Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra

Comps like this, containing scattershot offerings from the disparate likes of Ray Davies and, gads, Dionne Warwick, shouldn't be sent gratis to rock critics; otherwise who's left to buy these things, save for those who remember when Jools Holland had a TV show on the BBC? This sequel to a collection remembered solely for a George Harrison contribution offered in his last hours offers more of the same: Sideman-turned-bandleader rousts pals and acquaintances, few with chart appeal since Johnson was president, for a "jazzy" swing set that sounds old, though most of its tunes are in fact of recent vintage and come from the pen of said sideman-turned-bandleader. (Also, like its predecessor, it contains a contribution from the recently deceased: Edwin Starr, whose status as Not a Beatle shouldn't count for less.) Highlights are plentiful (eight of 22 are keepers, which bests most modern releases), but its willful eclecticism is bound to doom this disc to the remainder bin; not even the youthful ironicist, much less the aged frau, can get it up any longer for Tom Jones, who should take his collection of used ladies' panties and call it a con. Blind Boys of Alabama almost negate his presence, but not quite.

The goods are great: Norah Jones as Nina Simone ("In the Dark," on which she lets loose with a big band to catch her before she falls), Bono as Frank Sinatra (again, this time on the U2 track "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" redone in the wee small hours), Damon Gough as a less fuzzy Badly Drawn Boy ("That Can is Open," about saying too much to someone not quite listening enough), Marianne Faithfull as Bob Dylan ("You Got to Serve Somebody," though I suspect it's not The Big Guy), Ray Davies as Noel Coward ("Yours Truly, Confused N10," in which he once more dreams of Olde England and wonders why no one else save him cares) and Bryan Ferry as Bryan Ferry ("The Only Face," which fits). Most of the offerings get stuck in the mushy middle ground--what did become of Chrissie Hynde and Jimmy Cliff, anyway?--and the rest are real castoffs, save for those considered toss-offs. Unless you miss Robert Plant and the Honeydrippers, in which case feel free to pay full price.

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