Virgin Records has released a record of Queen Elizabeth II's Party at the Palace, a jubilee held last month to commemorate the 50th year of her ascension to the throne. A portion of the proceeds of the disc will benefit the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Trust. The CD opens with Queen's Brian May performing a grandiose guitar solo on "God Save The Queen," and follows with Phil Collins performing a mellow version of "You Can't Hurry Love." Collins also sits in on drums for Queen on renditions of "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions" and "Radio Ga Ga." Shirley Bassey turns up to perform her classic James Bond theme "Goldfinger," Bryan Adams brings out the acoustic guitar for "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)," Eric Clapton offers his trademark "Layla," and Brian Wilson works with The Corrs and Emma Bunton & Atomic Kitten on "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations." Paul McCartney closes the show with all-star renditions of "All You Need Is Love" and "Hey, Jude." In between are performances by Annie Lennox, Tom Jones, Elton John, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart.

Rhino Records has reissued the first three Chicago albums with bonus tracks. The label also has teamed with Warner Bros. to reissue Emmylou Harris' classic 1980 album Roses in the Snow, with two new bonus tracks – covers of Hank Williams' "You're Gonna Change" and "Root Like a Rose." The album also includes her cover of Paul Simon's "The Boxer."

The Rhino/Warner team has also unveiled a collection from Randy Travis. Trail of Memories: The Randy Travis Anthology is a two-CD set with 44 singles and album tracks covering the popular country singer's 13 albums from 1986-1999. Included are "Diggin' Up Bones," "Forever and Ever, Amen," "I Told You So," "Honky Tonk Moon," "Look Heart, No Hands," and more.

Looking to find some hot Latin music for your summer barbecues? Legacy/Columbia have issued Mambo Mucho Mambo: The Complete Columbia Masters from Machito & His Afro-Cuban Orchestra, originally recorded in the 1950s, as well as the 1940s-50s work of The Original Latin Dance King Xavier Cugat, Que Pasa? The Best of the Fania All-Stars (featuring '70s recordings with Ruben Blades and Celia Cruz among others), and Rhythm of the Night – The Very Best of Latin Jazz ,with hits by Santana, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann and more, covering the salsa scene of the last 35 years.

 

Counting Crows - Hard Candy Counting Crows
Hard Candy
(Geffen)


With their fourth studio album, Adam Duritz and the Crows have firmly established themselves as the premier American rock band. Melding the twangy guitar lead styles of The Byrds and Tom Petty, with warm piano and organ backgrounds, not to mention classic "ah-ah" harmonies, Hard Candy is a beautiful, rich tapestry of instantly classic rock. And while the Crows have been known in the past for their long meandering, atmosphere pieces, this time Duritz has focused more than ever on hooks and harmonies.

While the songs still average more than four minutes each, Hard Candy listens as a more straight-ahead, upbeat album than its predecessors. Which is not to say that the Crows don't know how to wax on; "Good Time," one of the most laidback pieces on the album (which includes quietly picked strings in the background) opens with a slow wa-wa guitar line and then after three and a half minutes of slow grooving guitar, spends nearly a full minute fading out as Duritz improvs about loving the "redhaired girls, just like all the boys from Texas."

Opening with its jangly, "Recovering The Satellites"-esque title track (featuring background vocals by Mathew Sweet), Hard Candy then slips right into its jaunty summery single, "American Girls," an undeniably catchy driving song with background vocals from Sheryl Crow that both tells the story of a ruined romance while celebrating the fickle allure of women everwhere ("holding a candle right up to my hand/making me feel so incredible…American girls all feathers and cream/coming to bed so edible.")

The band tries its hand at a number of different "feels" on Hard Candy, from the rootsy rock flair of "Hard Candy" and "American Girls," to throbbing bass and mariachi flourishes on "Miami," and twining New Wave guitars and jumping bass on "New Frontier."

"If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel is Dead)" opens with a big piano sound reminiscient of The Band, while "Butterfly in Reverse," moves in a three quarter time waltz with soaring Burt Bacharach style strings and strong harmonies to make for a swirling, kaleidescopic ballad. "Black & Blue" opens with solemn piano chords as Duritz sings a quiet hymn of letting go and "falling down," with the help of Leona Naess on background vocals. "Why Should You Come When I Call" puts things back on a jaunty track with sassy organ leads and big call-and-response backgrounds and "ba-ba-da-da"s. Then there's a late night piano ballad in the aching "Up All Night" and the closing bittersweet hymn, "Holiday In Spain" ("she got a bottle of tequila, a bottle of gin and if I bring a little music I'll fit right in").

Duritz's poetry is as complex, melancholy and introspective as ever on Hard Candy, which continues his amazingly deep, insightful legacy begun nine years ago with "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here."

This is without a doubt one of the year's best CDs.