• Ted Leo/Pharmacists, 'Hearts of Oak' (Lookout!)

    Ted Leo is from Jungleland. It's a place where populism and smarts are not mutually exclusive, where soul and rock mingle. And where guys like John Fogerty, Joe Strummer, Minutemen's D. Boon, and, above all, Bruce Springsteen make sense of a jumbled world by telling their stories--tales of everyday heroism and tragedy--with so much honest humor you realize that they're your stories, too. After ten years on the road with a variety of punk and indie-rock bands (most notably Chisel), Leo went solo a few years ago.Hearts of Oak, the follow-up to 2001's The Tyranny of Distance, fuses two of the most potent gospels rock has ever produced: the radical guitar furor of D.C. punk and the Celtic soul of Thin Lizzy and Dexy's Midnight Runners. This is Leo's first release with a consistent lineup of Pharmacists--Tyrannymarched to the beat of five different drummers--and it shows.

  • Ghostface Killah, 'Shaolin's Finest' (Epic) / M.O.P., 'Greatest Hits: 10 Years and Gunnin' (Columbia)

    Ghostface Killah and M.O.P. both emerged in the mid-'90s, during the same crime-rap renaissance that made icons of Nas, Biggie, andMobb Deep. They both lurked in the shadows of larger crews--Ghostface played the wall with the Wu-Tang Clan, while M.O.P. studied under Gang Starr. And now, after years of probing street life's nooks and crannies, they've left their respective record labels to smoke the greener grass of the Def Jam empire. But first it's out with the old on two contract-fulfilling best-of collections.Shaolin's Finest is a chronological tour of Ghostface Killah's first three solo records.

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