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JJ Grey & Mofro

Georgia Warhorse

Alligator Records

Buy if you like: Paul Thorn, Derek Trucks

JJ Grey & Mofro is one of those outfits that remains inexplicably under the mainstream radar while other, considerably less talented artists enjoy way too much public attention. But that's OK, because those of us who know just how good this Florida swamp rat and his band are will continue to do our grooving with or without you. And this album has plenty to groove on, from "King Hummingbird," a soulful, spare acoustic lullaby that builds to gospel-style intensity, to "Slow, Hot & Sweaty," which is every bit as sexy as the title suggests. You'll want to light a cigarette at the end of this one, even if you don't smoke, because the album sure does. Aided by Toots Hibbert and guitarist Derek Trucks, JJ Grey & Mofro slide smoothly from funk to soul to blues with the kind of heat that'll have you begging for more. — Lynne Margolis

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Katy Perry

Teenage Dream

Capitol Records

Buy if you like: Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga

It's easy to assume Katy Perry is more interested in being a spotlight-seeking celebrity than a true artist. Fortunately, her albums show there's more to her than looks and a willingness to exploit them. As frothy as many of her songs may be, some of her lyrics are also smart, cleverly worded and have more depth than the usual pop/dance fare that currently populates Top 40 playlists. "Last Friday Night (TGIF)," for instance, manages to tease with its tales of skinny-dipping and streaking, but in the end is both a funny and cautionary ditty. The title track also knowingly plays with the stereotype of teenage fantasy. This album finds her delving further into dance-oriented beats and synthetic tones than her first, and its hooky, playful sound is certainly crafted for maximum commercial impact. But if Teenage Dream is light, at least it's not brainless.— Alan Sculley

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Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

Walt Disney Records

Buy if you like: Avi Buffalo, Todd Rundgren

Although not an obvious move, it makes sense that the head Beach Boy would record an album of George and Ira Gershwin classics. Music is a long line of connected notes and feelings, and it's easy to imagine the Gershwin brothers had an inspirational hand in composing "In My Room," "God Only Knows" or "Caroline No." In fact, Wilson has said that "Rhapsody in Blue," which leads off this album, is his earliest musical memory. It's joined here by equally compelling renditions of "It Ain't Necessarily So," "I Got Rhythm" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." Wilson's voice has never sounded better, and the fact that he and collaborator Scott Bennett actually complete two unfinished George Gershwin originals makes you wonder what could have been if time machines actually existed. This project is clearly the next best thing. — Bill Bentley

  • JJ Grey & Mofro, Katy Perry, Brian Wilson

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