Fall CDs: Superstars double up

"Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues," a new recording of a live concert featuring the renowned jazz and rock artists.
Warner Bros. Records

A new season in the arts gets under way, and when it comes to new music offerings, our friend Bill Flanagan of MTV is seeing double:

When I was a kid I liked Superman and I liked Batman, but what really got my 12 cents was when Superman and Batman teamed up. They both seemed cooler together than they did individually.

The superhero team-up model is in full force in the music business this autumn, as stars from all generations and genres combine, collaborate and cross-pollinate.

If you want to go down river to the time before blues and jazz split into separate tributaries, you will want to hear "Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues," an elegant musical meeting recorded at Lincoln Center last spring. Close your eyes and let the virtuosity wash over you.

If you are less laid-back, give your attention to "Watch the Throne," the heavyweight bout between Kanye West and Jay-Z. This is rap with a dramatic sense of its own significance.

My teenage son says it's the best album of the year; my wife says, "I don't want language like that in the house."

The wildest collaboration of the autumn must be "Lulu," the cross-generational mash-up from Lou Reed and Metallica. It sounds unlikely, but it really works.

Metallica are the smartest of metal bands, and Lou is a deep-thinker who loves to wail on his electric guitar. "Lulu" is a testament to brains AND brawn.

Other stars are doubling up? Well, then Mick Jagger will quintuple up! SuperHeavy is a loose supergroup with Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, A.R. Rahman and Damien Marley. It's great to hear Jagger in a new context - and playing with musicians who are not pretending to be Keith Richards.

Most unexpected collaboration? On "The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams," a dozen contemporary luminaries reach across 50 years to finish songs that Hank Williams left uncompleted at the time of his death.

Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Norah Jones, Bob Dylan and more bring their A-game to the altar. These new/old Hank songs are worthy additions to the greatest canon in country music.

This must be a square dance - everyone has grabbed a partner.

Lionel Ritchie has a new album of double-headers with country stars, from Kenny Chesney to Jennifer Nettles.

And Tony Bennett has "Duets 2," in which younger vocalists from Lady Gaga to the late Amy Winehouse harmonize with the master.

This fall's album release schedule is like Noah's Ark. They are all coming out two by two.

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