Gwen Dolin': Gwen Stefani snagged Pharrell — not to mention Akon, No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal and Depeche Mode's Martin Gore — for her second solo affair, The Sweet Escape. But fans who want to hear a little more of Mr. Williams had the opportunity to get the original Neptunes mix of "Wind It Up" via the iTunes preorder, which also carried live audio and video versions of the track. And if you find yourself traveling to the U.K. anytime soon, you might want to get the edition that's appearing there: It's bolstered by another bonus tune, "Orange County Girl."
Girl Power: Stefani should do a bang-up job on the charts this week, but in case she doesn't, there's another leading lady reppin': Ciara. The Evolution zeroes in on the singer as an artist, as she co-wrote and co-produced every track on the LP — though she did get powerhouse producers Rodney Jerkins, Will.I.Am, Lil Jon, Dallas Austin and Pharrell to help her grow up. In case that's not enough, the CD boasts guest spots by 50 Cent and Chamillionaire — not to mention a limited-edition bonus DVD featuring dance instructions for two tracks, behind-the-scenes action and more.
And while "Dreamgirls" is getting lots of Oscar buzz, the female-fronted flick gets an extra lift with two versions of the soundtrack, both reaching stores this week. The standard version has 20 tracks sung by Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx and even Eddie Murphy, as well as a 36-page lyric and photo book. It's nothing but a dream.
In-House Competition: Ciara is not the only challenger Gwen's facing this week: On the DVD front, she's also going head-to-head with five artists who are also on Interscope/Geffen/A&M's sprawling roster.
Black Eyed Peas have been around for a good 15 years or so, but surprisingly, "Live From Sydney to Vegas" is their first live-performance DVD. It's jammed with 70 minutes of Fergie, Will.I.Am and company phunking up Sydney, as well as a unique bonus feature that lets you toggle between the Sydney and Las Vegas performances of select songs as they play out. For good measure, the disc has two exclusive videos of unreleased Monkey Business tracks.
Pussycat Dolls' "Live From London" is the first live-performance DVD by that group too, and in addition to seven songs the ladies strutted through in the titular city, it's got five music videos and up-close-and-personal footage galore.
On the rock front, the Cure's "Festival 2005" corrals a whopping 30 performances by the unconquerable goths and includes material captured by fans. Rise Against's "Generation Lost" only has five live performances in comparison but also encompasses the career-reviewing documentary "How We Survive," four videos and two making-of clips.
Rounding out the competition is Sheryl Crow's "Wildflower Tour: Live From New York" DVD, which has 17 performances by the 44-year-old singer/songwriter.
Heavy Viewing for Your Pleasure: Video racks are getting stuffed with even more visual treats this week too, courtesy some volume-11 acts.
Metallica's "The Videos: 1989-2004" is loaded, you might say, with 20 videos by the metal titans, as well as bonus versions of two tracks. Also included is the trailer for the unforgettable documentary "Some Kind of Monster."
Slipknot's "Voliminal: Inside the Nine" is even more packed. The first disc is a 90-minute film drummer M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan caught on hand-held cameras. That DVD also has nine "rabbit holes" — a.k.a. Easter eggs. The second one has a wide range of live footage, videos and bandmember interviews, as well as an intimate look at the masks the nonet used on its most recent tour.
Look underground and you'll find Botch's "061502," which immortalizes the June 15, 2002, performance at Seattle's Showbox that marked the hardcore heroes' demise. To make matters better, there's also commentary on the gig; five additional cuts from a Bellingham, Washington, show; the video for "St. Matthew Returns to the Womb"; and a bonus CD with the Seattle stuff.
The Rap Wrap: One of the most talked-about mixtapes in ages, Eminem Presents: The Re-Up also hits stores this week. Originally envisioned as a mixtape to launch Stat Quo, Ca$his and Bobby Creekwater — not as a Proof tribute CD, as some had claimed — the all-star disc features Em himself, 50 Cent and Obie Trice.
Em was supposed to appear on Lil Scrappy's Bred 2 Die, Born 2 Live, which also streets this week, but while 50 Cent is all over it, Slim sat this one out. The crunk-a-licious sophomore also assembled Lil Jon, Three 6 Mafia, Yung Joc, Jazze Pha, Yo Gotti and Young Buck for his first Reprise release.
