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Chris Isaak

Beyond the Sun

Vanguard

Buy if you like: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash

Chris Isaak has always paid homage to his influences; his sound and look can be traced directly to Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Rick Nelson and other early rock and rockabilly greats. But this album is his most overt reference yet. Isaak specifically set out to honor his Sun Studio heroes, and even recorded these covers (and one original) in that iconic Memphis spot — the better to commune with the ghosts of Sam Phillips, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and the aforementioned greats. In fact, Isaak doesn't just commune, he also reincarnates. His Elvis is so faithful, you can imagine hips swiveling as he recorded "Trying to Get to You" and girls swooning as he crooned "Can't Help Falling in Love." If anything, these renditions, complete with beautiful-music choruses, are a little too faithful. But if Isaak's "Great Balls of Fire" — and bandmate Scott Plunkett's killer piano — doesn't get you rockin', nothing will. — Lynne MargolisThe B-52s

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B-52s

With the Wild Crowd! Live in Athens, GA

Eagle

Buy if you like: Devo, the Cramps

For a band that has spent 30-plus years creating party music, it's odd that it's taken this long for the B-52s to put out a live album. But With the Wild Crowd! makes up for lost time. Of course, it includes the early classic songs longtime fans want ("Private Idaho," "Planet Claire," "Rock Lobster"). We also get "Love Shack," the hit single that made the B-52s stars, along with another mid-period gem, "Roam." That said, the 18-song set still leaves room for lesser-known material, such as the hard-rocking "Ultraviolet" and the campy, space-age "Love in the Year 3000." The songs are performed crisply and with plenty of energy — the band was playing in its hometown, after all. They don't vary much from the studio versions, and it must be mentioned that a live album can't capture the visual appeal of a B-52s concert. But still, it's good to hear the band alive and kicking. — Alan Sculley

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Miles Zuniga

These Ghosts Have Bones

Redeye

Buy if you like: The Kinks, the Beatles

Fastball member Miles Zuniga has always worn his Beatles influence on his sleeve, but his long-awaited solo "record/therapy session" reveals his kinship to Ray Davies and Robyn Hitchcock as well. It also reveals the agony of a man whose world shattered to pieces when his wife found someone else. He confronts that anguish head-on here, from the revelation of her infidelity ("Feel it in Your Kiss") and his message to the other guy ("Wicked," which is biting enough to create rumors of John Lennon's resurrection) to his beautifully forlorn I-will-survive declaration ("You Can't Break My Heart"). How a guy that depressed could write such infectiously cheery pop melodies — "Elizabeth" and "Working on a Love Song" are two standout examples — is a testament to his prodigious talent. Ghosts achieves the rarest of feats: making pain sound so sweet that it manages to turn tragedy into triumph. — Lynne Margolis

  • Chris Isaak, B-52s, Miles Zuniga

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