Introducing Darlene Love
DARLENE LOVE
(Columbia)

A rock ‘n roll living legend, Darlene Love, now 73, returns to the studio with a hearty collection of throwback rock and soul. Thankfully she's surrounded by thumbs-up original material (“Forbidden Night”), good friends (Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Linda Perry, Elvis Costello) and a wise selection of covers, even gospel numbers like “Marvelous,” which puts her at the roots of soul. Still in great vocal form, the 20 Feet From Stardom star probably stuns the listener the most on Joan Jett's “Little Liar,” an ambitious rock anthem that would have transformed her into a Tina Turner acolyte if done at the height of pop-rock. It doesn't hurt to hear her cover “River Deep, Mountain High” either.

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Hot for Your Love Tonight
TORTURED SOUL
(Dome)

Hot disco and a spread of synth rainbows show up on Tortured Soul's latest boogie production. Key wiz Ethan White unexpectedly died after the album's completion, but he supplies the hypnotic ear candy on some of its joyful moments. “I'll Be There for You,” “Take Me to Your House” and the ‘80's synthpop of “Last Time We Make Love” are bound for repetitive playing. “You Will Be Mine” and “Can't Keep Rhythm From a Dancer” is sure to do as well, which channels Chic's “He's the Greatest Dancer” perfectly. The grooves inside the music is still Tortured Soul's biggest selling point. “Keep on pushing ‘cause the music won't allow me to give up/And when times get rough, I put some extra whiskey in my cup,” sings John Christian-Urich. It's obvious that freaky sex, tequila and late night fun is still on their schedule of events, but at least they jump into newer lanes of R&B and electronica with “Girl (Take a Break Backstage),” which shows lead vocalist John-Christian Urich exercising a wheezy, but hilariously bold falsetto.

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Cass Country
DON HENLEY
(Capitol)

The Eagles frontman's fifth solo album, his first in five years, drops us on Nashville turf, and paves like an authentic country record, one without campy clichés and the need to sound today's country pop radio. The abundance of guest duets (including Miranda Lambert, Mick Jagger, Martina McBride and others) give off an incredulous vibe that this is a tribute disc or a shameful turf of war to win favor with the vast number of country listeners. But Henley's surrounded by quality material and Stan Lynch's strong production. And on “Take a Picture of This,” he even finds a way to marinate his adult contemporary sharpness into the set. It's a beautiful portrait of a now-aged singer and one of the most respected drummers in rock paying homage to a sound totally outside his range, but one that feels like home.

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Tracker
MARK KNOPFLER
(Verve)

Drawing on the powers of Bob Dylan and laidback rock, Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler delivers smooth performances on his eight solo LP. His magnetic bluesy guitar work is still worshipful, but he makes it so easy to digest the calm pace of “Long Cool Girl,” garage rock etched inside “Hot Dog” and jazz leanings of “Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes.” Heck, even “Beryl” traces corners of “Sultans of Swing,” all the way down to his now-legendary guitar ad-libs. Despite it playing to the tune of Knopfler's predictability, Tracker – a set dedicated to his own past and luminary literary subjects (Beryl Bainbridge, Basil Bunting) – is still a pretty strong and impressive effort.

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Homage
JIMMY SOMERVILLE
(Membran)

UK falsetto dance king Jimmy Somerville doesn't get everything right on his ode to authentic disco, but the grooves aboard Homage are so impossible to shake. He compliments Donna Summer's “Love to Love You Baby” with “The Core,” drips with Sylvester sex (“Freak”) and chimes in on Jamiroquai fun on “Strong Enough” and “Some Wonder.” Almost completely upbeat, Homage is flooded with Chic-esque guitar struts, infectious rhythms, real strings and blazing horns. It's a gifted approach to reliving the Studio 54 glory days, proving that the four-on-the-floor stuff can still thrive in the new century.

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The Story of Sonny Boy Slim
GARY CLARK, JR.
(Warner Bros.)

Rock blues star Gary Clark, Jr. continues to prove he's worthy of the notoriety he's getting on The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. Once again, he rolls through a variety of sounds and influences like a versatile iPod on shuffle mode, weaving through acid rock jams (“Grinder”), Roots-chielsed grooves (“Wings,” “Cold Blooded”), throwback R&B (“Hold On”), stripped-down country folk (“Church”) and Prince-like concoctions (“Down to Ride”). Connecting all of these varied adventures together is Clark's Hendrix-blessed guitar strokes and his need to tap into the flowing reservoir of Marvin Gaye falsetto.

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Wilder Mind
MUMFORD & SONS
(Glassnote)

Maybe the backlash of going for a more evolved Kings of Leon palette was a bit too much for Mumford & Sons fans, but the band lays aside their banjo-heavy Americana for a thunderous electric workout: “The Wolf” and “Ditmas” revs with Springsteen horsepower; “Tompkins Square Park” and “Wilder Mind” slips into The War on Drugs bliss. The songwriting regimen heard on M&S gems like “I Will Wait” is still intact, just perked with heavier instrumentation, even a flurry of synths.

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Black Rose
TYRESE
(Voltron Recordz)

Never has Tyrese sounded so confident and triumphant. Black Rose, an indie release charmed with throwback soul and a delicious swagger of contemporary R&B, shines like an urban cantata. “Shame” is the pinnacle of it all, but the Fugees-tinged “Dumb Shit,” Stevie-teased “Waiting on You” and reflective duets with Chrisette Michelle and Tank are just as satisfying.

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The Original High
ADAM LAMBERT
(Warner Bros.)

American Idol's most amusing alum finally puts out a product that struts with the high-rise glamour and genre-bending pleasure that's due him. With Shellback and Max Martin controlling the album's navigation, Lambert gives career-high performances alongside a bevy of feelgood dance tracks (“Ghosttown,” “The Original High,” “Another Lonely Night”) and a mesmeric duet with Tove Lo (“Rumors”).

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Delilah
ANDERSON EAST
(Elektra)

Seeped in the warm sepia of Southern soul and that subtle twang of neo-Americana, the gutsy, gravelly-voiced Anderson West arrives on the scene with tales of stone cold scorn (“Lonely”), fiery temptation (“Quit You,” “Only You”), Stax brass (“Satisfy Me”) and even a little slow dance romance (“Lying In Her Arms”). Delilah sounds so much like a treasured production from Rick Hall's Fame studios that he later cut a five-song EP teaser from the North Alabama studio just to promote his experiment. This is St. Paul & the Broken Bones, but with better songs and minus the rock star adrenaline.

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