Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Extras: Robbie Robertson, Hugh Laurie's 'House' of blues, 'Songs for Japan,' power pop, Streisand

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Robbie Robertson, "How to Become Clairvoyant" (2 and a half stars) -- Robertson's first album in more than a decade makes good on the long absence with considerable heft added to the usual arms-length approach and haunted boogie. High-profile guests (Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Trent Reznor, more) include Tom Morello on "Axman," a sly, name-checking tune about dudes "who play a mean guitar."

"House" of blues -- British actor-comedian Hugh Laurie has recorded an album of traditional American blues, "Let Them Talk." Watch this impressive performance for the Guardian live from New Orleans.

Power pop alerts --

  1. A 20th-anniversary reissue of the debut Material Issue album, "International Pop Overthrow," is released this Tuesday. Plus, the Chicago band's surviving members will regroup to perform the album in its entirety at the festival that bears the album's name in a few weeks; that show, Material Reissue (featuring Ted Ansani, Mike Zelenko and Phil Angotti), is April 23 at the Abbey. See the full Chicago IPO schedule.

  2. The Smithereens, "2011" (3 stars) -- A 12-year wait for new songs is rewarded with less growth but precise targeting from this "Revolver"-loving band. Reunited with producer Don Dixon, the Smithereens sound like they haven't aged a day. The guitars bristle, the rhythms stomp, frequent Chicago visitor Pat DiNizio still stacks the downcast pop songs with conviction and heart.

Various Artists, "Songs for Japan" -- This hastily assembled two-disc collection out Tuesday rounds up Lennon's "Imagine," Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm," Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down and Me" as well as Lady Gaga, Adele and Pink. Not much to recommend it musically, but it is a fund-raiser for the Red Cross recovery efforts in Japan. Here's Justin Bieber, who's on the album, pleading for your "prayers" and "shout-outs" ...

Leon Russell, "The Best of Leon Russell" (3 stars) -- Who's the white-haired dude at Elton John's side these days? Capitol Records threw together this succinct but sparkling set of tracks from the heyday of the Master of Space and Time, including such righteous boogie as "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Shoot Out on the Plantation" and lounge beauties like "A Song for You" and "This Masquerade."

Barb, wired -- I'm late to this party (the video spiked again on YouTube this week), but what a party ...

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on April 3, 2011 4:00 AM.

CD review: The Raveonettes, 'Raven in the Grave' was the previous entry in this blog.

Smoking Popes at Double Door, new album 'This Is Only a Test' shows band still relishing the wonder years is the next entry in this blog.

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