Project Pat tells a new tale in Crook by Da Book: The Fed Story, a 20-track narrative that begins with "I Ain't Going Back to Jail" and ends with "Been Gettin' Money." Three 6 Mafia turn up on two slices, while Young Jeezy, Beanie Sigel and Lyfe Jennings lend Pat a hand elsewhere.
Too Short's career gets a look-see with the unfortunately titled The Mack of the Century ... Greatest Hits, which makes it sound like the still-active rapper retired last decade (or just started making music during this one — also untrue). The straightforward CD cobbles together 13 hits.
Not to be overlooked is J Xavier, who dropped the "Lil' " from his name before dropping his new Young Prince of Tha South. The 14-year-old, who recently toured with Chris Brown and Ne-Yo, managed to rope in Mike Jones, Lil' Keke and even George Clinton for his LP, which features a song that's actually called "I Love My Music."
Just Wait One Second ...: 30 Seconds to Mars are celebrating the unexpected success of their second LP, A Beautiful Lie, with a deluxe version of the 2005 release. The bonus DVD has a medley of material, including footage from their "$2 Bill Concert" for MTV2 to their arrival on the MTV Video Music Awards red carpet to fan interviews and more. Neat-o, Leto.
Song Title of the Week:
"Good Googly Moogly" from Project Pat's Crook by Da Book: The Fed Story
Various artists' The O.C. Mix 6: Covering Our Tracks: Lady Sovereign covering the Sex Pistols? Pinback doing Black Flag? Rogue Wave saluting Pixies? It's all right here, on this "WTF?" collection of 12 exclusive recordings. Also featured are Mates of States running through Phantom Planet's "California," MTV You Hear It First rockers Tally Hall taking on the Killers' "Smile Like You Mean It" and Rock Kills Kid chiming in with their rendition of Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On." Now that was unexpected.
Rob Da Bank & Chris Coco's Listen Again: Here's another provocative comp, this one a two-disc smorgasbord of the BBC Radio One DJs' favorite tunes of late. Taste-making tracks by José González, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Hard-Fi and Gogol Bordello brighten up the set, as do exclusive live recordings from Arab Strap, James Yorkston and King Creosote.
Tristeza's En Nuestro Desafío: Stop crying, Tristeza fans: A DVD by your favorite San Diego somnambulists has finally arrived. And better yet, it's only the corollary to a brand-new album. Moving from ambient sounds to more of a lo-fi minimalism, the CD — which the band recorded entirely in Mexico, despite many frustrating dealings with border patrol — features nine songs, including "Wearing the Blues," "Cuando Cuando Amor Amor" and "Swoop Me Up." The bonus video disc contains a 30-minute movie tracking the band, as well as a bonus video for "Stumble on Air," a song that appeared on last year's A Colores.
· Babyshambles - The Blinding (EP; Capitol) [Buy Now]
· Drake Bell - It's Only Time (limited-edition version also available; Universal)
· Cajmere vs. Green Velvet - Ministry of Sound Sessions (Ministry of Sound)
· Ciara - The Evolution (comes with limited-edition DVD; LaFace) [Buy Now]
· Billy Cobham's Glassmenagerie - Stratus (MVD Audio)
· David Daniell - Coastal (Table of Elements)
· Danny Elfman - "Charlotte's Web" soundtrack (Sony Classical)
· Chris Farlowe - At Rockpalast (MVD Audio)
· James Horner - "Mel Gibson's Apocalypto" soundtrack (Hollywood)
· Inner Banks - The Inner Banks (Dag)
· J Xavier - Young Prince of Tha South (Noo Day/ Music World)
· Lil Scrappy - Bred 2 Die, Born 2 Live (Reprise) [Buy Now]
· Brian McKnight - 10 (Warner Bros.) [Buy Now]
· Project Pat - Crook by Da Book: The Fed Story (Sony Urban) [Buy Now]
· Psychic Ills - Early Violence (The Social Registry)
· Rob Da Bank & Chris Coco - Listen Again (Ether)
· Sinoia Caves - The Enchanter Persuaded (Jagjaguwar)
· Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape (Interscope) [Buy Now]
· Tristeza - En Nuestro Desafío (with DVD; Better Looking)
· Various artists - Eminem Presents: The Re-Up (Shady) [Buy Now]
· Various artists - The OC Mix 6: Covering Our Tracks (Warner Bros.)
