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Now Hear This

Reviews of new releases by Foo Fighters, Missy Elliot and Miles Davis, plus the "Sprout" soundtrack, "Indiavision" compilation, and DVD "Live From Bonnaroo."


Miles Davis "'Round About Midnight: The Legacy Edition" (Columbia/Legacy)

Columbia's two-disc rerelease of Miles Davis' classic celebrates the beginning of the trumpeter's 30-year relationship with the label. The first disc is the brilliant original session, Miles' first great quintet at its height, one of the essential records of postwar jazz. Since this material has been available in every conceivable format for the past half-century, the second disc, all live recordings, is essentially the argument for repurchase.

It's a compelling argument. The bonus material opens with the pivotal 1955 Newport Jazz Festival performance of "'Round Midnight," which led directly to Miles' signing with Columbia Records (the label's president was in the audience). But the real gem is a previously unreleased appearance of the quintet in Pasadena, Calif., the only nonbootleg live recording of one of the greatest jazz groups ever.

It's an assured, relaxed performance, with interludes provided by a cluelessly hip master of ceremonies and Miles' raspy whisper. The tenor sax player is still young enough and unknown enough to be introduced as "Johnny Coltrane." *****— Peter McElhinney

"Indiavision: Hindi Filmsongs & Instrumentals (1966-1984)" (Buda Musique)

With the bustling creativity of its musical arrangements, often melding regional Indian folk and classical music with co-opted Western styles from rockabilly and jazz to Ennio Morricone's Western soundtracks, "Bollywood" show tunes are exciting and alive, as colorful as India herself.

But there's a glut of crappy collections out there, so it's worth noting when someone releases a truly diverse collection of the best Indian soundtrack music from the mid-'60s through the mid-'80s. You get it all here: sitars and weird studio effects that sound like madmen gone wild, with throwback analog machinery (lots of reverb, echo, compression), plus some of the greatest Indian female vocalists of all time, including Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. The women sound as beautiful as rare birds, fluttering about inventive orchestral music from classically trained composers such as R.D. Burman and Laxmikant and Pyarelal. This worthwhile collection continually delights with a musical imagination that knows no boundaries. **** — Brent Baldwin

"Sprout Original Soundtrack" (Record Collection)

If you like Jack Johnson's breezy acoustic strumming but get tired of his sameness, give this compilation a try. It sets a similar soft mood but serves up an unexpected combination of electronic songs. You'll feel like you're set on "shuffle" on Johnson's iPod as "Sprout" moves from jazz classics to smoothly percussive world beat to an unreleased single by The Shins. The 14 mostly instrumental tracks take you through soundscapes by mostly unknown artists (Tortoise, HIM, Mojave 3) or semi-known musicians (like Calexico and Superwolf). An album of each artist might be too much, but this dreamy mix of sounds is just right. This is the third surf soundtrack Johnson has played on; here he's part of the Sprout House Band. It's the more serene version of 2003's excellent "Thicker Than Water," which featured a pleasing mix of acoustic guitars and harmonies. But be warned: This is mellow stuff. While "Thicker" offers laid-back barbecue music, "Sprout" is more suited for a nap in a hammock on an August evening. *** — Carrie Nieman

Missy Elliot "The Cookbook" (Atlantic)

Hip-hop high priestess Missy Elliot has never been called ordinary. But with the release of her sixth album, she's more same-ol' than supa dupa fly. Longtime collaborator and fellow Virginian Timbaland produces only two tracks this go-round, and his absence is apparent. Instead, we have cameos by rap pioneers (Slick Rick and Grand Puba) and the buttery guest vocals of Mary J. Blige and American Idol Fantasia Barrino, which are forgettable. There are too many cooks in the kitchen, adding up to a muddled mess of indistinguishable tracks that flutter with lackluster samples and turntable backspins. A handful of slow grooves and R&B doo-wops punctuate the album's pace to a fault. "Lose Control" shines and embraces a tempo reminiscent of JJ Fad's "Supersonic" with a dash of crunk and velvet vocals by Ciara. Flanked by robotic rump-shakin' rhythms and tight rhymes, this is the Missy that earned her the nickname Misdemeanor. The track is fierce and guaranteed to pack a dance floor. Pharrell of The Neptunes lends step-clap production to "On & On" and makes for the only other memorable cut on the CD. While a few songs smoke and simmer, this concoction never quite comes to a boil. ** — Hilary Langford

"Live From Bonnaroo: 2004" (2-DVD)

"Bonnaroo" just sounds like something a hippie might say. Like, "Oops, I forgot my Stouffer's pizza in the oven. … Dude, my bonnaroo."

Since 2002, the music festival with the funky name (supposedly Cajun slang for "real good time") has been drawing hippies to converge in Manchester, Tenn., for a massive annual concert featuring the best jam bands in the country — with a few spices tossed in. Indeed, festival organizers should be commended for including diverse artists and offering attendees more than their predictable noodle favorites. Watching this double DVD, which features highlights from the 2004 weekend, one gets upbeat performances from artists other than the usual jam-band suspects: folkie Gillian Welch, reggae greats Burning Spear, afrobeat heir Femi Kuti (son of Fela), joke-rockers Ween, the legendary Doc Watson and the unknown Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, to name a few.

While it's no "Last Waltz," director Danny Clinch does a good job of capturing the organic feel of the festival with strong cinematography and editing, and plenty of shots of dirty hippie feet doing the Tennessee waltz. *** — Brent Baldwin

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