Coheed & Cambria

Year of the Black Rainbow

(Columbia)

We have all become familiar with prequels in the film world, most notably with Episodes I, II and III of the popular "Star Wars" film series.

Well, get ready for what might be the first musical prequel. "Year of the Black Rainbow," the latest effort by prog-rock enthusiasts Coheed & Cambria, is described as the prequel to the band's tetralogy of albums, which include "The Second Stage Turbine Blade," "In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3," "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness," and "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow."

Just try rattling off those titles five times fast. Produced by Atticus Ross (Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails) and Joe Baressi (Tool and Queens of the Stone Age), "Year of the Black Rainbow" does nothing to diminish C&C's standing as one of the biggest progressive-metal bands out there.

Front man Claudio Sanchez, who is responsible for the story arc that runs through the C&C studio albums, still wails on guitar, and the music and lyrics are fresh and thought-provoking. I still have a way to go before I actually understand exactly what is going on in the continuing saga being told by C&C, but I'm having a lot of fun trying to figure it out.

Key Tracks: "Here We Are Juggernaut," "Far," "Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)"

Hiromi Kanda

Hiromi In Love

(Music Gate)

I have to admit that the first time I listened to this CD, I thought it might be a joke. Sure, Hiromi Kanda has a nice enough singing voice, but it is immediately evident that English is not the Japanese-born singer's native language.

As a result, when Kanda belts out songs from the American Songbook such as "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "My Funny Valentine," it sounds almost as if Shonen Knife dropped the rock act and embraced the golden oldies.

With the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra behind her, Kanda does her best to own these tunes, but honestly, my mind kept drifting back to that scene in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" when Kate Capshaw sings "Anything Goes" in Mandarin. If American standards sung in a moderately heavy Japanese accent is your bag, then have at this.

Key Tracks: "My Funny Valentine," "Unforgettable," "When I Fall In Love"

Solomon Burke

Nothing's Impossible

(E1)

The release of Solomon Burke's latest CD, "Nothing's Impossible," is both sweet and bittersweet.

On the sweet side we get another excellent album from a true soul music legend. Solomon Burke, known in the '60s for hits such as "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" and "Cry to Me," experienced career resurgence in 2002 when he released "Don't Give Up On Me," which featured songs written especially for the singer by such admirers as Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Van Morrison.

The material on "Nothing's Impossible" is every bit as good as on the comeback album.

What is bittersweet about this project is that it represents one of the last things produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell, who passed away earlier this year. If Mitchell was going to leave a musical epitaph though, he could not have picked a finer example of his handiwork than "Nothing's Impossible."

Particularly great is Burke's reworking of Anne Murray's "You Needed Me." Apparently some of the influence given to Burke by alt-country producer Buddy Miller back in 2006 on Burke's "Nashville" CD stuck.

For fans of the classic R&B sound of the '60s, this is some truly amazing listening.

Key Tracks: "Oh What a Feeling," "Dreams," "You Needed Me"

Legendary Shack Shakers

Agridustrial

(Colonel Knowledge)

When punk rock icon Jello Biafra calls someone the best front man in the world, it is a high compliment indeed. In this case, the object of Biafra's praise is Colonel J.D. Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers (LSS).

For those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing LSS live, it is much like observing a hurricane fronting an alt-country/punk-rock band.

A few years ago at the Village Tavern in Mt. Pleasant Wilkes punched out an overhead light fixture during a song, and never bothered to even glance at his bloodied knuckles until the song was finished.

On "Agridustrial," the band has gone heavy metal, but not like you might expect. The band enlisted a blacksmith and recorded the sounds of hammers and tongs on a metal anvil, as well as other metallic sounds to use as percussion on the CD. The results are a set of songs that still have an alt-country rockabilly sound, albeit with a decidedly industrial edge.

With songs such as "Greasy Creek," "Sin Eater" and "Hobos are My Heroes," it is easy to guess that the music here won't be featured on the next volume of "Now That's What I Call Music."

There is no denying that Wilkes and his band have engineered an album that sounds like it was every bit as fun to record as it is to hear.

Key Tracks: "Sugar Baby," "God Fearing People," "Greasy Creek"