Grateful DeadDeadheads can now celebrate Independence Day all over again with the Grateful Dead. Rhino Records has just issued Truckin' to Buffalo, a two-disc recording made of the Dead on July 4, 1989, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The band sounds in fine form as it shambles through "Ship of Fools," launches into the atmospheric jam "Space," and provides a weathered, easy jam on "Terrapin Station." Also included are versions of "Bertha," "Stagger Lee," "Deal," "Touch of Grey," "Morning Dew" and "U.S. Blues."

Michael Jackson's personal problems have sadly overshadowed the genius of his 30-year career as the King of Pop. Now, Epic's Legacy arm has issued a two-disc reminder of why the singer was famous before the embarrassing tabloid attacks. The Essential Michael Jackson goes back to the beginning for hits from the Jackson 5, such as "Rockin' Robin" and "ABC," through his fledgling solo hits, such as "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You," to the mega-stardom of the Thriller era, with "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," not to mention "Thriller" and "Human Nature." The second disc offers "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," "Smooth Criminal," "Black or White," and more. There are 38 tracks in all, an amazing legacy from a performer who still should have many years of hits left in him.

 

Mediaeval Baebes Mediaeval Baebes
Mirabilis
(Nettwerk)


With summertime, often comes thoughts of the olden days and taking a trip up north to the Renaissance Faire to enjoy the exploits of comics and minstrels in the outdoors. But you don't have to drive to the Wisconsin border to rediscover the earthy, lyrical and harmonic music of the Renaissance.

The Mediaeval Baebes, a collective of eight lovely Renaissance-diggin' women, have been making innovative luxurious-sounding choral music since 1997, when their first CD topped the classical charts. Their latest disc, Mirabilis, is filled with flitting, intertwining, angelic harmonies, lilting guitar and flute lines, and even the occasional percussive drum background.

The chanting vocals, pounding drum beats and singular flute of "All for Love of One" will make you feel like getting up and doing a jig around the room (or the campfire, if you take them with you outside).

The Baebes will be at least tangentially familiar to fans of bestselling ambient techno band Delerium they sang a track on the Poem album, which also featured Matthew Sweet and Sixpence None the Richer's Leigh Nash.

But there is no electronica or techno mixing going on in Mirabilis. This is a collection of classical poems set to neoclassical music (they even have harps!), and neoclassical music adapted for modern, albeit medieval-sounding instrumentation.

Stirring, beautiful, warmly romantic, the songs on the Baebes' latest disc will leave you feeling like you've gone to heaven and drifted back in time.

 

Susie Suh Susie Suh
Susie Suh
(Epic)


Sensual, evocative, personal, 25-year-old singer-songwriter Susie Suh brings to mind a host of adjectives, all of them emotional. At times, as in the "life is a battlefield" lyrics of "Your Battlefield," her smoky vocal tones and older-than-her-years perspective bring to mind Tanita Tikaram, who had a hit with "Twist in My Sobriety" back when she was just 18.

But then, in songs like the cool guitar strut of "Lucille," she sounds young, cocky and ready to take on the world.

A Korean-American who has been singing in choirs since she was 8, Suh picked up a guitar as a teen, went to boarding school on the East Coast and started writing her own music about love, loss and the gulf between the values of her Korean ancestry and parents and her American upbringing.

Suh was signed to Epic in 2003 after being discovered playing in bars in New York's East Village. Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, No Doubt) produced the debut album, after being sold on Suh's unique, seductive style.

He'd originally agreed to produce only a few tracks, but after working with Suh, took on the whole album. His own quote about the disc describes it as well as I ever could:

"There is a world-weary and wise power in her burnished amber voice," Ballard says. "These stories come from a woman impossibly young to communicate so much experience, with the sexual urgency and poignancy of a Billie Holiday and the lyrical clarity of a John Cheever short story. I feel like every drop of every line is oozing from her pores, no crocodile tears, no excess musical or verbal baggage. I'm mesmerized by her ability to express the ineffable in her lyrics and by her ability to capture the human heart in conflict with itself. There is shade and dappled sunlight in her landscapes of the soul, but, ultimately, hope of love, of fulfillment, of connection."

Many of the songs of her debut deal with finding her personal place, despite the pulls of others. In "Shell" she sings of "tearing down the walls inside" to come out of her introspective shell, while in "Your Battlefield," she sings of knowing when it's time to leave:

"You say I have to fight/I have to keep moving this is your battlefield." She is still at war with her feelings on the closing song, "All I Want," a gentle study of piano, strings and vocals where she croons, "All I want is what you got I want to stay/but I know I'm gonna lose myself this way."

Every song on "Susie Suh" is a richly spun confection of emotional chocolate; deep, swirling and rich with personal tension.

Don't miss this beautiful, affecting debut. For more information and song samples, check her Web site at www.susiesuh.com.