Paul McCartney/Carl Davis (EMI Classics 54371)
Tempting as it is to joke that this is where "the cute one" becomes "the classical one," Paul McCartney's "Liverpool Oratorio" is quite earnest about its aspirations. Recorded with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and a first-rate set of soloists (including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), it arrives with all the trappings of a serious orchestral work -- except, of course, the dissonance and abstractions usually associated with contemporary classical music. Instead, its linear structure and tuneful, text-oriented vocal lines have far more in common with the musical theater, emphasizing approachable melody over compositional structure. It's not likely to make Beethoven roll over, but it should turn heads among McCartney's pop audience.
Live albums tend to be a waste of money, offering little more than tepid recapitulations of songs most fans already have, but not "Weld," the new double-album from Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Solid as the song selection is, which ranges from classics like "Cinnamon Girl" to recent ravers like "Farmer John," what makes the album matter is the incandescence of the performances. Sure, Young and band know how to bludgeon a riff, but for all the ear-shredding intensity of rockers like "Welfare Mothers," both the best moments are generally more subtle, as with the gentle "Cortez the Killer" or the heartfelt "Tonight's the Night." There's also a version called "Arc Weld," augmenting "Weld" with 30 minutes of orchestrated feedback that will delight any noise maniac.