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Sound advice


Mark Ronson & the Business Intl.

Record Collection


Buy if you like: Calvin Harris, MNDR

Best known over here as Amy Winehouse's producer, Mark Ronson has already scored four Top 10 singles back in his native U.K. Record Collection opens with his latest and greatest, "Bang Bang Bang," featuring Ronson's house-heavy synths and brightly syncopated beats paired with stunning vocals from Tribe Called Quest co-founder Q-Tip and MNDR chanteuse Amanda Warner. Like Fatboy Slim, Ronson is a digital crate-digger with a magpie's eye for shiny objects (MNDR has yet to record its first album), and his '80s synth-pop obsession echoes Calvin Harris' recent "Ready for the Weekend." Also like them, he's inconsistent, especially on failed novelty tracks like "The Bike Song." Still, guest artists Ghostface Killah and Boy George have rarely sounded better; the same goes for Simon Le Bon on the title track's plaintive chorus: "I only want to be in your record collection." And rightfully so. — Bill Forman


John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Double Fantasy


Buy if you like: The Beatles, Buddy Holly

Listening to the "stripped-down" version of Double Fantasy, it's hard to tell what's missing, aside from the genius who created this extraordinary collection. Despite the distractions that Yoko's contributions essentially are, this reissue is still a truly timeless chronicle that reminds us, once again, of what we lost all those years ago. The stripping turns out to be a gentle enhancement of what's there; the piano on "Watching the Wheels" sounds even more majestic; the guitar of "Cleanup Time" cuts even more cleverly. The lullaby "Beautiful Boys" shines like silver. And Lennon's voice, well, there was never any confusion, even on the original, about how amazing it was. And remains. It's easy to be skeptical about reissues, but whenever it involves the Beatles or fragments thereof, it's always done with such class and finesse, you won't mind spending the bucks one more time. — Lynne Margolis


Raul Malo

Sinners & Saints

Fantasy Records

Buy if you like: Los Lobos, Jimmy Webb

The opening title track starts with a lonely, haunting, dark-end-of-the-street trumpet; then comes the lead guitar, joined by a cascading snare drum and tremolo-laced chords, building to the climax like a swarm of yellow jackets ready to sting. Raul Malo is going for it on Sinners & Saints. The former Mavericks frontman's originals are accompanied by inspired covers: Rodney Crowell's "'Til I Gain Control Again," the Spanish ballad "Sombras," and Los Lobos' "Saint Behind the Glass" are a hat trick of heartfelt power. Malo's voice stays in a class by itself, its range and power almost a wonder of nature on the West San Antonio swing of "Superstar," the Jimmy Webb-style emotional sophistication of "Staying Here," the spiritual luster of "Matter Much to You." Many veterans are too busy worrying about marketing plans and sync licenses, but Malo's artistry continues to grow. — Bill Bentley

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