• An odd pick for breaking new ground in the ever-shifting digital-delivery paradigm, The Barenaked Ladies have led with their James Bond chins and asked Q to reach outside the CD, DVD, MP3 phone, and Oakley's Thump eyewear.
• A handful of benefit CDs are raising funds for worthwhile causes, including aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, all looking to find hope in your hearts and a few loose bucks in your wallet. This week Saddle Creek Records releases its own Red Cross/Katrina rescue CD, entitled Lagniappe, named for the little bonus surprise that is often given by old-school shopkeepers on the Gulf Coast.
• With masked monsters soon to mash around your block in search of sugary treats, a few new Halloween CDs aim to put you in a pumpkin-carving frenzy. Packed with 25 golden oldies, Ace Record's These Ghoulish Things: Horror Hits for Halloween compilation is an import-only title worth the hunt, as only about half of the songs within have ever found their way onto CD before.
• Everything's covers crazy this month as a two-handed stack of CDs shows off both wild and subdued interpretations of pop and punk classics. This Tuesday Vagrant Records and Activision are teaming up with Tony Hawk for his new American Wasteland video game and the accompanying CD soundtrack, with 14 punk favorites newly recorded by today's hottest new stars.
• Got cash? This Tuesday the Gang of Four are sharing a little loot with the release of their new two-CD set, Return the Gift. Back in 1979, when their debut album, Entertainment, rocked the art-punk zeitgeist, the album's cover art presented a timeless image and a radically truthful message - the Indian smiles, and thinks the cowboy is his friend.
Forget all that Austin Powers nonsense and get truly psychedelic this coming Tuesday, as Snapper Records is releasing a rare, seminal documentary of the swinging London scene of the late 1960s. Now on DVD for the first time, Pink Floyd London 1966-1967 captures the band at its creation, with rare footage taken from Peter Whitehead's film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London.
• Back for a second collaborative album, this Tuesday Jello Biafra & the Melvins release Sieg Howdy! on Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label. With intriguing song titles such as "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)" and "The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism," the new CD promises new rants from the Dead Kennedys founder and an updated recording of the band's classic "Kalifornia Uber Alles" for the Schwarzenegger populous.
• In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the War Child: Help CD that raised funds for the children of the Bosnian war, a new project brings together a who's-who of modern rockers to continue the goal of helping children caught up in warfare worldwide.
• Taking the adage that it's the driver, not the car, David Grisman's Acoustic Disc label has compiled 42 master musicians laying hands on a beloved 1933 Martin OM-45 guitar and a 1922 Gibson F-5 mandolin. Next Tuesday the label releases the fruit of this unique four-year effort in Tone Poets, a two-CD set that shows the range of sounds drawn from these same vintage instruments by different fingers, slides, and flatpicks.
More questions than answers are blowing in the wind, my friend, with superstar artists cutting deals that exclude traditional mom-and-pop record stores from carrying their upcoming CDs. Walmart's 800-pound gorilla already dictates to the major record labels what it's going to take to get their product into their stores - approving cover art and a take-it-or-leave-it cost margin.