JAMES TAYLOR One Man Band
Taylor doesn’t quite fly solo—he has a keyboardist—as he revisits his hits (like the ever-soothing “You’ve Got a Friend”) at a stripped-down show in his Massachusetts hometown. Packs a companion DVD.
THE-DREAM Love Hate
There’s nothing remotely as addictive as “Umbrella”—the No. 1 smash he cowrote for Rihanna—on The-Dream’s R&B debut. But tracks like the hit “Shawty Is a 10” and the Prince-inspired “Fast Car” still win him some affection.
R.E.M. R.E.M. Live
R.E.M.’s first live album (which comes with a DVD) may be a bit heavy on Around the Sun, but it still delivers. Highlights from this 2005 Dublin show include “Everybody Hurts,” which becomes a cathartic audience sing-along.
GARY ALLAN Living Hard
He may not have the wattage of country contemporaries like Keith Urban and Tim McGraw, but Allan shouldn’t be overlooked. His latest CD is consistently rewarding, from the rueful “Watching Airplanes” to the rocking title tune.