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Tuesday Reviewsday: Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas, Lee Hazlewood and more

Recording artists Emmanuel Horvilleur (L) and Dante Spinetta of Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas pose in the press room at the 14th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Recording artists Emmanuel Horvilleur (L) and Dante Spinetta of Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas pose in the press room at the 14th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

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It's time for Tuesday Reviewsday our weekly new music segment. This week we're going to be talking about rock with Justino Aguila from Billboard Magazine and music critic Steve Hochman.

Justino's Picks

Artist: Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas
Album: Chances
Release Date: Oct. 29 
Songs: Ula Ula, Helicopteros

Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas are Dante Spinetta and Emmanuel Horvilleur from Argentina, and have been friends since they were children. Together they conquered the world of music with hip-hop, rock and heavy metal. Then in 2001 they amicably broke up for 10 years.

This album, which was just nominated for a Grammy in the Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative album, is the comeback project that also has elements of pop and funk and to some fans this is a very different duo. Nonetheless, it's getting a lot of attention; even Oprah said she loved "Ula Ula," which she heard in a Target commercial, then tweeted her appreciate of the song which stayed in her head. While the songs may seem super playful at times, they have deeper social and political meanings. Worth noting that the guys won for best urban song at the Latin Grammys recently.

Artist: Laura Pausini
Album: 20 the Greatest Hits
Release Date: Nov. 12
Songs: One More Chance; Non c é /Se fué (featuring Mark Anthony)

Italian singer Laura Pausini returns with a greatest hits album with music in English, Spanish and Italian. She's starting a world tour this week in Rome and will also be here in the US in early 2014. She has a command of the craft with a voice that has made her very famous in Mexico and Latin America and in some ways more noticed in Mexico than in Italy. Her collaboration with Anthony is a standout pairing that plays well with their voices. One More Chance shows her range and vocal strength. She's taken some deserved time off and and now she's back and stronger than ever.

Steve's Picks

Artist: Lee Hazlewood
Album: There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971
Release Date: Nov. 26
Songs: “Chico”, “Come On Sunshine” 

There have been few real auteurs in pop. Phil Spector, sure, Berry Gordy too. But for the most part they were not performers. Lee Hazlewood, who died of cancer in 2007, tried to do it all — producer, performer, promoter, Hollywood playboy, writer and king of his own pop fiefdom. Most famous for work with Nancy Sinatra in the mid-‘60s, writing and producing “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and other hits, and then as her duet partner on such hits as “Some Velvet Morning” and “Jackson.”

Starting LHI Records — Lee Hazlewood Industries, the name indicating perhaps tongue in cheek, perhaps not, the factory nature of the enterprise — he tried to build an all-encompassing pop empire. Today it stands as grandiose folly, as nothing from LHI ever became a hit. But it’s a treasure trove that’s only gained in value, and pleasure, over the years. There were attempts to repeat the Sinatra success, including more partnerships with him and women singers, notably Ann-Margret on the album “The Cowboy and the Lady.”

There were oddball concept albums such as “Requiem For an Almost Lady.” He even tried his earthy vocal chords at Bobby Darin-like crooning, but his desert-mystic cowboy ballads are his calling card. Closest equivalent might be France’s Serge Gainsbourg, and we can hear echoes of his influence in Nick Cave, Beck, Jack White and many others. The four CDs on this lavish box (there’s an ultra-lavish deluxe edition as well) collect the released and much unreleased LHI material, from subdued ballads to over-the-top productions, such as the horn-heavy “Chico” duet of him and Ann-Margret.

The second two discs spotlight the other artists he brought into the factorty, including a young, unknown Gram Parsons. The previously unreleased “Come On Sunshine” by sometime duet partner Suzi Jane Hokom is a nice slice of late-‘60s psychedelic pop. But it also opens with with the line “I want to take these heavy boots off of my feet,” a nod to, and maybe a casting-off of, those earlier boots to show the footprints Hazlewood left on the pop world.

Artist: Mary Lambert
Album: Welcome to the Age of My Body (EP)
Release Date: Dec. 17
Songs: “Body Love,” “She Keeps Me Warm”

Perhaps not since Dido was sampled for Eminem’s “Stan” has a woman singer-songwriter made an impact from a hip-hop cameo as much as Mary Lambert has from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ equality anthem “Same Love.” The Seattle musician both wrote and sang the key hook that makes up the chorus.

That hook got her a major-label deal and is part of a full song itself, “She Keeps Me Warm,” a proud declaration of her own “same” love, which is featured on the upcoming EP “Welcome to the Age of My Body.” Not long ago this would have been relegated to the “women’s music” category, or else she would have needed to remain coy and unspecific in gender references, as Melissa Etheridge did in her early career.

A breakthrough? Very much. But also, simply, a good song and terrific singer. There’s more going on here, though, evidenced in the two-part “Body Love,” which opens and closes this short release, seeing her go into character as a young woman battling societal body image. Between this and Lorde’s detached materialism critique it’s great to see young women not just with something important to say, but effectively artistic ways of saying it.