New Releases: Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, Ryan Adams, Phish

Also due Tuesday are DVDs by Tool and Johnny Cash.

Mary J.’s Big(gie) Week: What better way to close out the year than by saying goodbye — once again — to one of rap’s most exalted figures? Duets: The Final Chapter purports to do just that, reining in some of Biggie’s biggest rivals, peers and successors: Tupac, Eminem, Jay-Z, R. Kelly, Diddy and more. If you want an even bigger Biggie package, pick up the limited version with a bonus DVD housing unseen concert material, videos and celebrity interviews.

Mary J. Blige — who croons with Biggie on “Living in Pain” on Duets — goes up against her departed pal with a new record of her own, The Breakthrough. Her seventh LP, as it turns out, is also chock-full of duets: Blige hooks up with Bono (for a rendition of U2’s “One”), Jay-Z (“Can’t Hide From Luv”) and Raphael Saadiq (“I Found My Everything”). She also sings along with the Game on “MJB Da MVP,” which reconfigures his “Hate It or Love It” smash, and does a virtual duet with Nina Simone on “About You,” which should bring back memories of Ray CharlesGenius Loves Company.

Speaking of Ray, Jamie Foxx has this week’s other major urban release: Unpredictable, which, predictably, also features Mary J. She croons with the future Detective Tubbs on “Love Changes,” while the Game crops up again on “With You” (also with Snoop). Kanye, Common and Ludacris also grace Foxx’s trax, which sound extra pristine on the DualDisc version.

Lest Ye Forget the Rock: Tool’s “Schism” and “Parabola” DVDs: With two of their albums tickling the 80-minute mark (1996’s ├ćnima and 2001’s Lateralus), Tool are hardly ones to abridge themselves — making the puzzling band’s two short-form video digipaks all the more puzzling. Each features the original clip, an unreleased audio remix of each song and commentary by some super-secret guest stars. Hopefully that’ll tide fans over until the follow-up to Lateralus drops sometime in 2006.

Phish’s New Year’s Eve 1995, Live at Madison Square Garden and “Live in Brooklyn” DVD: For the second time in as many years, Phish-heads will have to make their New Year’s toasts without their beloved band, but a 10th-anniversary shindig Rhino has planned should dry a few tears. The three-CD New Year’s Eve 1995, Live at Madison Square Garden recalls the gig Rolling Stone called one of the “17 Greatest Concerts of the ’90s” with 27 songs and a chunky booklet. Along with the “Love in Brooklyn” DVD, this marks the beginning of Rhino’s new Jemp Records, a Phish-specific, concert-release imprint that should keep non-tape-trading Phish fans afloat for years to come.

Ryan Adams29 and Johnny Cash’s “Live From Austin TX” DVD: Adams continued to contradict his slacker image in 2005 by giving flight to two releases with his band the Cardinals — plus, for good measure, this one, which he primarily does alone. Ethan Johns — who produced Adams’ first two records, Heartbreaker and Gold — mans the boards this time around, while guitarist J.P. Bowersock does some plucking. Adams’ erstwhile Lost Highway labelmate Johnny Cash sees what will be one of a few billion posthumous releases with “Live From Austin TX,” a video spotlighting his January 3, 1987, performance on “Austin City Limits.”

Song Title of the Week:

“Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part” (Ryan Adams’ 29)

New Releases:

Notable Reissues and Archival Material:

DVDs:

  • Johnny Cash – “Live From Austin TX” (New West)
  • Neil Peart – “Anatomy of a Drum Solo” (Rounder)
  • Phish – “Live in Brooklyn” (Rhino)
  • Tool – “Parabola” and “Schism” (Volcano)
  • Various artists – “Lyric Reggae DVD Magazine” (Lyric DVD Magazine)

Coming Attractions:

December 27:

  • From Monument to Masses – Schools of Thought Contend (Dim Mak)
  • Lil’ Flip – I Need Mine (Columbia)
  • Sevendust – Best of Sevendust (Chapter One: 1997-2004) (Columbia)

January 3:

January 10:

  • Morningwood – Morningwood (Capitol)
    Buy Now: Morningwood (Capitol)
  • We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor (Virgin)
  • Bob Geldof – “Geldolf in Africa” (two DVDs; Rhino)