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Our critics' picks in new releases


BBA's percolating gospel meets an eclectic cast of pop stars--and the juxtaposition is marvelous. The guest list reads like a heavenly dictionary of soul: Soloman Burke, Michael Franti, Les McCann, Me'shell Ndegeocello and Mavis Staples. The growl of Tom Waits, who must have prepped with a gargle of gravel, fits right in among the Boys' textured vocal weave. Chrissie Hynde, on the other hand, contrasts the band's sandpapery chorale of "In the Bleak Midwinter" with a stark reading as pure as winter's first snow. In the background, guitarist Richard Thompson fingers a heavenly eight-note lick as the tune melts away. A Christmas classic is born.

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