Michael Bolton, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville U.S.A." (Montaigne Records)
In his nearly four decade career, Michael Bolton has released some two dozen albums and has tackled various musical genres, always keeping a soft spot for classics and Motown tunes. He's covered everyone from Frank Sinatra to Glenn Miller to Etta James to Sting, but his strongest remakes have always been the unusual collaborations that put a different spin on a song, or added another dimension to an overly familiar hit.
His new 10-track Motown tribute album, however, seems to copy and paste original orchestrations in a less than stellar manner. It includes Marvin Gaye's done-to-death "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," which gets a boring and barely heard assist from Kelly Rowland, The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On" and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)."
Fans of the easy listening genre will enjoy Bolton's warm voice and correct versions, but it ultimately feels like an exercise in unoriginality that lacks the igniting sparks.
- Cristina Jaleru
The Mavericks gallop back onto the scene
The Mavericks, "In Time" (Valory)
One of country music's most enduring bands, the Mavericks return with "In Time," their first new album in a decade. Their mix of Latin horns and rhythms, crisp telecaster leads and the Roy Orbison-like voice of Raul Malo remains as engaging as ever.
In the 1990s, the Mavericks drew attention with an incendiary live show that had fans jumping like no other Nashville act. That uplifting live sound is the focus of "In Time," which transcends genres by creating a timeless blend rooted in country music and early rock 'n' roll.
Malo brings operatic drama to a voice that can soar with power or caress with romanticism.
- Michael McCall
Etana packs a punch on 'Better Tomorrow'
Etana, "Better Tomorrow" (VP Records)
Etana delivers a mature and confident sound with top-notch lyrical content and unique vocals on her third studio album, "Better Tomorrow."
The Jamaican singer's soulful roots are strong as she pays homage to earlier eras of reggae on tracks such as the empowering "Queen" and the infectious "Reggae.
Her strong-minded nature sees the 29-year-old go to new levels on each of the album's songs, making "Better Tomorrow" her best album to date.
The album opener, "Spoken Soul," is a verbal statement speaking of her "musical journey" and need for a "better tomorrow." It's an expressive message that is simple, yet strong.
- Bianca Roach
A welcome return for Harris, Crowell
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, "Old Yellow Moon" (Nonesuch)
"Old Yellow Moon" is a reunion album of sorts that explores musical paths Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell first traveled on their initial recordings in the mid-1970s.
Harris began recording Crowell compositions in 1975, the same year she hired him to join her band. They remain linked as leaders of a groundbreaking era in country music that resonates today in the work of Miranda Lambert, Buddy Miller and others.
Then as now, Harris and Crowell excelled at bringing a fresh perspective to covers of classic country tunes, while pushing the genre toward a new sound built on driving rhythms, crisp musicianship and a wide range of well-chosen songs.
"Old Yellow Moon" also reunites Harris with Brian Ahern, her ex-husband who produced her classic early work. While the album doesn't have the stunning originality of the duo's early collaborations, it agreeably recalls why their early work together is so highly regarded.
- Michael McCall
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.