· Various artists - Kids Rap Radio, Volumes 1 & 2 (Music World)
· Various artists - Dreamgirls soundtrack (two-CD deluxe edition also available; Columbia/ Sony Music Soundtrax)
· Various artists - "Fast Food Nation" soundtrack (Park the Van)
· Various artists - "Unaccompanied Minors" soundtrack (Abacus)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· 30 Seconds to Mars - A Beautiful Lie (deluxe enhanced edition; Virgin) [Buy Now]
· Richard Cheese - I'd Like a Virgin (Surfdog)
· Patsy Cline - Sweet Dreams: The Four Star Recordings 1955-1960 (DBK Works)
· Rick Derringer - Free Ride (Big3)
· Freddy Fender - Classics (Fuel)
· Ella Fitzgerald - The Very Best of the Song Books (Verve)
· Waylon Jennings - Last Train to Lubbock: The Early Years (DBK Works)
· I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness - I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness (EP; Secretly Canadian)
· John Mayall - Essentially John Mayall (special-edition five-CD box set; Eagle)
· Loreena McKennitt - Live in Paris and Toronto (enhanced two-CD set; Verve)
· Nurse With Wound - An Awkward Pause (deluxe two-CD set; Jnana)
· Too Short - The Mack of the Century ... Greatest Hits (Jive)
· Yes - Essentially Yes (special-edition five-CD box set; Eagle)
· Various artists - Battle of the Groups: The Ladies - A Body + Soul Collection (two CDs; Time Life)
· Various artists - Gilles Peterson & Patrick Forge Present: Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls (two CDs; Ether)
· Various artists - Legends of Country: Classic Hits of the '50s, '60s & '70s (three CDs; Shout! Factory)
· Various artists - Rocky: The Original Motion Picture Score (30th Anniversary Edition) (Capitol/EMI)
· Various artists - Trance Nation 2 (Water)
· Abba - "Number Ones" (Polydor/UMe)
· Bachman Cummings - "First Time Around" (Sony BMG)
· Black Eyed Peas - "Live From Sydney to Vegas" (A&M)
· Botch - "061502" (with CD; Hydra Head)
· John Cage - "One and 103" (Mode)
· Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint - "Hot as a Pistol, Keen as a Blade" (Hip-O)
· Sheryl Crow - "Wildflower Tour: Live From New York" (A&M)
· The Cure - "Festival 2005" (Geffen)
· Loreena McKennitt - "No Journey's End" (Verve)
· Metallica - "The Videos: 1989-2004" (Warner Bros.)
· Daniel O'Donnell - "Peaceful Waters" (DPTV)
· Pussycat Dolls - "Live From London" (A&M)
· Rise Against - "Generation Lost" (Geffen)
· Slipknot - "Voliminal: Inside the Nine" (two DVDs; Roadrunner)
· Gwen Stefani - "Harajuku Lovers Live" (Interscope)
· The Supremes - "Reflections - The Definitive Performances: 1964-1969" (Motown)
· Pat Travers Band - "Hooked on Music" (MVD Visual)
· Various artists - "Tower of Song: An Epic Story of Canada and Its Music" (Image)
· Mary J. Blige - Reflections (A Retrospective) (Geffen) [Preorder]
· Fantasia - Fantasia (J) [Preorder]
· Ghostface Killah - More Fish (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Taylor Hicks - Taylor Hicks (RCA) [Preorder]
· Bobby Valentino - Special Occasion (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Young Jeezy - Thug Motivation 102: The Inspiration (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Katharine McPhee - TBD (RCA)
· Mos Def - Tru3 Magic (Geffen)
· Nas - Hip-Hop Is Dead ... The N (Def Jam)
· Styles P - Time Is Money (Ruff Ryders)
· UGK - Underground Kingz (two CDs; Jive)
· N.W.A - The Best of N.W.A: The Strength of Street Knowledge (deluxe version with DVD also available; Capitol/Priority)
· Omarion - 21 (Sony Urban)
· Switchfoot - Oh! Gravity (Columbia)
· Various artists - The Family Values Tour 2006 (Firm)