Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot was Canada's premier singer-songwriter in the '70s, racking up 10 Top 100 hits in the United States during that period, from "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Sundown," to "Carefree Highway" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Now, the Northern Blues label has gathered more than a dozen current Canadian artists to honor him on Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot.

The material on the CD ignores many of his hits (glaringly omitted are "Carefree Highway" and "Edmund Fitzgerald"), but it still includes a solid selection of Lightfoot's material. The Cowboy Junkies lead it off with the ambling "The Way I Feel," followed by Jesse Winchester's take on "Sundown." Bruce Cockburn offers a melancholy crooning of "Ribbon of Darkness," while Blue Rodeo turns an almost Monkees-like harmony on "Go Go Round." Connie Kaldor handles the ultimate in sad love songs in "If You Could Read My Mind," and Maria Muldaur covers "That Same Old Obsession.

Other artists include Ron Sexsmith, The Tragically Hip, Harry Manx and more.


Bill BraggBritain's Billy Bragg has long been a critic's favorite for his counterculture political folk rock and now Elektra/Rhino has pulled together a three-disc collection of his work in Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg.

The main two-CD set includes 40 songs in all, from "A New England" and "The Man in the Iron Mask" to "St. Swithin's Day" and "The Space Race Is Over."

There's also a third CD of 10 rarities (unreleased, live and remixed songs). While Bragg has never had a chart hit on these shores, he's engendered a devoted following and worked with an array of artists. Songs on this collection include collaborations with Michelle Shocked, Wilco, The Blokes, members of R.E.M., Natalie Merchant, The Hives and more.


Mary Chapin CarpenterMary Chapin Carpenter has been one of the most successful crossover country artists of the past decade, and now you can hear why in a survey of her career best.

The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter includes 16 tracks, from the gentle memory play of "Stones in the Road" to the playful "Shut Up and Kiss Me" and twang rock of "Down at the Twist and Shout" and "I Feel Lucky" to the melancholic "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" and her biggest pop hit, "Passionate Kisses."


Many classic rock fans will be adding ZZ Top to their Christmas lists this year; Warner Bros. has put together Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box. The four-CD set includes three songs from the band's early incarnation as The Moving Sidewalks, as well as its classic ZZ Top hits "LaGrange," "Cheap Sunglasses," "Tube Snake Boogie," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs" and more.

There are 80 tracks in all, including some "medium rare" tracks in live and remix versions of "Cheap Sunglasses," "Legs" and "Velcro Fly."