If you have fond memories of the formative comedy of Richard Pryor, Rhino Records has just the thing for you. Evolution Revolution, the Early Years (1966-74)collects the jokes and routines that vaulted Pryor to comedy superstardom in the '70s. The two-disc set is divided between previously unreleased recordings from the period (Disc I) and previously issued material (the bulk of Disc II comes from the 1971 LP "Craps").

Rhino Records also has reissued four of Bill Cosby's classic comedy albums. 200 M.P.H. (1968), It's True! It's True, (1969), The Best of Bill Cosby (1969) and Cosby and the Kids (a 1986 compilation) are now available for the first time on CD.

Blackmore's NightBlackmore's Night
Beyond The Sunset: The Romantic Collection
(SPV)
   


Valentine's Day may be past, but that doesn't mean you should pass up the latest Blackmore's Night CD.

Formed in the '90s around guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) and vocalist Candace Night (who served as a backup vocalist for Rainbow in its last incarnation), musically, Blackmore's Night is centuries removed from Blackmore's more famous projects.

Blackmore's Night fashions itself as classic "minstrels" and crafts wonderfully evocative, Renaissance-referencing music with a modernized feel (Renaissance artists, after all, didn't have drum kits or electric keyboards, basses and guitars!)

Two years ago I rated its live CD, Past Times with Good Company 4 stars for its energetic, hand-clapping mix of Renaissance Faire-style "party music" and evocative ballads. The band's new disc collects the most "romantic" ballads from its first four studio CDs, its designed to offer a quieter, more contemplative mood than that live set.

Beyond the Sunset opens with "Once in a Million Years," the CD's one previously unreleased song. Its warm mix of keyboard arpeggios, acoustic guitar flourishes and Night's gorgeous, sweetly evocative vocals are intoxicating.

"Be Mine Tonight" begs to be a popular wedding song, as its lyrical three-quarter-time guitar strums back Night's richly layered, almost Enya-esque vocals about being together forever: "in this heart there will never be another/you have made my life complete" she sings.

Night's yearning in "Wish You Were Here" is strong enough to give the listener heartache, while the love promises of "Waiting Just for You" build from a tentative beginning ("they don't know that I would wait my whole lifetime through/because you know my love that I'd be waiting just for you") to a celebratory mix of pounding drums and horns, as Night proclaims "there you stood, amazing, shining for the whole world to see/and I knew an angel had been sent to watch over me."

The disc also offers a re-recorded version of its previously released "Now and Then," a stirring ballad of the "ghosts and haunted dreams" of a broken relationship.

Black sings delicately over gently arpeggiating guitar strings.

The CD set also comes with a bonus CD single of three Christmas songs, as well as a five-song DVD that captures the band playing live, outside what looks like a small castle in Germany. Beyond the Sunset is a stirring, beautiful collection that could be the centerpiece of any romantic evening by the fire. Highly recommended.

For more information, check the band's Web site: www.blackmoresnight.com.

Michael BubleMichael Bublé
It's Time
(143/Reprise)
  ½


If you want a CD with something a little more swingin' for that evening by the fire, Michael Bublé offers a new collection of Sinatra-esque classics on It's Time.

The young Canadian singer has started his career similar to Harry Connick's Bublé's second CD offers updated, but classic sounding renditions of ubiquitous songs like "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "Try a Little Tenderness," as well as standards like Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin," the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" and Gerswhin's "A Foggy Day (in London Town)."

There's only one Bublé original on this disc ("Home") and it fits in well amid the finger-snapping swing standards like the opening Nina Simone standard "Feeling Good." He even performs a duet with Nelly Furtado on the Italian pop hit "Quando, Quando, Quando."

If you're overly sensitive to schmaltz, steer clear ... this one oozes it. But if you can't resist snapping your fingers to well-produced horn charts and martini-bar-style rat pack crooning, Bublé will bring you a big smile (and lots of snappin' appendage exercise!).