Cat Power Shines, Knopfler Blues, Russian Danger Groups

"Sun," the ninth studio album by U.S. singer-songwriter Cat Power. The CD moves Power towards electronic music from the Memphis-horn style of "The Greatest." Source: Matador Records via Bloomberg

Cat Power’s new CD is called “Sun.”

Power has been in love with Memphis for years. Surprisingly through, the title isn’t a reference to Sun Studios of Elvis Presley fame.

Charlyn Marshall -- who found her stage name when she met a man with a “Cat Diesel Power” cap -- is known for her lush production, with everything drenched in Memphis horns.

The music on the new disc does indeed shine. Power started work on it immediately after the release of its predecessor, “The Greatest,” in 2006. (There was a cover-version album in the intervening years.)

This time, the songs are stripped down to overdubs and drum machines, with the title track an electronic chug while she salutes freedom. Rating: ****.

Like so many others, I’ve been aghast about Russia after the jail sentences handed out to Pussy Riot members for their church protest. The mild “crime” and excessive punishment say much about censorship in Vladimir Putin’s country. The incident also raises the question of whether they are any good.

With only a few songs, clunky riffs and sub-Yoko Ono yelling, it’s sad to report the group has a long way to go. Perhaps its sole misdemeanor is the choice of name. Rating: *.

On the other hand, Mumiy Troll’s musicians can play their instruments and have some clever songs.

The new album “Vladivostock,” named after the act’s home city, includes the catchy “Hey Tovarish.” It sounds like Rolling Stones meeting Status Quo for a vodka-fueled jam session.

The only bad point is a press release which says Mumiy Troll is the most dangerous band in Russia. As described by a Communist Party official. Though rule No. 1 of rock goes like this: If you say you are dangerous, you probably aren’t.

Pussy Riot at least sounds a lot more scary. Rating: ***.

Mark Knopfler is continuing to make understated rock, laced with economically beautiful guitar solos. “Privateering,” his seventh CD after Dire Straits, is getting ever more bluesy. The 20 songs are spread over two discs, with “Kingdom of Gold” and “Radio City Serenade” the highlights. Rating: ***.

Dave Stewart is also embracing Memphis blues and Nashville on “The Ringmaster General.” The former Eurythmics star forges some impressive collaborations with Joss Stone, Alison Krauss and Diane Birch. Rating: ****.

Only fans will probably fully appreciate the new Elbow CD, right from its title “Dead in the Boot” -- a reference to the previous “Asleep in the Back.” It's a downbeat B-sides compilation, led off by the long-forgotten “Whisper Grass.” Rating: ***.

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

Cat Power is on Matador, Mumiy Troll on Village, Mark Knopfler on Universal import (out in the U.K. now and in the U.S. on Sept. 11), Dave Stewart on Surfdog Records and Elbow on Polydor import.

Download fees vary across services. The albums are priced from about $12 in the U.S. and 9 pounds in the U.K.

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

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