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Elvis Costello Returns with New Classic

Andy Langer, music critic for Esquire magazine, discusses the week's album releases, including new CDs from music heavyweights Elvis Costello and Neil Diamond, as well as Tim Fite and Firewater.

Two weeks ago, Costello pre-released his latest album on vinyl only. Now out on CD and MP3, Momofuku proves to be a classic album from the veteran rocker. "The idea that this is just sort of a tossed-off record makes it this rock record that no one expected," Langer says. "It's really solid start to finish, and it's an Elvis Costello rock record that couldn't have come at a better time."

A week after his American Idol appearance, Neil Diamond appears to be experiencing a comeback. Yet for the singer's longtime fans, Langer says, "He never really went away." Much of that renewed interest can be attributed to his partnership with producer Rick Rubin, which brought 2006's 12 Songs and his latest, Home Before Dark. Langer says the new record finds Diamond sounding more comfortable than ever with Rubin's dark, stripped-down arrangements.

Singer-songwriter and occasional rapper Tim Fite blends alternative, country and hip-hop on Fair Ain't Fair. According to Langer, "It's bluesy, it's folksy and it's funky at times, but it's a record that just makes you want to smile."

Firewater, a worldly band led by former Cop Shoot Cop frontman Tod A, melds the global musical influences of India, Israel and Pakistan with political rock. Describing the resulting sound as "world punk," Langer says that Firewater's The Golden Hour is "witty and smart and not just a whiny protest record."

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