Singer-songwriter Jack Johnson returns this week with a new live CD and DVD release, how will the Hawaiian fare playing in front of fans instead of a studio? Elsewhere, Welsh warbler Katherine Jenkins returns with a new album Believe, and there are compilations from Godskitchen, Pop Party 7 and Now That's What I Call... series.
Jack Johnson - En Concert.
Recorded during Jack's Sleep Through The Static world tour in 2008, the biggest tour of his career, this collection features hits such as If I Had Eyes, Flake and Banana Pancakes, all of which are performed wonderfully in front of thousands of fans. Devotees who love the surfer-turned-singer's laidback, folksy style will adore this acoustic, stripped-down live album. Highlights include an extremely exuberant rendition of Staple It Together, and Constellations with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. The special edition includes a tour documentary DVD, made by Emmett Malloy, tracing the steps of the European leg of the tour. A sure-fire must-have for fans.
Rating: 9/10 (Review by Shereen Low).
Katherine Jenkins - Believe.
Like those supermarket offers where the extras make you wonder about the original selling proposition, the 'bonus track' - Adagio - added to the end of this latest CD from Katherine Jenkins might make waverers wonder what's wrong with the first dozen songs on offer. While the formidable Welsh chanteuse focuses on Godfather as the highlight of this latest selection, the fact is that none of these songs is likely to be belted out at the Millennium Stadium to raise Welsh rugger buggers to a frenzy. The smooch factor is fairly low too, despite the Bocelli-style duet featured in No Woman No Cry. Steadfast fans shaken and stirred by Sacred Arias in 2008 might find this a tad underwhelming.
Rating: 5/10 (Review by Jeremy Gates).
Pitbull - Rebelution.
When you listen to something like this, you wonder how an artist such as Pitbull has managed to get signed. No offence, but this is like some kind of Euro-pop parody of hip-hop. I can't help but think that if I've noticed this within the first couple of bars, why didn't the record companies? On the first song, Triumph, it seems Pitbull is intent on fulfilling as many cringeworthy dance hip-hop stereotypes as possible: 'Look here I am doing a swear, now I'm talking about girls, including of course my 'baby mama' and of course I must explain that while I'm really rather fantastic now and earning a relatively good salary, I did struggle when I was younger.' Well done Pitbull, your music is wonderfully groundbreaking.
Rating: 2/10 (Review by Polly Weeks).
Godskitchen - Pure Trance Anthems.
Hot on the heels of their recent Anthems 2009 compilation, the massive club Godskitchen returns with a compelling state of the (trance) nation address. With revisionist electro once again riding high in the charts, this seems a suitable moment to revisit the most bleepily electronic of house sub-genres, which initially came to prominence in the late 1990s. Genuine enthusiasts are likely to conclude that Pure Trance Anthems delivers on several levels, offering up the sublime charms of back-in-the-day gems such as BBE's Seven Days And One Week and Fragma's Toca's Miracle. New tracks include 4Strings' Take Me Away, Poppiholla by Chicane and superstar DJ Tiesto's inspired remixing of familiar hits from Bloc Party and Calvin Harris.
Rating: 6/10 (Review by Patrick Gates).
Various Artists - Pop Party 7.
One of the first compilations out in time for the Christmas party season, this is a generous mix of chart-topping favourites such as Poker Face by Lady Gaga, I Got A Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas and Please Don't Leave Me by Pink, with dancefloor favourites like I Left My Heart In Tokyo by Mimi Viva, Outta Here by Esmee Denters and Break Your Heart by Taio Cruz. What is missing are a few indie songs to make this a good all-round party compilation, and the second disc of remixes of the first disc was a bit disappointing. A few more original tunes would have been better.
Rating: 6/10 (Review by Laura Wurzal).
Atreyu - Congregation Of The Damned.
The Orange County metalcore quartet are back with an album lead singer Alex Varkatzas claims is "darker" and "heavier" than previous efforts. Don't believe the hype. While tunes like Black Days Begin - with its gorgeous crunching riffage - will pulverise the eardrums, there is little else on here to firmly back up that assertion. Instead Atreyu come across as a poor-man's Slipknot, with their watered-down choruses lacklustre and repetitive at best. Sure, the string-laden and tight guitar solos on songs like Bleeding Is A Luxury and Lonely show a progression in their arrangement, but the overall sound is nowhere near as hard-hitting or enjoyable as the albums of old.
Rating: 5/10 (Review by Nick Howes).
Various Artists - Now That's What I Call The '90s.
What an exciting album. It's time to dust off your erm (insert Nineties-wear here) and get ready to dance along to some of the biggest hits of the decade. Just to clarify, this is a pop record. Don't buy this album expecting it to be chockfull of Britpop - besides the rudimentary Oasis and Blur tunes (Don't Look Back In Anger and Country House respectively), the album is concerned with top chart hits from the likes of Boyzone, Take That, S Club 7, Steps and Fatboy Slim. In addition, there's a good amount of one-hit wonder tunes such as Hanson's MMMBop, Stiltskin's Inside and, of course, the obvious The One And Only by Chesney Hawkes. What does come of a pleasant surprise is that all songs included are memorable, it really is hit after hit.
