Sound Advice 

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I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Southern Fried / Release date: Feb. 3

Sounds like: Fatboy Slim targets pop market

Short take: I think we're gonna need a better album

The BPA is Norman Cook, of Housemartins and Fatboy Slim fame, employing the vocal and co-writing talents of artists like David Byrne, Dizzee Rascal, Martha Wainwright and Iggy Pop. On paper, this sounds promising. On headphones, less so. Iggy's take on the Monochrome Set's "He's Frank (Slight Return)" the only cover feels phoned in. Byrne & Rascal's "Toe Jam" is less than lightweight. And Wainwright's "Spade" is by-the-numbers reggae, perfect for a resort near you. "Jumps the Fence" is actually pretty catchy, but Connan Mockasin's helium vocals are among the most annoying since the Native Hipsters nearly sunk the Rough Trade label. The one redeeming track here is "Seattle," which combines Emmy the Great's fine singing, Cook's knack for bouncy beats and a Housemartins-worthy chorus. Situated midway through the album, however, it's too little, too late. Bill Forman

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Various Artists

Change is Now: Renewing America's Promise

Hidden Beach Recordings / Release date: Feb. 6

Sounds like: Diverse artists feel the spirit

Short take: Yes they can

The artists included on this official inauguration collection are enough to give you hope. Did you ever think you'd see a compilation featuring both Jennifer Hudson and Wilco, or Ozomatli and James Taylor? This CD-DVD set includes eight landmark campaign speeches by President Barack Obama (including announcement of his candidacy and the election night victory speech), clocking in at an impressive three hours, along with 18 songs, several newly recorded. Highlights include Stevie Wonder's "All About the Love Again," inspired by Obama's historic victory, plus will.i.am's "It's a New Day," BeBe Winans' "Born for This" and Death Cab for Cutie's "Grapevine Fires." Thanks to both songs and speeches, Change Is Now feels like an instant collector's item. Available at hiddenbeach.com and timelife.com. Bill Bentley

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The Blue Note 7


Blue Note Records

Sounds like: Classic jazz with creativity and commitment

Short take: Seven masters celebrate 70 years

To celebrate Blue Note's 70th anniversary, a septet of jazz's best contemporary players come together to record songs from the label's deep, deep catalog. Originals by artists like Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson and Thelonious Monk are given exciting new life. Pianist Bill Charlap, the album's musical director, can always be counted on to approach whatever he's doing with unerring flair. The other Blue Note 7 players all of whom enliven the music include trumpeter Nicholas Payton, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, guitarist Peter Bernstein, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. From Cedar Walton's "Mosaic" to Horace Silver's "The Outlaw," the improvisation at the heart of their performances proves this is really a band, not a marketing idea. Bill Bentley


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