John Fogerty, "Revival" (Fantasy)
After a long public legal battle, legendary rocker John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival fame has released his first album on Fantasy Records in 35 years -- and he's used the occasion to return to his roots. The basic tracks were laid down in a mere 12 days by a tight four-piece band with smart, live-sounding production. The resulting breezy and relaxed feel makes this the most enjoyable solo Fogerty in recent memory. With renewed vigor, he does what he does best: clean country boogie and swamp blues in a mostly mellow groove. But gone are the blueberry pie and baseball odes Fogerty has war on his mind.
The album begins with a trifecta of pop hit contenders: the upbeat plea for peace, "Don't You Wish It Was True," a countrified call for vigilantism, "Gunslinger," and the self-congratulatory "Credence Song" all built on classic, moseying CCR grooves. The first half cruises pleasantly enough until the gritty blues of "Long Dark Night," a stomping indictment of the Bush regime with obvious shades of "Run Through the Jungle." Fogerty then kicks into another gear completely with two potent numbers delivered with the wild-man abandon of his youth: the Sun Records rockabilly of "It Ain't Right" and another scorching anti-war rocker, "I Can't Take It No More," which ranks with his best work. Lucky for fans, Fogerty still has that golden heartland voice, ravenous guitar licks and moments of real spit and fire left in him. His "Revival" is a treat for old and new fans alike. Brent Baldwin
Miles Davis, "The Complete On the Corner Sessions" (Legacy/Columbia)
Over the past decade, almost every note Miles Davis recorded for Columbia has been released in a series of exemplary box sets, with pristine sound, high-quality design and encyclopedic liner notes. This is the runt of the brilliant litter. The original album marked the end of Davis' great period at the label, a twilight affair stitched together from jams and overdubbed into a unique mess that tried to meld Stockhausen with Sly and the Family Stone. Miles said he wanted to reach the young black audience that was listening to James Brown and Hendrix, but the slice-and-dice abstraction stitched together by producer Teo Macero from funk-saturated sessions was a commercial disappointment. Wynton Marsalis' mentor/promoter Stanley Crouch accused Miles of selling out, but however flawed that last album was, there was no pandering compromise. And you can't sell out if you don't sell.
This six-CD box set has all of the original tracks, along with the longer versions they were edited from. It's a more pleasurable listen, but it loses the claustrophobic ambition that made the album uncomfortably memorable. If the jams frequently stretch on far too long, Davis' playing, distorted through electronic effects, cuts through with haunting economy. And near the end is one of the most memorable pieces Davis ever recorded: a tribute to the just-deceased Duke Ellington called "He Loved Him Madly." Like much of "On the Corner," it's too long and perhaps too slow to develop. But it has a heartbreaking grandeur that few perfectly structured compositions ever reach. Peter McElhinney
Animal Collective, "Strawberry Jam" (Domino)
"Strawberry Jam" could be the album of the year. Featuring intricate layers of sampled music, sound bites and impassioned vocals, the members of this unique collective from Baltimore create their own futuristic breed of pop full of a complex range of emotions. Some songs use up to 50 separate tracks of noise and music, leading to a chaotic confusion that always manages to resolve itself beautifully. Hyper computer blips begin "Peacebone," which eventually folds into a crazed, rhythmic rock track. Although some songs sound repetitious at first, they involve subtle, slight changes that over a few minutes become huge, a miniature electronic symphony. Vocals (mostly by Avey Tare) recall the '60-'70s freewheeling pop of artists like Brian Wilson, with similar falsetto harmonies and youthful energy. The epic tracks "For Reverend Green" and "Fireworks" contain the most ear-pleasing transition of intellectual psychedelia since "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." These guys juggle nostalgia and create something modern and impending at turns angry and joyous. Look for them to make their U.S. TV debut Oct. 5 on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Sarah Moore
UGK, "Underground Kingz" (Jive Records)
On the latest double-disc entry from Houston's UGK, Members Bun B and Pimp C bring established Southern twang and all that is "trill" (their slang for anything true and real). Such "trillitivity" consists of whiskey-strong tales of shameless pimpin', crushing snitches and bemoaning and celebrating the struggles and glamour of illegal living. Always at the heels of platinum success, UGK assembles an all-star guest roster so diverse you get the sense that artists like the socially conscious Talib Kweli (at home with "Real Women"), crooner Sleepy Brown ("Shattered Dreams") and veteran Big Daddy Kane ("Next Up") aren't in it for the money, but for the respect of a group that's held it down so long. "Quit Hatin' the South," featuring Gap Band great Charlie Wilson and Geto Boys member Willie D, is easily one of the most well-executed warnings to Yankees whining for the return of the New York domination of rap. But just when the comic book aggression convinces you they're knuckleheads, they come with unique social commentary. Pimp C and Bun B intimidate and instigate with ease while throwing a dash of street humor that can only come from below the Mason-Dixon. William Ashanti Hobbs
DVD: Bert Jansch, "Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning" (Secret Films/MVD Visual)
Neil Young calls him his favorite acoustic guitarist. But Scottish singer-songwriter and renowned finger-picker Bert Jansch is best known as a founding member of the late '60s folk legends Pentangle. More recently, he's been experiencing a resurgence in his career after his brooding solo music was featured in the hit cult film "The Squid and the Whale" (ironically, the key song in the movie, "Courting Blues," a hypnotic and hauntingly beautiful piece performed here, was the first song Jansch ever wrote).
This no-frills 2006 concert was recorded at Sheffield Memorial Hall in England and features the 63-year-old Jansch with just his guitar on an empty stage, performing 23 songs from a lengthy career that influenced everyone from Donovan and Nick Drake to Jimmy Page (who stole Zeppelin's "Black Mountain Side" instrumental from Jansch). A master player who often sounds like he has an extra finger on his fret hand, Jansch sets himself apart with oddly shifting time signatures, unusual tunings, and dexterously holding lower chords while bending upper notes. Jansch's clawhammer picking is still top-notch, but his voice has grown somewhat haggard after years of alcohol abuse. Nonetheless, this intimate performance shows he is still capable of casting a moody spell over an audience. At his best the man seems melded with his lifelong instrument, an old troubadour in his element. Brent Baldwin