We're taking a multimedia approach to this week's new music releases, 'cause that's where the art is taking us.
KILLER STUFF: Devotees of the late, great gonzo singer/songwriter Warren Zevon have lots to dive into today.
Start with "Preludes - Rare and Unreleased Recordings" (New West, A-), heavy with rough and rowdy demos of the innovative tunes that made the man a legend.
The package is equally valuable for its bonus interview disc, wherein the musician articulates on the occasion of the 2000 album release, "Life'll Kill You."
Now segue directly to the new Zevon print biography "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon," Ecco/Harper Collins, A), a fascinating collection of anecdotes by family, friends and Warren himself, as assembled by his ex-wife, Crystal Zevon.
If you ever wondered what fueled his wild-eyed, pop-noir imagery and florid musical ambitions, the revelations are here, from his mob-connected dad to Warren's encounters with Igor Stravinsky, to the addictions (sex, drugs and alcohol) that turned him into an abusive beast. Like an accident on the highway, you can't take your eyes off the pages.
As if that ain't enough, Zevon also is being honored with new, expanded Asylum/Rhino editions of the early studio albums "Excitable Boy" (A) and "The Envoy" (B) and the concert disc "Stand in the Fire" (A-).
THE HOUSE THAT AHMET BUILT:The PBS American Masters series resumes tomorrow night (9 p.m., Channel 12) with an exceptional documentary that's both a fascinating career overview of music mogul Ahmet Ertegun (who died last year) and an encapsulation of popular music trends from the 1940s to the present. Oh, the stories he could tell! And oh, the artists he signed, from Ray Charles to Led Zeppelin to (show narrator) Bette Midler.
DVDELIGHTS: The sagas of Motown Records and its super act the Supremes are only barely disguised in "Dreamgirls," the Broadway musical transformed into a seamless, breathless film that's yours to watch today on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray video discs (Dreamworks, A-).
The mid-show transition from soul/pop performance pieces to more traditional, Broadway-flavored, story-propelling tunes is still a bit odd, but the cast, production eye candy and camera work are so glorious that any shortcomings are forgiven.
Bonus features include extended versions of musical numbers, plus a Jennifer Hudson song cut from the film. The pricier, two-disc "Deluxe" DVD and super-sparkly high-definition editions add an insightful two-hour making-of documentary (shot in HD), plus Beyonce's screen test channeling Diana Ross and Marilyn Monroe.
Camera work is crude but the jazz/rock/world-beat fusion's fiery on the Weather Report concert DVD "Live at Montreux - 1976" ( Eagle Live, A-).
Also new and worthy on the imprint is the Classic Albums series documentary "Frank Zappa: 'Apostrophe (')' - 'Over-Nite Sensation' " (A) that argues well his genius status.
Four Leonard Cohen albums have been reissued in extended versions by Columbia. And in perfect sync comes "Leonard Cohen - Under Review 1934-1977" (Sexy Intellectual, B), a worthy DVD assessment of the poet/singer's life and art by collaborators and critics.
BRIEFLY NOTED: Hot-blooded narratives like "Gunpowder & Lead" and the title track sharpen country cutie Miranda Lambert's feisty edge on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (Sony/BMG, B).
Tweeners may delight in the bubbly (and at times, Michael Jackson-like) pop of "Another Side" from Corbin Blue (Hollywood, C+), a star of "High School Musical."
Grateful Dead themes are grandly dressed up and integrated as "Dead Symphony - Lee Johnson Symphony Number 6" (www.DeadSymphony.com, A), with the composer conducting the florid Russian National Orchestra.
Jam nation also will enjoy the latest from ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra), "Roses & Clover" (Bushfire, B) and the more expansive scope of the revitalized, garage-rocking Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on "Baby 81" (RCA, B).
On the singer-songwriter front, "The Reminder" from Feist (Polydor, A-) is that she's equally sublime with intimate ballads and when cutting to the core with light, frisky rockers like the mantra-ish "Past in Present" and Afro-Caribbean "Sea Lion Woman."
Maria McKee (ex-Lone Justice) shares a surprisingly mature, torch-lit approach on "Late December" (Viewfinder, B+).
Ari Heist invades the heart with his haunting, humane voice on "The Break-In" (Columbia, B). Want to know where the Decemberists and Philly's own Espers are coming from?
Dig into the four-CD compilation from the British group Pentangle, "The Time Has Come 1967-1973" (Sanctuary, A), wherein the notion of blending traditional folk balladry with contemporary music forms (jazz, blues, rock) was first and richly explored. *