Elton John and Leon Russell
The Union (Mercury)
Duet albums are a risky business. Choose the wrong pairing and you end up with Charlie Daniels and Brenda Lee doing Let It Be Me. Sometimes, odd works. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand won acclaim for a reason. "Elton John and Leon Russell" sounds wrong only if one's sole point of reference for John is his output of the past 25 years.
Forty years ago, however, he was a serious rocker, who opened for Russell on tour - and then eclipsed him. Reunited and under the leadership of T Bone Burnett as the producer (he also helmed Raising Sand), John and Russell mix it up on this album of originals with barn-burning piano playing, as befits an album by two of rock's best hands. The best tunes are those that hint at their creators' maturity (the songs are almost all co-written by John and Russell with John's long-time collaborator, Bernie Taupin).
Among the best are I Should Have Sent Flowers,A Dream Come True, Hey Ahab, and If It Wasn't for Bad. We're lucky to have this album: Russell was back within days of brain surgery in January to finish recording. Two versions are available on iTunes: a 14-track album and the "LP" version, with two extra cuts and a package that includes video, lyrics, photos and links to online bonus material.
Weezer Death to False Metal (Geffen/Universal)
Forget the tongue-in-cheek title, Weezer present their unmistakable brand of geek-rock on this rarities album, collected throughout their 17-year career. Considering the band have alienated much of their fanbase over the past decade by reheating old ideas, the results sound surprisingly fresh.
Sufjan Stevens The Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)
The Detroit singer-songwriter has certainly done the unexpected with his latest album: gone electronic. The sprawling 75-minute opus contains everything from layered synths to auto-tune and the last song is 25 minutes long. Despite all the warning signs, it is still underpinned by some great tunes.
* Raymond Beauchemin