WALLFLOWERS Red Letter Days (Interscope)
It’s number four for this California-based quartet, and the Grammy-winning rockers sound better every time they emerge from the studio. Carrying on sans longtime guitarist Michael Ward, the majority of the guitar work is picked up dutifully by frontman Jakob Dylan as he comes out strong on “When You’re on Top” and “Everybody Out of the Water.” Co-produced by one of the band’s original members, guitarist Tobi Miller, solid songwriting and personal lyrics (“Closer to You,” “Everything I Need”) once again prevail on this outstanding offering.
ROD STEWART I Had To Be You … The Great American Songbook (J Records)
For his debut on Clive Davis’ label, Stewart takes infatuation to a whole new level. Picture a dimly lit, smoke-filled club with a husky voiced singer fronting a jazz band on a set list of standards, and you have the latest disc from Rod. The blond Brit romantically croons his way through “You Go To My Head,” “They Can’t Take that away from Me,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and 10 other gems, wearing this latest take on his career well and in the end providing an affirmative answer to the question, “Do ya think I’m sexy?” — J.E.M.
JOHNNY CASH American IV: The Man comes Around (American Recordings/Lost Highway Records)
Joining forces with producer Rick Rubin for the fourth time in eight years, Cash travels down an interesting road of 15 covers and originals. A perfect example of the range on this offering is found in the segue of techno-dance outfit Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” into the Beatles’ “In My Life” into Cash’s original “Sam Hall,” followed by the church organ-accompanied “Danny Boy.” As in the past, there are special guest appearances — Fiona Apple shows up for a haunting take on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Don Henley sings backup on his own “Desperado,” and Nick Cave joins in on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” — J.E.M.
CHASING THE DIME
By Michael Connelly (Little, Brown & Company, $26)
Henry Pierce is trying to get on with his life. Trouble is, his new phone number used to belong to a female escort named Lilly, who, he determines, is in grave danger. A cutting-edge scientist, Pierce finds himself drawn perilously deeper into the chaos of the underworld.
OUR READ: Like Blood Work, look for this thriller on the big screen
BLACKWOOD FARM: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLE
By anne Rice (Alfred A. Knopf, $27)
This latest Rice tome fuses vampire legend with her lore of the Mayfair witches in a story of a young man, haunted since birth by a mysterious doppelgänger, who loses everything when he gains immortality.
OUR READ: Deliciously haunting
Edited and Introduced by hugh downs (Scribner, $25)
In a collection subtitled, “What My Country Means to Me by 150 Americans from All Walks of Life,” diverse and thought-provoking perspectives are offered by the likes of Mike Wallace, Henry Kissinger, John Glenn, and Patricia Neal.
OUR READ: A candid exploration of the American dream
THE JANSON DIRECTIVE
By Robert Ludlum (St. Martins's Press, $28)
The Bourne Identity kept movie fans on the edges of their seats, and this Ludlum installment (one of several books in various stages of completion when the author passed away last year) will keep fans up at night. Paul Janson used to be employed by U.S. Consular Operations, and he thinks he’s given up the fast lane — until a friend who’d once saved Janson’s life is kidnapped and set to be executed.
OUR READ: Classic Ludlum: fast-paced and detail filled