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Previewing new albums from Coldplay, Dixie Chicks, Queens Of The Stone Age, Eve, and more.

'Rush' Hour

BurkeColdplay's 2000 debut "Parachutes" earned critical raves for such crossover hits as "Yellow" and "Trouble," but the praise seemed a bit much for a young band still so beholden to its influences (Jeff Buckley, Radiohead). On "A Rush of Blood to the Head," the U.K. foursome proves worthy of the superlatives, crafting a stronger, more distinctive album than its predecessor in nearly every respect.

The breathtaking "Clocks" and the magical piano ballad "Amsterdam" are the band's finest achievements to date, showcasing more confident vocals from Chris Martin and a refreshingly stripped-down approach to modern rock. "[The album] is a bit different," he says, "and we're slightly worried about it. But we didn't want to make the same record again." First single "In My Place" is No. 20 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks tally this week.

The band nearly put the album to bed at the beginning of the year, but decided to afford itself additional time by switching studios and re-teaming with "Parachutes" producer Ken Nelson. "That's the most amazing privilege in the world: to be able to worry about whether a song's being recorded properly," Martin offers. "You know, I don't have to worry about working in a mine or looking after my 10 kids. I'm allowed to be obsessed with the middle eight of a difficult song. And it's amazingly cool to be able to be that geeky about something." The band begins a North American tour Sept. 4 in Seattle.

'Home' On The Range

BurkeThe title of the new Dixie Chicks album, "Home," works on a number of levels. For starters, it's the group's first major-label effort recorded in its home state of Texas, as opposed to Nashville. The Chicks co-produced the album with singer Natalie Maines' father and well-known Texas musician/producer, Lloyd Maines, and worked up the arrangements in Natalie's living room in Austin.

The title also describes the trio's return to its longtime label home, Sony Music. It comes after a contentious, year-long legal battle marked by back-and-forth lawsuits during which the group sought to be freed of its Sony contract as a result of alleged accounting discrepancies and Sony sought to enforce a contract that called for five more albums from the trio.

"To me, it's just more of us being us," group member Emily Robison says of the more bluegrass-flavored set. "Yes, there's a bluegrass flair, but if anything, it's just kind of peeling back a few layers. It's not going off in a different direction. It's being able to hear the banjos and fiddles and dobros and the harmonies and the more intricate arrangements a little bit more, peeling back some of the drums and some of the keyboards. I feel like it's more essential Dixie Chicks."

First single "Long Time Gone" is No. 2 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Look for the group to tour North America next spring.

'Deaf,' Dumb, And Blind

Burke"The time is right for a good rock record," Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri says matter-of-factly of the Palm Desert, Calif.-based group's third studio set, "Songs for the Deaf," due this week from Interscope. "Deaf" is not only among the most-anticipated releases of the year but also one of the most undeniably visceral rock albums to drop in recent memory.

QOTSA core members Josh Homme (guitar/vocals) and Oliveri have always relied on a rotating cast of players to bring its sound to life in the studio and on the road. But on "Deaf," the supporting staff glitters with the star power of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on drums and former Screaming Trees leader Mark Lanegan on vocals. Ween's Dean Ween also plays guitar on three tracks.

The album comes out swinging with a barrage of brutally loud, air-tight melodic rockers such as "Millionaire," first single "No One Knows," and "First It Giveth," which features astounding drum work by Grohl. The band also affixes its sonic signature to retro garage riffs and harmony vocals ("Gonna Leave You," "Another Love Song"), dark boogie rhythms ("God Is in the Radio"), acoustic/symphonic weirdness ("Mosquito Song"), and outright aural assaults (the Oliveri-screamed, 79-second "Six Shooter").

Oliveri acknowledges that "this record is all over the place in a good way. But we're just trying to create music and write songs we can't go get at the local record store, [asking ourselves], 'What can't we go buy? We want to hear this.' In that case, we'll just have to put it together and make it available." A North American tour with anarchic labelmates ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead in tow begins Friday (Aug. 30) in Washington, D.C.

Stone's Throw

BurkeThe Super Audio CD (SACD) format, offering higher-resolution audio than the standard compact disc, receives an estimable boost with the Rolling Stones Remastered, a collection of 22 titles from ABKCO Records. The first SACD release from one of the world's greatest rock'n'roll bands, each title in the Rolling Stones Remastered is presented on dual-layer, hybrid SACDs, which are both forward -- and backward -- compatible. While the discs are playable on standard CD players, playback on an SACD player allows delivery of the format's high-resolution audio.

What may be most astonishing about the Rolling Stones' 1960s oeuvre is its sheer volume. Charged with producing another two sides every 10 weeks and two albums per year, the Stones consistently delivered tough, gritty blues and sardonic, menacing rock'n'roll. ABKCO's collections, including "Big Hits: High Tide and Green Grass"; "Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits, Vol. 2)"; "Hot Rocks, 1964-1971"; and "More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies)," succinctly chronicle the band's many highlights.

On each of these 22 hybrid SACDs, listeners can hear a more faithful reproduction of the Rolling Stones than anything previously available. The detail and nuance of Charlie Watts' superior drumming, the full dynamic range of Bill Wyman's elastic bass guitar, the timbre of Keith Richards' brilliant guitars, and Mick Jagger's inimitable dynamism -- it's all here, sounding as if the listener were in the studio or concert venue with them.

The Stones begin an extensive world tour Sept. 3 in Boston. A two-disc retrospective with four new songs, "40 Licks," is due Oct. 1 from Virgin.

Additional titles hitting stores this week include:

-- Rapper Eve's "Eve-Olution" (Interscope), which features Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Jadakiss. First single "Gangsta Lovin'" featuring Alicia Keys is No. 6 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart.

-- The Blind Boys Of Alabama's "Higher Ground" (Real World); sporting gospel renditions of songs from Prince, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and Jimmy Cliff.

-- Australian rock trio Silverchair's "Diorama" (Atlantic).

-- "Saturday Night Live" star Jimmy Fallon's "The Bathroom Wall" (Geffen).

-- U.K. dance sensation Daniel Bedingfield's "Gotta Get Thru This" (Island).

-- A new album from singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik, "Daylight" (Atlantic).

-- R&B/hip-hop newcomer Trina's "Diamond Princess" (Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic).

-- Boy-band trio BBMak's "Into Your Head" (Hollywood).

-- A new set from Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof, "Sex, Age & Death" (Koch).

-- Electronica-tinged Icelandic outfit Gus Gus' "Attention" (Moonshine).

-- Epic's soundtrack to "The Barbershop," featuring tracks from Ginuwine, Fabolous, P. Diddy, Jagged Edge, Glenn Lewis, and Amel Larrieux.

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