful! “The Mellow Life”
A sweet (mostly instrumental) album of 18 tracks from Inner Loop Records’ newest member: Soulful! As the name implies, this disc is full of soul and features guest appearances from K-Beta and Shaka. The best part? It’s absolutely free! Just click here to preview songs from the album, then (if you like it… which you will) download the entire disc for free! It’s a great album to get you moving in the morning. And for love-making… but that’s a whole other story.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “I Learned The Hard Way”
If Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings aren’t the hardest working people in the music business, I don’t know who is. This album marks their fourth disc since their 2002 debut, and (like their three previous albums) it doesn’t disappoint. Jones brings back her sixties-inspired funk and soul, and the Dap-Kings once again work their magic; together, they prove they’re far from being a fad band and are here to stay. Sonically, the album is consistent with previous outings, though there were a few moments I found myself hoping for a slight change in production. Still, overall, the album is solid from start to finish. If you dug their previous albums, you’ll dig “I Learned the Hard Way.”

Gorillaz “Plastic Beach”
I was looking forward to this album for months, so I waited a few weeks before writing up my review. Unfortunately, even after multiple listens, my opinion is still the same: This is the weakest Gorillaz album to date. That’s not really saying much, of course, because their first two discs (especially their sophomore album “Demon Days”) are about as close to album perfection as it gets. But the problem here is that I don’t even think of this as a Gorillaz album. It doesn’t sound or feel like Gorillaz; instead, this is simply a Damon Albarn side project that’s littered with guest appearances. In the past, Gorillaz was a vehicle that guest musicians were invited to ride along with. Here, Gorillaz serve (at best) as a backup band to their guest cast, getting completely lost in the mix. It’s not until track thirteen (“Plastic Beach”) that I sense a true Gorillaz presence on their own album; sadly, there are only four tracks left at that point and it becomes an issue of too little, too late. I do like the music that’s on this disc, mainly because I’m a fan of Damon Albarn. But I waited for years in anticipation of a third Gorillaz album and, as far as I’m concerned, as of today I’m still waiting.

Pete Bernhard “Straight Line”
The lead singer of The Devil Makes Three tries his hand at a solo album. This is actually Bernhard’s second solo disc (his first was the self-released “Things I Left Behind”), but it’s his first commercial release. Similar to the trio he’s a member of, Bernhard is hard to categorize; a singer/songwriter who has no time for one single genre. “Straight Line” is ten songs of folk, soul, jazz, blues and old-timey Americana, yet it all fits together perfectly. If this album proves anything it proves that Bernhard is a master of all trades, a jack of none.

More music than I know what to do with,

-Shady

Old Poop!