R&B: Who Did That To You?
By John Legend, from the Django Unchained soundtrack (Loma Vista); streaming here
Against a chilling backdrop of a Black Keys-styled vamp, the singer-pianist John Legend gets gritty for Quentin Tarantino's excellent antebellum adventure. For a bonus, the director gives a complete track-by-track commentary – free of any Spike Lee objections – at www.UnchainedSoundtrack.com, where it streams through Jan. 2.
INDIE ROCK: 4
By AroarA, from the forthcoming In The Pines; streaming here
With Broken Social Scene on hiatus, guitarist Andrew Whiteman and his wife Ariel Engle are set to unveil their poetic new project, an album based on the 14 numbered poems of Alice Notley's book, In the Pines. The song 4 is a droning and percussive number – magically stirring in its effect.
ROOTS ROCK: In the Garden
By Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition, form the forthcoming White Buffalo (Fat Possum); streaming here
From the bluesy Mississippian, a mandolin-tickled fable about places that are wicked – Eden or Los Angeles, take your pick. Groove-wise, think Springsteen and the Black Crowes knee-deep in the swamp.
VIDEO: Stairway to Heaven
Heart, at the Kennedy Center Honors; streaming at Youtube.
"And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul, there walks a lady we all know…" With Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page watching from the balcony at the recent Washington gala, Heart's Ann Wilson delivered the classic lines from Led Zeppelin's magnum opus. In a tribute which also saw performances by Foo Fighters, Kid Rock and Lenny Kravitz, Heart (including sister Nancy Wilson) was backed by string and horn sections, drummer Jason Bonham (son of the late Zeppelin timekeeper John Bonham) and a full choir, resulting in a stirring, semi-religious rendition of an iconic track that's rarely attempted, due to its status and dynamic complexity. At the video's 3:40 mark, a betuxed Barack Obama appears to be rethinking his policy on legalized marijuana as he readies himself for the heavy-metal-Hobbit song's heroic guitar solo. Early in its career, Heart (to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this year) was dismissed by some critics as a poor woman's Zeppelin. Here, in a salute to that band, the Wilson sisters acknowledge a debt and dismiss any uncomplimentary comparisons, stunningly delivering lyrics in their own whip-and-white-lightning fashion that could refer to themselves: "In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings." Singer Plant wipes away tears at the end of the performance – a tall stairway well climbed.
VIDEO: The Music They Made
By various artists (New York Times); streaming here
Whitney Houston asked "how will I know," and it was the eulogistic outpouring following her tragic death that gave answers as to the reality and amount of her fans' love. A collage features musicians who died in 2012, from Etta James to Davy Jones to Ravi Shankar to Doc Watson to Deep Purple's Jon Lord to Duck Dunn to the singer Houston and more. The funeral hit parade ends with the soul-folkster Terry Callier's You're Goin' Miss Your Candyman – "Baby, you might miss me when I'm gone."