Unexpected DreamsUnexpected beauty. Voices from the heart. Lullabyes from the stars.

That's the mission of Unexpected Dreams, a new Rhino Records collection of gentle ballads sung by Scarlett Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Garner, Jeremy Irons, John Stamos, Lucy Lawless, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and others.

Each star chose a lullabye or soft song that touched his or her own heart to perform with acoustic or orchestral accompaniment from members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The results are often magical.

Stamos takes on Billy Joel's heart-wrenching "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" to fine effect, backed by a quiet orchestral arrangement. Johansson does Gershwin's "Summertime" to open the album with a taut but smoky delivery that gives chills. Garner chose a Broadway classic in Frank Loesser's "My Heart Is So Full of You," while McGregor picked Sade's "The Sweetest Gift." Irons offers a cover of Bob Dylan's melancholy "Make You Feel My Love."

The disc also features two Beatles tracks: Nia Vardalos slows down and dramas up the classic "Abbey Road" track "Golden Slumbers," while Teri Hatcher closes with "Good Night," with piano and flute.

It's a beautiful album of unexpected covers and lullabyes aiding a journey to dreamland.

Tommy BoyStarted out of a New York apartment during the age of disco, the Tommy Boy label would come to its greatest chart prominence in the late 80s with back to back hits from techno-pop outfit Information Society. Before and since, however, the label has done well with a variety of releases, ranging from Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and "Renegades of Funk," and Club Nouveau's "Why You Treat Me So Bad" to Force M.D.'s "Let Me Love You" and Queen Latifah's "How Do I Love Thee." These songs, and more, are now collected on The Tommy Boy Story Vol. 1 from Tommy Boy and Rhino.

The two-disc set also comes with a booklet chronicling the history of innovative label.

 

Daniel PowterDaniel Powter
Daniel Powter
(Warner Bros.)
½

Canadian Daniel Powter has hit the pop charts in a big way with his first single "Bad Day." The self-titled album is culled from his several other contenders among its 10 tracks that beg radio play.

With his always-on-the-edge of falsetto delivery and easy listening piano accompaniment, Powter brings to mind a mix of blue-eyed Motown soul, melded with the adult contemporary pop of Train and Elton John.

On the irrepressible single "Bad Day," longtime music lovers might find a similarity to the perfect power pop of Tal Bachman (as well as a universal appeal in the lyric about having a bad day). It's a timeless sound that has created pop hits for various singer-songwriters for decades, and Powter makes fine use of the style with catchy songs and stereo perfection by veteran Mitchell Froom.

The disc opens with one of its strongest tracks, the electric piano underpinned "Song 6," which shows off Powter's slippery, soul-pop style to great effect before slipping into the easy nodding stroll of "Free Loop."

If the beat was funkier, Powter's squeaky delivery on "Suspect" might sound like disco, instead of mid-tempo rock. It's a low point of the album, as Powter's style seems most appealing when he's not trying to rock so much.

His best work is on heartfelt ballads with a touch of soul, as on the entrancing "Lie to Me" and the whispering strut of "Hollywood."

Warm, summery and light on both the ears and the soul, Daniel Powter's debut is a perfect accompaniment to the return of blue skies. Recommended for head nodding!