Five For FightingFive for Fighting fans can now pick up an expanded version of The Battle For Everything. In addition to the disc's hit "100 Years," the new version of the album includes a second CD that offers leader John Ondrasik performing "Silent Night," an acoustic version of his early hit, "Superman," a remix of "Something About You" as well as two videos each from the band's two albums.

The latest artists to offer their favorite songs in Starbucks' Artist's Choice series are Emmylou Harris and Norah Jones. The CDs are put together through Rhino/Warner Bros., but available only in Starbucks, Hear Music stores and at Starbucks.com. The theory of the series is each well-known artist selects his or her favorite songs by other artists.

Harris' Artist's Choice Music That Matters to Her includes Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska," Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," Steve Earle's "Ft. Worth Blues" and songs by Joan Baez, Merle Haggard, Gillian Welch, Staple Singers and more.

Jones' Artist's Choice Music That Matters to Her includes Ray Charles' "What Would I Do Without You," Billie Holiday's "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" and songs by Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and more.

 

Plant PageRobert Plant and Jimmy Page came together a decade ago to rekindle some of the magic that was Led Zeppelin with a series of "unplugged" concerts. Atlantic has released some recordings from that tour as a live CD called No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded.

While the addition of Indian orchestral players helps fill the sound out somewhat, there's still something definitely missing in the languorous mix of "Nobody's Fault but Mine" and "The Rain Song." The faithful might find it of interest, but the casual Led Zeppelin fan should stick with the band's studio albums.

Speaking of studio albums, Grateful Dead fans got a treat a couple years ago when Rhino Records released all of the band's albums from 1965 to 1973 in The Golden Road, a beautiful box set.

Grateful DeadNow, the label has done it again, with the remainder of the band's output from 1973 to 1989 in Beyond Description, a 10-album box that also includes two booklets about the band and the making of the albums. Each CD includes at least a couple of bonus recordings rescued from the period of the album's recording, if not an entire CD's-worth (as in the case of Reckoning).

Among the albums included are From the Mars Hotel, Shakedown Street, Terrapin Station, Go to Heaven, In the Dark and their ironically titled Built to Last, which became the band's final studio album. These discs include Dead hits and classics such as "Good Lovin'," "Shakedown Street," "Fire on the Mountain," "U.S. Blues," "Scarlet Begonias," "Ship of Fools," "Dire Wolf," "It Must Have Been the Roses," "Dancing In the Streets," "Estimated Prophet," "Alabama Getaway," "Althea," "Touch of Grey" and "Foolish Heart."

Also included are the 1981 live albums Reckoning and Dead Set, each with a full CD of bonus material.

 

Columbia's Legacy arm is courting a slightly different audience with a new box set from Tony Bennett. Fifty Years: The Artistry of Tony Bennett is an attractive five-CD box with a 76-page booklet filled with information about Bennett's career and featuring the artist's comments on his songs. Included are his hits "A Taste of Honey," "Blue Velvet," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "I Wanna Be Around," "The Good Life," and "Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)" and many others.

Living ThingsKimi Ga SukiMatthew Sweet
Kimi Ga Suki
     

Living Things
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(Superdeformed/RCAM)


M atthew Sweet fans can now get not one, but two solo albums from the singer-songwriter, released on his own label. They're his first solo releases since 1999.

Sweet put his solo career on hold a couple years ago to form The Thorns with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins. But just before holing up for that project, he pulled together the group of musicians who made his 1991 album Girlfriend.

The group laid down a dozen fast, jangling rockin' tracks in Sweet's home studio that rank among his most energetic and exciting. But rather than release the album on a major label, Sweet put the disc out in Japan as Kimi Ga Suki last year as a "thank you" to his Japanese fans.

Filled with raw guitar leads and reverb-heavy vocals, Kimi Ga Suki was written and recorded in a week and spotlights Sweet at his finest and most raucous.

Rather than second guessing and worrying about creating perfectly layered harmonies, this is a garage-rock album that just feels good, from the pounding drums and tight guitars of the opening declaration "Dead Smile" to the wild echoing Altered Beast-esque stomp-rock of "I Love You," to its follow-up, the, country-tinged "I Don't Want To Know," which is strongly reminiscent of Girlfriend.

Recorded just a couple months after Kimi, Living Things offers a completely different, more experimental Sweet vibe. Written during Sweet's songwriting sessions with The Thorns and recorded later at his home, it avoids electric guitars and focuses on more organic drawn-out arrangements with varying instrumentation, including piano arpeggios on "Dandelion" and steel drums on the overly extended opening track "The Big Cats of Shambala." That song never quite gels, but the marching rhythm and background harmonies of "Push The Feelings" hint at '70s pop radio.

The piano-centric "Cats Vs. Dogs" ranks among Sweet's most offhandedly humorous recordings.

More improvisational than Kimi, and including keyboard work from Beach Boys arranger Van Dyke Parks, Living Things paints on a broader canvas. While Living Things allows Sweet to try out some different styles of writing, Kimi stands out as the most immediate and satisfying of the two releases.

Matthew Sweet will perform at The Vic Theater in Chicago on Nov. 7, with opening act Velvet Crush.