See what we thought of new albums from Tony Bennett, Depeche Mode, The Who, and more

A View From 3rd Street

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A quick hit of recent music releases

Tony Bennett
Astoria: Portrait of the Artist (Columbia; CD, T)
Sweet but oversold as Bennett’s musical autobiography. B- (Greg Sandow)

The Blue Aeroplanes
Swagger (Chrysalis; all formats)
They opened for R.E.M. in their native Britain and were anointed princes of alternative rock; Swagger, their first major-label album, is more absorbing on each hearing. B+ (Greg Sandow)

Jude Cole
A View From 3rd Street (Reprise; all formats)
There’s something comforting about an entirely familiar sound, in this case pop-tinged rock. There’s also something dismaying about an artist who’s so entirely derivative. C+ (Greg Sandow)

Cowboy Junkies
The Caution Horses (RCA; all formats)
Blanker than last year’s glowing debut. Still, there are a few magic moments. B- (Greg Sandow)

Depeche Mode
Violator (Reprise, all formats)
Distinctive and curious effects hint at disturbing undercurrents in this band’s easy-flowing synthesizer pop. B- (Greg Sandow)

Field Trip
Headgear (Slash; all formats)
Teen pop and knife-edged hardcore rock make a lively, if sometimes dour, blend. B- (Greg Sandow)

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (Warner Bros.; CD, T)
Eclectic banjo-jazz, at turns astonishing and uninvolving. B (Alanna Nash)

The Harper Brothers
Remembrance — Live at the Village Vanguard (Verve; CD, T)
Young band in the Art Blakey mode makes good on its earlier promise. B+ (Gary Giddins)

Robyn Hitchcock
Eye (Twin/Tone, all formats)
Armed mostly with just his own acoustic guitar, he’s as gentle, weird, and disturbing as ever. A- (Greg Sandow)

Nick Lowe
Party of One (Warner Bros.; all formats)
Roots music that’s sometimes serious, sometimes insane, almost always hard to resist. B+ (Greg Sandow)

Midnight Oil
Blue Sky Mining (Columbia; all formats)
Deep, rewarding, sometimes obscure. B (Greg Sandow)

Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson
Highwayman 2 (Columbia; CD, T)
Fine sequel that salutes the spirit of the American hero. A (Alanna Nash)

Sinead O’Connor
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Chrysalis, all formats)
She transforms pop- music styles as she sings about her quest for serenity. A (Greg Sandow)

Elvis Presley
The Million Dollar Quartet (RCA; all formats)
The King fooling around back in 1956 with some famous pals. They even sing. B (Greg Sandow)

Alisa Randolph
Alisa Randolph (Atlantic; all formats)
The former lead singer of Madame X has a voice like an incandescent gospel brat, supported by production that keeps you dancing. B+ (Greg Sandow)

Sonny Rollins
Falling in Love With Jazz (Milestone; all formats)
A brilliant tenor saxophonist; euphoric ballads and originals. A+ (Gary Giddins)

Smallmouth (Rough Trade; all formats)
These three women from Columbus, Ohio, play folky guitar with punk feedback; they write lyrics that snap out in bite-size verbal chunks. And they sing close vocal harmony that must have been planned in a small, dark corner of heaven. B+ (Greg Sandow)

Lisa Stansfield
Affection (Arista; all formats)
Smoldering dance debut with a varied and subtle beat. A- (Greg Sandow)

The Who
Join Together (MCA; 3 LP, 2 T, 2 CD)
Live album of their 1989 tour, dominated by the 12-piece backup band. B- (Greg Sandow)

A View From 3rd Street
  • Music