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Pop Music

Various Artists, “The Lone Ranger: Wanted – Music Inspired by the Film” (Walt Disney). Or is it, “music that inspired the film”? Here is “The Lone Ranger’s” director Gore Verbinski explaining this superb disc of country, bluegrass and roots rock: “These are the artists we listened to on the way to [the] set each morning and in the evenings with the dust, like bitter chalk, upon our teeth. Echoes of their passionate performances in our minds, for 150 days and nights, we took to the work of storytelling.” So if you’re tempted to think of it as just tired, tired old musical exploitation of a movie sure to be a hit, forget it. Just listen to it. It’s authentic in a way that the movie was never going to be. We’re talking a bunch of railroad songs (Shane MacGowan’s “Poor Paddy on the Railway,” “The Devil’s Train” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Dave Alvin doing Hank Williams’ and Jimmie Davis’ “Lonesome Whistle”) and some stars doing things you wouldn’t expect – Iggy Pop, for instance, growling his way through the traditional “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” and Luncinda Williams contributing her own “Everything But The Truth” to the cause. Hear also, The White Buffalo’s “The American Dream,” Pete Molinari’s “So Long Gone,” Sara Watkins’ “Central and Union” and even a song by Gomez dedicated to a character in the film who likes to devour the bloody organs of his murder victims, Gomez’s “Butch’s Ballad.” It’s odd that Verbinski is so much more convincing a record co-producer than film director, but that he is. ∆∆∆½ (Jeff Simon)

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Merry Clayton, The Best of Merry Clayton (Ode/Legacy). This has never happened before. It’s something new in the world. And it wouldn’t have existed if Morgan Neville’s film “20 Feet from Stardom” hadn’t happened first. It’s Neville’s documentary about the neglected careers of some of pop music’s greatest backup singers – Clayton, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer etc. The film hasn’t been booked into a Buffalo theater yet, but the soundtrack is available and this unprecedented collection of Merry Clayton’s best for Lou Adler’s Ode Records is a terrific offshoot of it. Clayton has sung backup to Ray Charles, Carole King, Elvis Presley, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, among others – and, most famously, The Rolling Stones, where she is the voice opposite Mick Jagger on “Gimme Shelter” and which you hear her perform without him. She does a gospel version of Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn,” a terrific cover of Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” and the rarity of rarities, a hand-clapping, wailing version of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” from (are you ready) Robert Altman’s most lunatic film of the 1970s, the glorious “Brewster McCloud.” And yeah, she’s doing Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” and The Who’s “The Acid Queen” front and center too like the great star she always was – 20 feet behind the headliner. They’re mostly from Lou Adler’s record label. And you thought he was only famous for sitting next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games. ΩΩΩΩ (J.S.)

Jazz Fusion

Rob Hart Trio, “3000 Realms of Ten Worlds” (Simply Smokin’ Records). San Francisco jazz drummer Hart leads his trio – augmented ably by special guests guitarist Fareed Haque and bassist Kai Eckhardt – through a dizzying myriad of textures, grooves and harmonic scenes with “3000 Realms of Ten Worlds.” Though the record is nominally a jazz fusion collection, Hart and his fellow musicians reinvigorate that genre specification by offering a giddy romp through elements of Caribbean and African music, Eastern-tinged modal sounds, post-bop, progressive rock, and even a pair of beautifully arranged cover interpretations in the form of the Beatles’ “I Will” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Throughout, the level of musicianship is consistently high, the interplay between the musicians spacious and dynamic, and the compositional and arrangement aesthetics well beyond the pale of most of what passes for modern fusion. Oh, and there’s also this – drummers will be floored by Hart’s playing, particularly those who are fans of Steve Smith and Dave Weckel. ΩΩΩ½ (Jeff Miers)

Reggae/Dubstep

Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Legend Remixed” (Tuff Gong). A terrible idea whose time has come. For “Legend Remixed,” the original tracks for this revered collection of Marley/Wailers classics were handed over to a bunch of “of the moment” dub-step producers – Thievery Corporation, Pretty Lights, Beats Antique, Z-Trip, Photek and others – as well as Stephen and Ziggy Marley and, incongruently, Jim James of My Morning Jacket. The result is an absolute travesty, a blatant attempt to remarket and remodel Marley for Generation Dub-Step that sucks the life out of Marley’s profoundly great originals, and buries the contributions of the impeccable Wailers rhythm section of Aston and Carly Barrett. The James and Ziggy/Stephen Marley remixes are at least respectful of the Wailers, but the hipster DJs chew up the once beautiful scenery and regurgitate it as moronic club music. This is just plain wrong. Listen to the originals. They groove, they breathe, and they continue to live, despite attempts like this one to suffocate them. Ω(J.M.)

Classical

Bela Bartok, Violin Concertos 1 and 2 performed by violinist Isabelle Faust and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding (Harmonia Mundi). Once upon a time – and in recent memory too – there was only one. That is, there was only one Bartok violin concerto that was performed on record and even then not all that terribly often – by its partisans Yehudi Menuhin and Joseph Szigeti, say, and magnificently by Isaac Stern. But then his first violin concerto from three decades before his 1938 masterpiece – arguably the greatest violin concerto of the 20th century and beyond – rose slowly to the prominence that is needed to fully understand the greatness of one of the 20th century’s greatest and most enduring composers. Where Schoenberg and Stravinsky have periodically gained and lost ground over the years, Bartok and Shostakovich have been on a 70-year upswing. The result, in Bartok’s case, is that his two violin concertos are proving grounds for any young violin virtuoso who comes along in search of the Big Reputation. Here is young violinist Isabelle Faust – so brilliant previously with Bach’s and Bartok’s unaccompanied violin music – doing an exquisite job with the two Bartok violin concertos in the company of the Swedish Radio Symphony and Daniel Harding. Even in one of the more crowded recording fields, this one is a standout. ∆∆∆½ (J.S.)