APPLE VENUS VOLUME 1: XTC (TVT)Gone for too long, the storied British pop act returns with its musical and lyrical wits intact. The ditty "Your Dictionary" spells the ruin of a relationship much more bluntly than "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" ever did.
20 CENTURIES OF HITS (Rhino) A great gimmick--musical works from each century of the last two millennia. Yes, but also a great introduction to early music, from the monks of Ampleforth Abbey's stirring plainsong to the Clemencic Consort's rowdy troubadour tunes of the 12th century--along with "Green-sleeves," "Amazing Grace," and "Louie, Louie," too.
KULTRUM: Dino Saluzzi and Rosamunde Quartett (ECM) Chamber music with intense tango undertones, Saluzzi's work bridges the sensual and the serious. Saluzzi's bandoneon (an accordion relative) picks up where the late Astor Piazzolla left off, with dramatic and rewarding results.
I CAN HEAR MUSIC: The Ellie Greenwich Collection (Razor and Tie) The songwriter behind such huge hits as "Chapel of Love," "Then He Kissed Me," and "River Deep, Mountain High," Greenwich earned respect--though not enough--with her knack for irresistible hooks. Her own renditions of these classics are a sugary treat.
JAZZ IN FILM: Terence Blanchard (Sony Classical). The movies exposed jazz to the masses, and jazz returned the favor by creating scene-setting moods. Trumpeter Blanchard and an ace band revisit silver-screen themes--from A Streetcar Named Desire to Clockers--with a completely fresh feel.
GUADALUPE--VIRGEN DE LOS INDIOS: San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (Iago) You needn't see apparitions in your breakfast bowl to appreciate the ancient music of SAVAE. Indigenous American percussive instruments combine with European classical-style vocal arrangements in these rediscovered works by 16th-century Aztec composers.
I CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER WHERE I'M BOUND: The Best of Tom Paxton (Elektra Traditions/ Rhino)A-guy-and-his-guitar music of the first order. Paxton has written a slew of folk classics, and his unadorned performances resonate with a simple, rare honesty.