Rating: 8/10 (Review by Polly Weeks).
Various Artists - The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
Robert Pattinson and co are returning for the second film instalment of the Twilight series, and they are no doubt ready to set the girls hearts a flutterin'. Yet the accompanying soundtrack couldn't be more different to the average teen-flick selection. It kicks off with Death Cab For Cutie's Meet Me On The Equinox, and continues on the same indie lo-fi DIY vein. Thom Yorke warms the cockles with Hearing Damage, and the Lykke Li song Possibility adds a touch of comfort. There are also tunes from the amazing Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver. All in all, this is a great collection which shows High School Musical how it should be done. For shame Zac Efron, for shame.
Rating: 8/10 (Review by Polly Weeks).
Daniel O'Donnell - Peace In The Valley.
Mums' favourite Daniel O'Donnell has a new album out, and it's just lovely. Middle of the road? Well yes, perhaps, but what's wrong with a bit of music to relax to. Repetitive and unfashionable? Perhaps so, but there's no point criticising a musician just because his releases are clearly targeted to women in their seventies - it's not as if O'Donnell is pretending to do anything else. This album is soft Irish country folk and should prove to be popular for his ageing crowd. He doesn't attempt to hide his religious beliefs with tunes such as If Jesus Comes Tomorrow, What Then and Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus. To describe this album concisely, it's 'alright'.
Rating: 7/10 (Review by Polly Weeks).
Madness - One Step Beyond.
It's 30 years since Suggs and friends took their ska-tinged pop to the public and unleashed One Step Beyond. If you liked the album the first time around, then this is a worthwhile purchase. It includes the original album -which features tunes such as My Girl, Night Boat To Cairo and the title track - plus an array of extras. There are five promo videos, songs from their John Peel Session and then 18 bonus tracks including B-sides, EP tunes and live performances. As you can see, you get quite a lot for your money. A good quality reissue.
Rating: 8/10 (Review by Polly Weeks).
Singles by Polly Weeks
:: Skunk Anansie - Squander
The 1990s indie-pop band are back with a tour and this single. It's a soft sultry number, with Skin's trademark vocals sung over a relaxing string section. Not bad at all.
:: Biffy Clyro - The Captain
From their forthcoming album Only Revolutions comes this anthemic tune, which has a wonderful introduction. The Scottish rockers continue to impress.
:: Miley Cyrus - Party In The USA
The American sweetheart releases another sickly sweet pop tune which will keep the eight-year-old girls happily singing along.
On the road
Robbie Williams - BBC Electric Proms, London Camden Roundhouse, October 20
After the 'wide-eyed' oddity that was his recent X Factor performance, there was no shortage of pressure on Robbie Williams as he took to the stage at London's Roundhouse on Tuesday night. Kicking off the BBC's Electric Proms series, Robbie pulled out all the stops, enlisting a 30-odd-piece backing band for the occasion that boasted an opera singer, a harp player, three percussionists and, at times, Trevor Horn on bass. New single Bodies, which debuted at No 2 in the singles chart, opened the set and boasted the energy so sorely lacking from Robbie's X Factor appearance. It wasn't long before the former Take That star mentioned the show himself, either, cracking jokes about contestants John and Edward Grimes. Material from forthcoming album Reality Killed The Video Star dominated, and while the adoring audience was attentive, songs such as a Deceptacon and Morning Sun, while infinitely better than anything last album Rudebox had to offer, had no chance of outshining older material. Unfortunately the hits, which could've transformed this performance from competent to spellbinding, were few and far between. Robbie dusted off only a handful of his back-catalogue, including Feel, Supreme, Come Undone, Millennium and set-closer Angels. No Regrets, which followed on from a touching story about his renewed friendship with the Take That boys, was a surprise highlight, taking on extra resonance now Robbie can sing it and actually mean it. For all that, his habit of chatting mid-song or telling a joke between tunes seems like a carefully-constructed plan to divert attention from the songs and destroys any chance of becoming lost in his music. There's something missing this evening, belief maybe, or possibly he's just a bit rusty after three years of UFO-spotting in LA. For all that, Robbie remains our most interesting pop star, let's hope he rediscovers what made him so special in the first place.
(Review by Andy Welch)
:: Singer-songwriter James Morrison heads out on a full UK tour, beginning November 25 at the Cardiff Arena and ending up at the Brighton Centre on December 8, where you can expect to hear hits such as Broken Strings and You Make It Real. See www.myspace.com/jamesmorrisonmusic for more details.
:: American rockers Alice In Chains have added another couple of dates to their UK schedule. Following five gigs in November and then a trip around Europe, the Seattle grungers return to Nottingham's Rock City on December 6 and London's Brixton Academy the next night. See www.myspace.com/aliceinchains for full listings.