Fans of George Jones can now get a double CD of the country great's collaborations on My Very Special Guests (Legacy Edition) on Epic/Legacy. The set includes the original 1979 CD of duets with Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Elvis Costello, and adds 27 more tracks recorded with a host of Americana music legends in the year's since the original disc. Ray Charles, Randy Travis, Ralph Stanley, B.B. King, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Shelby Lynne, David Allan Coe are among that group.

Adding applause to a collection of his hits, Seal has issued Live in Paris on Warner Bros., a new concert recording that includes "Crazy," "Prayer for the Dying," "Love's Divine" and "Kiss From a Rose." The CD set also includes a separate DVD with video footage of the concert.

The Indigo Girls have unearthed a rewarding collection of Rarities, issued on Epic. The CD includes rare live cover songs, demos and songs recorded for tribute CDs and studio albums that never found a home. The disc opens with a version of the Clash's "Clampdown," recorded for a Clash tribute album, and continues with a live duet on Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." There's also a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" and a demo version of their own track, "Ghost." They duet with Michael Stipe on "I'll Give You My Skin" and Ani Difranco on Woody Guthrie's "Ramblin' Round." It ends with the beautiful a capella harmonies of "Finlandia," a "timeless ode to peace."

It's not really a live concert album (there's no clapping), only it is a live album Mark Knopfler recorded eight songs live with his band in the studio. All but one of the songs are from his most recent studio album, Shangri-La. Released as One Take Radio Sessions on Warner Bros. records, the disc sounds like a slightly looser, rawer version of that last album, and includes the single "Boom, Like That," as well as "The Trawlerman's Song, "Back to Tupelo" and the quiet "Rudiger," from his "Golden Heart" album.

 

NIN Nine Inch Nails
[With Teeth]
(Interscope)
½


One day, alternative industrial rocker Trent Reznor, the man behind NIN, woke up and realized he was living the usual rock star cliché. His bank account seemed a lot dryer than it should have been, while his manager seemed richer.

The usual legal shenanigans ensued, and now, five years since his last release, Reznor and NIN are back. But the CD title is a bit of a misnomer. While the singer still has some acid to his words, musically, this album seems a bit meandering and tame.

Toothless?

It opens with the repetitious "(Why do you get) All the Love in the World," which repeats the title line over and over for a couple of minutes, before a piano chord and drumbeat kick up the pace though he keeps singing the same line.

The synthesizers and over-excited drum machine go into overdrive on "You Know What You Are" and let Reznor scream a bit before moving on to the raw bombast of "The Collector" and the pop-angst of the radio-friendly dig at his ex-manager, "The Hand That Feeds."

If there were a few more songs with rollicking bass and guitars to match the solid "Hand That Feeds," NIN's return would be cause for celebration. As it stands, there are some inspired moments, but they live amid some irritating, repetitive statements similar to "With Teeth" and "All the Love in the World."

This one's worth picking up, but also worth setting the CD player to skip some tracks.

 

Will Smith Will Smith
Lost and Found
(Interscope)
½


Will Smith started out as a cornball rapper, then turned TV star and then movie star. Several of the songs on Lost and Found reference his rags-to-riches climb, especially the opener, rapped on top of a Spiderman TV theme song riff ("hey there, here comes big Will again," he sings).

The centerpiece of Smith's latest return to the rap mike is "Switch," which already has established itself as a dancefloor favorite (and has been remixed by one popular DJ incorporating a Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever theme.)

Smith remains a "clean" rapper, eschewing four-letter words for clever rhymes. And these days, enlightened both by years of fame and fatherhood, he's dealing with subjects that aren't just dance-floor fodder or quirky bits of fun like his breakout "Parents Just Don't Understand."

On "Tell Me Why," with the help of Mary J. Blige, he asks what he's supposed to say to his kid about the injustice and meanness of the world:

"I really wish I could explain it, baby
it's just the world is kinda crazy, baby
ain't no pretty way to paint it, baby
don't cry,"

he raps, talking about starvation, murder, 9-11 and priests who molest children, among other difficult topics.

Later on the disc, he also details the frightening story of a fan/stalker he apparently had named "Loretta," after lightening the mood set by "Tell Me Why" with a couple of fun collaborations one with Snoop Dogg on a dance-floor contender in "Pump Your Brakes" and another with Nicole Scherzinger on "If You Can't Dance (Slide)."

Song for song, Lost and Found isn't the catchiest Will Smith CD, but it still offers plenty of fun and rewarding rhyme.