New releases in stores this week:
MAGICALLY HISTORY TOUR: One of the greatest music legends that never was gets his due on "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (Columbia, B+), soundtrack for the Judd Apatow spoof hitting movie theaters Dec. 21. In the grand tradition of "Spinal Tap" and "The Rutles," film star John C. Reilly and his partners in rhyme - including the ever-devious Dan Bern - offer note perfect takeoffs of bygone musical styles, sure to tickle the funny bone of music buffs. It seems Cox was quite the stylistic shapeshifter. He moved from outlaw cowboy growl (with the stilted, Johnny Cash-aping title track and deliciously double entendre-filled Johnny 'n' June-ish "Let's Duet" ) to blatant R&B rip-off ("Mama, You Got to Love Your Negro Man") to Roy Orbison-like pop operatic ("A Life Without You"). And there's more, including Dewey's pale shadow of the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" (psychedelically orchestrated, as was the real thing, by Van Dyke Parks) and turn to (what else?) disco music with, oh, I don't want to spoil it. Listen and laugh.
BLAKE IN THE POCKET: Here's a theory. If Blake Lewis could have concocted a beat-box rhythmed version of the cornball ballad "This Is My Now" that was his final test on "American Idol," his constituency would have never left him. And Lewis would have wound up the winner last season, instead of Jordin Sparks. You better believe the guy's not making the same mistake on his solo debut "Audio Daydream" (Arista, B). Snappy hip-hop beats and sampling thrills flavor every track - even on big ballads like "Without You" that could have done without. High points: the "Puttin'-On-the- Ritz"-inspired "Gots To Get Her," Billy Joel-ish vamp "Hate 2 Love Her" and his stuff struttin' "B Shorty Grabs Mic!"
ECO-CELEBRATION: Were you too environmentally conscious to leave the TV on all day and night on 07/07/07 to catch the complete, eight city "Live Earth - The Concerts For a Climate in Crisis" event? Today you can scoop up a the same titled, two DVD and one CD best-of package on Warner Bros. (B+), knowing your purchase will benefit the eco-cause. The all-recycled cardboard packaging is a good idea, but the producers wasted valuable polystyrene by duplicating many tracks on the CD that are on the DVDs. At least they picked some super tracks - including The Police's smashing comeback "Driven To Tears." Also on tap - a non-duplicating Madonna plus Genesis, John Mayer, Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, Keith Urban and Alicia Keys, and more.
TWISTED TALES: Jacqui Naylor found a way to make even the most familiar Christmas standard sound fresh on "Smashed for the Holidays" (Ruby Star, B). She sings the ditties in a laid-back, jazzy style as her band plays an entirely different tune! Say what?!? While Naylor's singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," the band is cranking Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." As she's cooing "Santa Baby," they're doing Led Zeppelin's reggae beat "D'yer Maker."And most of the time, the mashups do work.