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Titus Andronicus, Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy 

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Titus Andronicus

The Most Lamentable Tragedy

Merge Records

File next to: The Hold Steady, Spider Bags, Cymbals Eat Guitars

New Jersey's Titus Andronicus like to vault between concept albums and loose party anthems. The Monitor, a 2010 album about the Civil War, was followed by 2012's raucous and formless Local Business. The newest outing is described as "a rock opera in five acts," spanning two CDs or three LPs. The only discernible theme is a Salinger-like lament on modernity, but the synchronized guitars and transcendent spirit resemble Fucked Up's majestic album, David Comes to Life. On repeated listens, suggestions of Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Exile-era Stones and Bruce Springsteen bubble up. The glockenspiel on "Fired Up" confirms their intention to put the romanticism back in punk rock. Sure, the notion of theatrical punk rock opera may make Stiv Bators spin in his grave, but Titus Andronicus pull it off, in their own weird but endearing way. — Loring Wirbel

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Led Zeppelin

In Through the Out Door (Deluxe Edition)

Atlantic

File next to: Thin Lizzy, Bad Company, Van Halen

At the time of its 1979 release, In Through the Out Door was problematic for some Zep fans; the album featured more keyboards — synthesizers, even! — than typical of past releases. Also, guitarist Jimmy Page's involvement was more muted due to extra-musical matters (did somebody say drugs?), resulting in a work that showcased John Paul Jones' talents. In hindsight, the album seems a logical musical progression. A few missteps ("Hot Dog," perhaps) don't detract from ultimately one of their most consistently melodic offerings. The disc is reliably adventurous as well. The reissue adds seven largely superfluous bonus tracks; these embryonic versions don't differ significantly from the finished versions. In what might be a sly, grudging nod to its radio-readiness, the early version of "All My Love" is titled "The Hook." — Bill Kopp

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Buddy Guy

Born to Play Guitar

RCA

File next to: (early) Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix

No one can argue with any credibility that Buddy Guy hasn't paid his dues. Now 79, the prime exemplar of Chicago electric blues can make any sort of album he cares to make. Plus, bluesmen have made concessions to popular trends before (anyone remember Muddy Waters' unfairly maligned 1968 album, Electric Mud?). The idea of an album full of collaborations with "today's stars" isn't new, either; just ask the late Ray Charles, Carlos Santana, or any number of other high-profile artists. Born to Play Guitar features guest spots from Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Joss Stone and Van Morrison. There's a guitar-slinging, autobiographical tone to many of the set's songs, which rock pretty hard while allowing room for Guy's swaggering vocals and still-stinging lead guitar work. — Bill Kopp

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