Noteworthy CDs


Mark Murphy - Once to Every Heart (Verve Records): Vocalist Mark Murphy has performed around the world for more than a half century, but he's still a secret outside the world of jazz. Ella Fitzgerald once declared his scat singing the equal of her own. But the 10 ballads here - eight standards and two new tunes - slow the tempo way, way down, exposing every aching nuance in Murphy's still supple voice, which radiates like warm asphalt. The breathy trumpet of Till Brönner, a German jazz man half his age who produced the recording, helps to keep the mood indigo. This may not be typical Murphy, who can bop with the best, but it's personal and true, and it may just win him a wider audience. - Gregory M. Lamb


Neil Young - Prairie Wind (Reprise): Neil Young could have hung it up after "Harvest" back in 1972 and still left a hall-of-fame legacy. Instead, the Canadian rocker played on, persistent as the Winnipeg wind, reedy voice riding that distinctive busted-guitar twang. Four decades after his Buffalo Springfield days, Young sends a message with "Prairie Wind": Last year's "Greatest Hits" CD did not represent a career-capper. With 10 tracks - in a sepia package that includes a DVD of recording sessions - it lacks the lyrical bite of Young's heyday. But it still feels as warm as a homecoming bonfire, and it lights up a craggy legend who seemed to have peaked in the mid-1990s. Some tracks feel too precious. But "The Painter," for one, belongs with vintage Neil. - Clayton Collins

Sheryl Crow - Wildflower (A&M): Crow's previous record, the classic-rock pastiche "C'mon, C'mon," was, by her own admission, her least favorite mistake. "Wildflowers," an album of softer musical hues and laments about lonely hearts and last goodbyes, is a return to form. A lot of minor-chord moping goes a long way on singalong tunes like "Lifetimes" and "Perfect Lie." - Stephen Humphries

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