Teena Marie: “Beautiful”
R&B goddess Teena Marie’s unexpected death in 2010 left a huge void music, filled only by this disc, her final album, was fished just days before her untimely passing.  In the 3 years since, her daughter has added vocals to several tracks making it a document to love and funk. A fitting cap to a life full of amazing music, the saddest part in listening to this CD – which shows a singer still at the top of her game – is being left to wonder what would have come next.  Damn, Lady Tee was funky.


The Blue Nile:  “Hats” & “Walk  Across The Rooftops” Deluxe Editions
When I interviewed Marilion in 2012, singer Steve Hogarth said his favorite singer was Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile. He gushed about Buchanan’s vocal ability to bring grown men (including David Bowie) to tears.  That made me wonder what had become of the underrated 1980s neo-soul band.  Someone else must have been thinking the same because EMI has just re-released the band’s first 2 CDs with bonus discs jammed full of b-sides, extended mixes and more.  Revisiting these albums remind me what sublime and beautiful masterpieces they are, and give hope a new CD may be forthcoming.


Bad Religion: “True North”
The latest trend in punk rock?  Take a band that has been at it forever, strip away the production and gloss, and get right back to the raw roots of what inspired the band in the first place.  This worked for Green Day, but while those north California punks did it with a glut of CDs (seriously 3 in less than 6 months?) , these So Cal punks deliver one direct disc of anthems and battle cries.  Produced by the band’s own Joe Barresi “True North” a sonic masterpiece.


Fear: “The Fear Record”
John Belushi loved Fear. And I loved John Belushi.  So, when Belushi  tricked the powers that be at Saturday Night Live into having punk pioneers Fear on the show in 1981 I was glued to the TV.  That night, the 14 year old me discovered punk rock.   Led by Lee Ving, Fear lives on, and for The Fear Record, they have re-recorded their classic initial release.  The result features less muddy production than the original, but maintains the fierce and furious energy that made this breakthrough disc a true document to the power of rock and roll.  Best yet, “I Love Living In The City” still gives me goosebumps.


Simon Townshend:  “Looking Out Looking In”
It can’t be easy for Simon Townshend, being forever be compared to his mega-star older brother Pete Townshend (from The Who, Duh.)  But, besides playing in his sibling’s band, and occasionally working with Roger Daltry, Simon also makes catchy and must hear records of his own.  The latest features Simon’s son Ben on drums and is packed with vibrant songs you should get to know, like “Bed Of Roses” – which features a rocking mandolin – and ‘ “Electric Friend.”  “Looking Out, Looking In” is a fine testament to the idea that maybe all the talent in the family doesn’t just belong to Pete.


Various: “West Of Memphis: Voices For Justice”
Regardless of what you think of The Memphis Three (a trio of teens wrongly accused – and imprisoned for more than a decade – for the murder of children), this is a must have benefit collection.  You get outspoken Dixie Chick Natalie Maines covering Pink Floyd’s “Mother,”  Marilyn Manson’s take on Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and more from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Griderman’s Nick Cave.


Papa Roach:  “The Connection”
Unabashed passion and power explode from every track on Papa Roach’s 6th release.  The band doesn’t just make music.  They live it.  Each note is an expression of truth.  The Sacramento, CA quartet may just be the band that saves music from corporate blandness and soulless auto-tune.  The first single “Still Swingin’” is an anthem to never giving up and never giving in.


Molly Ringwald:  “Except… Sometimes”
Yes, *that* Molly Ringwald, the 1980’s red headed fantasy girl of all our high school dreams and star of John Hughes masterpieces “Breakfast Club” and “Pretty In Pink.”  All grown up, Molly continues to create as an actress, writer and now jazz singer.  Smooth and silky, her voice wraps itself around breezy Dinah Washington inspired jazz standards as well as Broadway show tunes.  The wow moment comes at the disc’s end when Molly covers Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – an awe inspiring moment of her past meeting her present.


The Outlaws:  “It’s About Pride”
Southern rock’s stalwarts ride on with a new collection of dusty whiskey soaked gold ol’ boy songs.  If you don’t like songs about horses, broken hearts and hard drinking’ women you best look elsewhere for your next musical adventure,… Partner.


Meshell Ndegeocello:  “A Dedication To Nina Simone”
Music’s most versatile chameleon is at it again, this time singing the songs of legendary vocalist Nina Simone with precision, style and grace.  In French no less!  Is there anything she can’t do?  Even though the tempos are slower, this disc is no less funky than anything she has ever done, and the vibe is perfect for making babies as well as making Sunday brunch.


Camper Van Beethoven:  “La Costa Perdida”
Camper Van Beethoven’s creative core David Lowery and Victor Krummenacher sound revived and refreshed on their first CD in 9 years. Stuffed full of  impossibility hooky tunes – my favorite being the celebratory yet mournful “Northern California Girls” – “La Costa Perdida” is a fantastic return for these gods of oddball alt-rock.


Matt & Kim:  “Lightning”
This Brooklyn duo really knows how to make some noise.  Seriously I don’t know how two small skinny folks make this big of a sound. Think White Stripes and Black keys but bigger, and much more funky.  While this CD isn’t as good as their previous release “Sidewalks,” “Lightning” is still a party on wax.


Green Day : “Tre”
Three times is not the charm for Green Day.  The third release in their “Let’s  get back to basics after scoring mega-success with crossover hits and a Broadway musical” is sadly nothing special.  The other 2 releases in this series “Uno” and “Dos” featured some genuine moments of true inspiration, but this, the third release in less than half a year, feels less like a fully thought out studio album, and more like a B-sides collection packed with leftovers.  Perhaps the band would have been better served by cherry picking the best track for “Uno”, “Dos” and “Tre” for a spectacular punk opus.