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Two-disc CD set is brimful of Asha

Plus: New CDs from Cesaria Evora, Etta James
/ Source: The Associated Press

Asha Bhosle, the legendary Indian singer who became known to many Americans from the Cornershop song "Brimful of Asha," has a new two-disc CD, "Love Supreme." Cesaria Evora stays true to her signature storytelling sound with “Rogamar.” And Etta James’ latest album is a curious collection of covers.

Asha Bhosle, ‘Asha Bhosle: Love Supreme’ Asha Bhosle, the illustrious Indian singer whose voice is often is the voice Bollywood movies never ceases to amaze with her versatile voice.

Bhosle’s latest two-disc Hindi language CD, titled “Asha Bhosle: Love Supreme,” treats audiences to not only her interpretation of newly-recorded ghazals — or romantic renditions created from Urdu and Persian poetry — but also gives them eight bonus tracks on the second CD of some of Bhosle’s favorite duets from Bollywood movies of yore.

The second CD also includes two music videos. However, the ghazals are what define the CD. The eight love songs include a mixture of pop, funk, jazz and many more musical genres, but Bhosle’s voice outshines all accompanying background music.

Her talent as a vocal artist is redefined on the first song, “Sarakti Jaye Hai (Ahista Ahista)” or “It’s Slipping Away Slowly, Slowly,” and beautifully progresses through the last, eclectic-sounding song “Chupke Chupke” or “Quietly, Quietly.”

Although it seems older generations tend to appreciate ghazals more than today’s youth, Bhosle’s voice along with the “lounge-type” music caters to all ages and reminds audiences of why Bhosle is often labeled a living legend in the music industry.    —Jayna Desai

Cesaria Evora, ‘Rogamar’
Cesaria Evora’s “Rogamar,” recorded in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and her native Cape Verde, doesn’t offer fans of the barefoot diva anything they haven’t heard before. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Rogamar” stays true to Evora’s signature sound: a thick, but gentle storyteller’s voice guiding wistful melodies that move to and fro on a wave of guitar and bass strings. The album’s distinctive qualities are found only in the new instrumental touches: strings and flutes arranged by Brazilian Jaques Morelenbaum, accordion work by Malagasy’s Regis Gizavo on “Sao Tome,” and a duet with Senegalese vocalist Ismael Lo on “Africa Nossa.” They give Evora a lusher palate, but the overall picture is still the same.

Mornas, the Cape Verdean amalgamation of French, Latin and West African musical styles, is Evora’s specialty. Her delivery of these haunting songs earned her a faithful legion of followers. This album will earn a space among their collections, but there’s nothing about this, Evora’s tenth studio album, to tantalize new listeners or inspire the older ones.    —Aimee Maude Sims

Etta James, ‘All the Way’Etta James’ latest album is a curious collection of songs, all covers by artists ranging from John Lennon to Leonard Bernstein to R. Kelly.

A few of the selections make perfect sense for a soul queen such as James. “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, World” is a solid, jazz selection that shows off her vulnerability. The title track, “All the Way” is a classically beautiful standard and James delivers it like the vocal champ that she is.

But for most of the album, James sounds like a tired lounge singer. Her selections don’t show off her velvety voice and instead she sounds downright flat most of the time. (Strange, considering what studio magic can fix.)

Her version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” is a good example of this. She digs into notes that are so low they’re out of her register, making her version of the song sound more like karaoke than the work of a three-time Grammy-winning artist.

In the places where her voice doesn’t shine through, even the production can’t hold her up. The musicianship on the album is sophomoric at best, although there is one guitar that sometimes comes through as a saving grace with an interesting riff or two.

“All the Way” is an oddity in the broad and incredible career of James. For a woman of her talent and stature, her fans would have expected a more solid album, as opposed to the watered-down version of her work that she has delivered. James’ career has spanned almost five decades, so perhaps she should be allowed the occasional lapse. —Pauline M. Millard

Loose Fur, “Born Again in the USA”
On “Born Again in the USA,” Loose Fur — Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, and Jim O’Rourke (the indie producer extraordinaire and former Sonic Youth member) — toss off ten neo-classic rock songs like it’s the kind of thing they could do in their sleep.

The threesome’s second release picks up where their 2003 self-titled album left off. Tweedy and O’Rourke trade off songwriting and lead vocal duties as Kotche once again showcases his amenable drumming style. “Hey Chicken” kickstarts the session riding a curlicue guitar riff, Tweedy goading, “You want me dead/ I’m living rent-free in the back of your head,” before calling somebody out for the chorus: “Hey chicken, you’re all talk.”

Of O’Rourke’s contributions, “Answers to Your Questions” sounds like it could have been lifted from his excellent “Insignificance” album. Over cyclic, plaintive acoustic guitar picking, he offers jaded observations on the banalities of relationships: “What do you want me to say/ (To) ask you how was your day/ Well I could tell you/ But then I’d have to care.” The song draws to a climax with drippy slide guitar, xylophone and shakers.

On closer “Wanted” a bright piano figure waltzes above steady mid-tempo Kotche percussion, while Tweedy paints impressionistic images: “She’s not so well-rounded/ She has points you don’t see,” and “her hair suggests a roller skate,” before hinting at one of the record’s recurring subjects “somewhere religion enters in.”

A tepid anti-religious thread runs throughout (album title, “Apostolic,” “An Ecumenical Matter”), but if anything these guys worship at the altar of experimental rock, pushing a pious creativity that leads by example. —Jake O’Connell