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Rock

Halestorm

ReAniMate 2.0: The CoVeRs eP

[Atlantic]

3 stars

Contemporary heavy metal so often seems to have either lost touch with the genre’s roots, or simply failed to figure out exactly what those roots are. Part of what has made Halestorm such a delight has been the fact that, despite a tender median age, singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale and her cohorts have sought to honor the past and pave the way for the future of metal.

You’ve been able to discern that respect for tradition in the band’s material, but with the release of “ReAniMate 2.0,” the message is impossible to miss. A collection of well-chosen covers, the album posits Halestorm as a young metal band worth the attention of the form’s connoisseurs.

The album kicks off with an absolutely bloodthirsty take on Judas Priest’s oft-overlooked thrash progenitor “Dissident Aggressor,” a tune that was originally recorded well before Hale was born. The band took the time to learn this multitextured metallic assemblage properly, and Hale sounds like she’s having a blast hitting the impossibly high notes Priest singer Rob Halford nailed on the original.

A take on AC/DC’s blistering “Shoot To Thrill” finds the arrangement sticking to the original blueprint laid down by AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young, and why shouldn’t it? That arrangement was perfect. Still, this doesn’t feel superfluous, because Hale absolutely destroys the vocal here, again, nailing seemingly impossible notes with conviction.

“ReAniMate” is not all metal, though. A spin through Daft Punk’s supremely catchy club anthem “Get Lucky” seems like a completely terrible idea on paper, but somehow, Halestorm pulls it off, treating the song as exactly what it is – a lovable throwaway. Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” is delivered with a complete absence of anything resembling irony. Hale clearly loves Stevie Nicks, and fully invests herself in this emotionally resonant take.

We probably could have done without Halestorm’s take on Pat Benatar’s “Hell is for Children,” despite another impressive vocal from Hale. Some things are simply better left uncovered. Far superior is a set-closing rip through Marilyn Manson’s still incredibly creepy “1996,” which Hale chews up and spits out.

Perhaps the future of metal is in better hands than we might have thought.

– Jeff Miers

Jazz

1032K

Live in Buffalo and Rochester

[Passin’ Thru Records]

3½ stars

An impressive recorded sample of the kind of avant-garde jazz that passes through Hallwalls on a semi-regular basis, courtesy of various people including patron David Kennedy. 1032K (which is written as 10 to the 32ndK power) is a trio consisting of Ku-umba Frank Lacy on trombone and “flumpet” (think trumpet with fluegelhorn DNA), bassist Kevin Ray and drummer Andrew Drury.

Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” was recorded at Hallwalls, and the rest at Tale Vera in Rochester. Among the other compositions played are “Give It Some Thought” by Buffalo-born tenor saxophonist Joe Ford, along with tunes by Air’s Steve McCall and Henry Threadgill and Mingus’ “Ecclusiastics.” Just as Air used to, Ray and Drury are more than powerful enough to obviate the need for a pianist or guitarist.

It is often the province of most of the great avant-garde trombonists to harken back to the trombone sonorities of New Orleans jazz and Lacy is no exception, which is why “Ecclusiastics” is such a natural part of the group’s repertoire. The group’s name is explained thus on the disc: “The Planck Temperature. The temperature at which matter ceases to exist and conventional physics breaks down. According to Nova, at this point, ‘strange things, unknown things, begin to happen to phenomena we hold near and dear, like space and time.’ ”

A nicely scientific/poetic exaggeration of what goes on here.

– Jeff Simon

Country

Willie Nelson

To All the Girls

[Sony Legacy]

2½ stars

You would think this disc would be irresistible, what with Nelson, the balladeering institution, meeting up in a recording studio with the aristocracy of female country singers in America: Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Wynonna Judd, Carrie Underwood, Loretta Lynn, Alison Krauss, Shelby Lynne, Miranda Lambert and Emmylou Harris. Add to the mix such country fellow travelers as Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones and roots music queen Mavis Staples and you’ve got a disc that can’t help but whet appetites.

The prevailing ballad tempos, unfortunately, make the result a bit soggier than might otherwise have been. If this is Nelson’s way of paying tribute to all the girls he’s loved before, it’s as if it’s 3 a.m. and they’re all saying goodbye to a fellow they don’t expect to make it to morning.

With all that, some of Nelson’s duet partners couldn’t be less than lovable if they actively tried – Cash, Crow (singing “Far Away Places” no less and barely sounding as if she just got out of school), Lynn (who sings Merle Haggard’s “Somewhere Between” with Nelson), and Judd and Lynne, who, thank heaven, got Nelson enjoying the genteel uptempo raunch of “Bloody Mary Morning” and “Till the End of the World,” respectively.

Krauss is so good I wish she had been put to better use than on “No Mas Amor,” but then her duets with Robert Plant are so heavenly it’s probably unfair to compare anything to them.

Staples and Nelson, of course, are a law unto themselves on Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands,” which, as the cliché sometimes goes, is probably worth the price of admission by itself.

– J.S.

Classical

Joshua Bell and Friends

Musical Gifts

[Sony Masterworks]

3 stars

Are you ready for Christmas? Joshua Bell is. “Musical Gifts” looks to be one of the better discs this holiday season.

Bell has friends in high places. Alison Krauss sings “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” with Bell giving an introduction that makes you think, hey, this old British carol sounds kind of like a klezmer song. “Let It Snow” is a clear homage to Stephane Grappelly, complete with swingy guitar. (Julian Lage does the honors.) Placido Domingo sings “O Tannenbaum” in German, with Bell contributing a lyrical obbligato. Placido is kind of an evergreen himself, and sounds marvelous. Chris Botti plays “White Christmas.” Gloria Estefan sings a New Age-y “Auld Lang Syne.” And Michael Feinstein sleepily croons a Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn song called “The Secret of Christmas” – kind of preachy, but it’s a curious old chestnut.

Someone deserves serious coal in his stocking for wasting Renee Fleming on a dumb song called “I Want an Old-Fashioned Christmas,” while giving the operatic “O Holy Night” to Kristin Chenoweth. But you do get the idea that Bell did more than just phone this thing in. He rounds out the disc with a rousing Hanukkah number called “Baal Shem: Simchat Torah” (“Rejoicing”) that really shows off his chops. A funny number called “Christmas Confusion,” which ricochets zanily among Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve, is hokey but also funny – and true to life, I think, for some people. Plus you get to hear Bell whipping through “Hava Nagila.” The disc ends with a reverent “Silent Night” with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, and Bell chiming in beautifully.

– Mary Kunz Goldman