Laura NyroIf you like ZZ Top, but didn't want to shell out the cash for their recent boxed set, now you can pick up their more affordable two-disc greatest hits set Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top on Warner Bros. The set includes all their hit singles, from "La Grange," "Tush" and "Cheap Sunglasses," to "Tube Snake Boogie," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs" and "Velcro Fly." It also includes remixes of the latter two hits, and a live version of "Cheap Sunglasses."

Columbia's Legacy label continues to mine the vaults for rare, previously unreleased treasures by now-classic artists. Their latest is a live concert performance from the late Laura Nyro, recorded at New York's historic Fillmore East, just a month before the venue closed in 1971. Spread Your Wings and Fly finds the singer-songwriter performing solo at the piano, and covering Carole King's "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman" and "Up on the Roof" (which became Nyro's one Billboard hit), as well as "Phil Spector's "Spanish Harlem," and her own "American Dove," "I Am the Blues" and "Mother Earth."

Ben KwellerBen Kweller
On My Way
(Atco/RCA)
  


After his teenage grunge band Radish imploded, Ben Kweller launched his solo career two years ago with the adventurous Sha Sha, which mixed crunchy alternative rock with alt-country strummers.

His slacker-rock celebration caught on with the X and Y generations, and now the 23-year-old is back with On My Way, a looser mix of alt-country jams and anti-folk amblings.

On My Way is less polished than its predecessor, sounding more like a garage recording, or demo session, rather than an album thirsting for Top 40 play. That's intentional; after honing their chops on the road, Kweller and his band went into the studio and tracked On My Way in just three weeks.

Instead of following the usual conventions of recording drums and guitars and vocals at separate times in separate rooms, the band, essentially, tracked the album live in one room. Without the attention to recording layers of vocals and getting "big harmonies," the disc sounds more immediate as if Kweller and company were jamming right there in your living room, sometimes maybe making it up on the spot.

The title track listens like a campfire song Kweller strums a sparse acoustic guitar, while singing a series of verses about self-realization. It's a deceptively simple song; each verse unveils a new piece of character, as Kweller admits each lesson learned to his mother in the always changing chorus, noting "Aw, mom, I never thought that I was a murdering man, but tonight I'm on my way," and "Aw, mom, I never thought that I could love no one, but tonight I'm on my way."

Sometimes, Kweller sounds like he's channeling The Band, or some other early '70s folk rock act; on "Living Life," he pairs a Jackson Browne piano and Beatle-era guitar solo with a lyric about following your muse: "Yeah, you are living life the way you feel" he sings.

With "Ann Disaster," he takes a page from the Matthew Sweet "vintage guitar riff" songbook and a Dinosaur Jr.-esque quavering vocal to kick up the tempo some. But for fans who played air guitar to songs such as "Wasted and Ready" from his last album, the best track on On My Way is its leadoff, the punchy "I Need You Back."

It all ends with a big Ben Folds-ish piano ballad in "Different but the Same," which uses harmonies and some studio tricks to color Kweller's normally thin voice to a more lustrous sheen.

On My Way doesn't yield songs with as many "pop hit" hooks as his last disc, but Kweller's songwriting remains strong, and his muse eccentric. On My Way is an often amusing, always head-nodding, jangly listen.