If Norah Jones stoked a renewed interest for you in classic-sounding jazzy pop songs, you might want to take a trip down to Park West on Tuesday to catch the evening show by Katie Melua. A 19-year-old singer-songwriter born in the Soviet Republic of Georgia, Melua, these days calls East London home. Her debut CD, Call Off the Search, already has spent six weeks at No. 1 on the UK charts, and has gone top 10 throughout Europe, thanks to its mix of dramatic, emotional original and cover songs (including the Randy Newman-penned Bette Midler vehicle from Beaches, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today").
While Melua grew up listening to everything from the Spice Girls to Queen, she found her inspiration from another era; one of the two songs she wrote on the album (and the song which got her the attention of composer/producer Mike Batt) is dedicated to the late Eva Cassidy ("Faraway Voice"). The album opens with its title track, which with its slow walking bass, gorgeous string and piano arrangement, and Melua's lightly ethereal vocal, sounds like a classic 1940s lounge standard.
It's not, actually. Producer Batt wrote "Call Off the Search" and a number of the CD's other faux classic songs. The disc, which should be wildly embraced by the same crowd that loved Norah Jones, was just released this month in the United States on Universal Records, and Melua is launching her first U.S. tour here in Chicago at Park West.
Fans of Julio Iglesias can now get a "best of" collection called Love Songs from Columbia Records. Love Songs leads off with his duet with Willie Nelson, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" and goes on to cover other standards such as "Crazy," "Vincent (Starry Starry Night)," "Feelings," "Can't Help Falling in Love" and more.
Grateful Dead fans have always been known for collecting scads of the band's concerts recorded live (usually by people holding microphones in the middle of a crowd). The band and Rhino Records have been releasing some more professionally recorded live CDs lately, and the latest is Rockin' the Rhein with the Grateful Dead. Recorded in West Germany back in 1972, the three-CD set captures the band at its classic prime, and includes standards like "Truckin'," "Beat It Down the Line," "Playing in the Band," "Dark Star," "Sugar Magnolia," "One More Saturday Night" and more, including a cover of "Me and Bobby McGee."
The soundtrack to Raising Helen,on Hollywood Records, offers a mix of new and old pop tracks. The CD opens with Devo's classic "Whip It," then segues to Liz Phair's most recent hit, "Extraordinary," and then offers a new lightweight pop track from Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, a forgettable track from Five for Fighting ("Sister Sunshine") and a crunchy pop song by newcomer Fefe Dobson. Also included are Josh Kelley's current hit, "Amazing," David Bowie's classic "Fashion" and songs from Joan Osborne, Ingram Hill, John Hiatt and more.
New York's Feathermerchants, led by guitarist Pete Veru and liltingly ethereal vocalist Shannon Kennedy, released a solid independent disc last year in Unarmed Against the Dark. The band now offers an enhanced CD EP in Street Theater that contains alternate versions of four songs taken from its first self-titled CD and from Unarmed Against the Dark. The disc includes a computer-accessible video for Unarmed's "Dan," as well as three mixes of that album's Eastern-tinged "Ursuline," and an alternate version of "Farmers Night Out." Representing its first album, there are alternate mixes of "Best Regards" and the "unplugged" Grey Eyed Glances-esque "Ludlow Street." For more information, check the band's Web site at www.feathermerchants.com.