Scissor Sisters Sharpen Disco, Neil Young Serenades Queen

The cover of "Magic Hour," the fourth studio album by U.S. group, the Scissor Sisters. The CD comes with an endorsement by U2's Bono, who calls the Scissor Sisters "the best pop band in the world. Source: Casablanca Records via Bloomberg

The Scissor Sisters are back. They are pouring themselves into Lycra costumes, jiving like there’s no tomorrow and disco has never been away.

At a time when 1970s dance has been in the headlines, with the deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb, the Scissor Sisters are pointing the way for Rihanna, Lady Gaga, maybe even Madonna.

“Magic Hour” is actually 44 minutes and isn’t all pure magic. It peaks early with “Only the Horses,” a relentlessly boppy single. It’s co-produced by Calvin Harris, a man known for his ludicrous claim to have invented disco.

The New York band can make a genuine case for reinventing disco for 2012 with the bubbly opener “Baby Come Home” with drums like popping champagne corks.

Still, the incessant beat gets irritating. So does the upbeat philosophy that having a good time and dancing every night until dawn will cure all ills. Rating: ***.

Neil Young’s “Americana” also has a misleading title. The guitar thrashes could just as much be called “Canadiana” and conclude with Young’s ramshackle version of the U.K. national anthem “God Save the Queen,” just in time for Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.

Along the way, Young attacks folk classics such as “Gallows Pole,” “Clementine” and “This Land Is Your Land.” It’s often as bad as it sounds. Just now and again it’s full of joy in Young’s first collaboration with Crazy Horse since “Greendale” in 2003.

Fans will lap it up. Rating: **.

Rock stars of a certain age often take on the great American songbook like Young is doing. Here comes Willie Nelson, 79.

“Heroes,” Nelson’s first release under a new Sony Music contract, is nicely understated with country classics such as “My Window Faces the South” and “My Home in San Antone” alongside a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Rating: ***.

Welsh singer Tom Jones tries a similar trick with “Spirit in the Room.”

You have to laugh at his take on Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Originally sung in on off-key slur, the line “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” goes somewhere else here. Jones really has an amazing pop baritone, and he knows it.

His last, “Praise & Blame,” was good. Sir Tom’s latest is a notch better. Rating: ***½.

Regina Spektor’s “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats” is her best yet. The 32-year-old U.S. singer-songwriter’s music isn’t the easiest of listens, with quirky vocals, abrupt changes of direction and lyrics so unhinged they make Tori Amos look positively normal.

For all that, Spektor is taking risks and improves on “Begin to Hope” from 2006. A song such as “Firewood” is astonishing. Rating: ****.

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

Information:,,, and

The Scissor Sisters are on Casablanca, Willie Nelson on Sony and Regina Spektor on Sire/ WEA, all out now.

Tom Jones is out in the U.K. now and on import to the U.S. from Universal Records for about $23. It is officially released in the U.S. on June 5, as is Neil Young on Warner.

Single download fees vary across services. The albums are priced from about $12 in the U.S. and 9 pounds in the U.K. unless otherwise shown.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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