Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Elvis at 75 on CD, Alexander McCall Smith’s latest novel, ‘Shadows of Russia’ film festival on Turner Classic, and more.

Long live the king

Elvis Presley would have been 75 years old this January, hence the name of a stellar new four CD set: “Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight.” If The Pelvis has left the building of your current musical tastes, take a fresh listen to tracks like “Love Me Tender,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Crying in the Chapel.” Try to forget the gyrations and gaudy jumpsuits – and just listen to the man sing. Box includes notes on every track and lots of photos.

Word play

Scrabble meets Tetris in Must Pop Words – www.bartbonte.com/must popwords – an online game from designer Bart Bonte that’s trickier than it looks. Orange balls with letters drop into the field – type as many words as you can from the letters without letting 50 unused balls pile up.

Scottish stories

The gang’s all back for “The Unbearable Lightness of Scones,” the fifth volume of the 44 Scotland Street series, crafted by Alexander McCall Smith: Matthew, newly married; Angus, wrestling with his philandering canine, Cyril; Olive, small but bossy; and the author’s saxophone-playing protagonist, 6-year-old Bertie. Although strikingly different from the author’s more famous series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, these tales provide similar endearing glimpses into everyday lives. However, if you’re waiting for the scones, they don’t appear until Chapter 98.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Show tunes for people not big on Broadway

If an evening of show tunes sounds as appealing as a jackhammer, have we got an album for you. With customary laid-back charm, Dan Zanes brings his folk sensibility to the Great White Way in his newest family album, “76 Trombones.” He adds an accordion to the title track, throws in a tuba for “Thumbelina,” and brings in Tony winners Carol Channing, Matthew Broderick, and Brian Stokes Mitchell for a sing-along. The Spanish “Mañana” is a highlight, rescuing the “Annie” staple from generations of pint-sized belters. The whole album is genial, quirky fun that always takes the music – but never itself – seriously.

Seeing red

Every Wednesday in January, Turner Classic Movies pulls back the Iron Curtain for a closer look at the US-Russia relationship as played out on the silver screen. From the last days of the czars and the Russian Revolution to the intrigue of the cold war, from student demonstrations to anticommunist fervor, the 20-film festival, “Shadows of Russia,” includes “The Scarlet Empress” (1934), “Reds” (1981), “Ninotchka” (1939), and “The Way We Were” (1973).

Piano man

Musician Jim Brickman has cultivated a following for his easy listening, romantic keyboard style, one that moved PBS to tap one of his concerts for a pledge drive. Now on DVD, “Jim Brickman: Beautiful World” has songs to please every taste, including works by Latin superstar Jon Secada, Melinda Doolittle from “American Idol,” and pop pianist Arthur Hanlon.

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