We've got quite a backlog of CDs we've never gotten around to, so we're going to try to chip away at the pile with this regular feature. The plan: to take a few at a time and play each CD for as long as I can stand it. Aaron Neville (New Orleans, LA) I Know I've Been Changed (EMI Gospel) Kicking off a successful week here in the Mailroom, we have Aaron Neville's latest release to dive into. There's little disputing that Neville's voice is one of the most immediately identifiable voices in American music. Add to that: A collection of not only timeless gospel tunes, but an equally classic line-up of performers assisting with this album, and it's not hard to imagine this record sounds pretty sweet. With Joe Henry's production and Allen Toussaint's piano, Neville breathes life into the stale realm of the covers album. By kicking off the record with an impassioned, spiritually-altered "Stand By Me," it also wouldn't be tough to imagine this album converting more than a few doubters into fervent believers. I made it to: All the way through Track #10, "Meetin' at the Building."
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Various Artists The Vampire Diaries Original Television Soundtrack (Virgin) If this trendy, blood-loving teen soap is the poor-girl's version of the Twilight films, then the accompanying soundtrack could conceivably fill a similar role to the movie's indie-riffic, blockbuster companions. Not that it lags behind the more well-known albums in quality by much, especially if one is a fan of the show where these mainly original songs have already been featured (we're not, by the way). A spaced-out, moody cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" is admirably proffered by Placebo and is compelling enough to engage even a non-fanboy or girl into giving the effectively sequenced collection of tunes a chance. Also, the combination of contributing artists succeeds in its efforts to blend well-established alt-rock bigshots (Gorillaz, Smashing Pumpkins, Silversun Pickups) with relative up and comers who might have already become bigshots, anyway (Bat for Lashes, Goldfrapp). I made it to: All the way through Track #8, "Obsession" by Sky Ferreira. Fistful of Mercy (Claremont, CA) As I Call You Down (Hot Records) The spirit of George Harrison isn't only alive and evidenced in the handed-down looks of his son, Dhani, but also in the acoustical, mystical styling of his son's new, sort of supergroup, Fistful of Mercy. Also featuring the prolific Joseph Arthur, and the even more prolific Ben Harper (who seems to really know how to pick collaborators), this is a project with an abundance of soul that isn't found on many typical so-called side projects. Much of the record has the gauze of sleepiness lazily strapped across it, but not to fault, by any means. Sticking primarily to acoustic arrangements, the trio manages to stretch their raw-boned sound a great deal by switching from ambient, Laurel Canyon folk, rich with harmony to racous - and most importantly, believable - delta blues with an unfair amount of ease. I made it to: All the way through the whole damn thing (nine songs).