Ah, cooler weather. Soon, leaves will change color and take on a rich terra cotta hue. Then, almost in no time, the Christmas season will be upon us. What does all this mean?
It means big CD releases. The major labels always deliver new music and greatest-hits compilations by lucrative names when fall arrives. So, with that in mind, let’s look at what’s on the horizon. Perhaps the most anticipated upcoming disc is the sophomore effort by country singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.
Her second studio album, “Fearless,” which lands in stores Nov. 11, will prove whether the 3 million-selling, pop-culture success of her self-titled debut was a fluke or the beginning of a truly artistic career.
She’s still young - she’ll be 19 in December - but two years of touring should have given her broader insight.
Other titles sure to cause a stir are collections from rapper Kanye West, “808’s & Heartbreak” (tentatively scheduled for Nov. 18); country superstar Kenny Chesney, “Lucky Old Sun” (Oct. 14); “American Idol” winner David Cook, still untitled (Nov. 18); “Idol” runner-up David Archuleta, self-titled (Nov. 11); rockers Hinder, “Take It to the Limit” (Nov. 4); and Nickelback, “Dark Horse” (Nov. 18).
But the most exciting new release for this critic is Patti Labelle’s “Back to Now,” which lands at retail Oct. 21.
The reunion of LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash - the trio’s first studio album in 32 years - is a signature mix of R&B, funk, rock, jazz and soulful balladry.
It boasts production from Lenny Kravitz and the classic team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.
Sarah McLachlan, “Closer: The Best of Sarah McLachlan” (Arista) - An array of hits and classic cuts chosen by the singer-songwriter, and two newly recorded tracks.
Jon McLaughlin, “OK Now” (Island) - The second project from the Indiana singer-songwriter follows 2007’s well-received “Indiana.”
Ray LaMontagne, “Gossip in the Grain” (RCA) - The folk-pop-rock singer and songwriter from New Hampshire hopes to capitalize on his 2006 breakthrough, “Till the Sun Turns Black.”
J.D. Souther, “If the World Was You” (MRI Associated) - The first CD in 24 years for the Michigan-born, Texas-raised singer and tunesmith was recorded with a five-piece jazz ensemble.
Celine Dion, “My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection” (Sony) - Love songs, the Canadian songstress’ specialty, in a 26-song compilation.
Pink, “Funhouse” (LaFace) - Fifth studio album from the unpredictable and unstoppable singer comes after her chart-topping single, “So What.”
Boz Scaggs, “Speak Low” (Decca) - More standards, a sequel of sorts to 2003’s “But Beautiful,” done as “a sort of progressive, experimental effort ... along the lines of some of the ideas that Gil Evans explored,” says the artist.
Susan Tedeschi, “Back to the River” (Verve Forecast) - A personal album; features collaborations with Tony Joe White, John Leventhal, Sonya Kitchell and others.
Dido, “Safe Trip Home” (Arista) - She’s not prolific, as this is only her third stateside album since 1999, but the ethereal British dance-pop artist has a big following in these parts.
Hilary Duff, “Best of Hilary Duff” (Hollywood) - A dozen tracks, including three remixes, make up the Houston native’s second greatest-hits compilation.
David Archuleta, “David Archuleta” (Jive) - Last season’s “American Idol” runner-up should benefit from the radio success of his current single, “Crush.”
Andrea Bocelli, “Incanto” (Decca) - A new collection of famous Italian songs recorded by the operatic pop tenor who has sold millions of records worldwide.
Tracy Chapman, “Our Bright Future” (Atlantic) - Cleveland’s critically lauded singer-songwriter offers the eighth studio disc of her career.
Seal, “Soul” (Warner Bros.) - The English soul-pop singer tackles a batch of soul covers on a CD produced by David Foster.
Il Divo, “The Promise” (Sony) - This operatic pop group delivers a dozen tunes including a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s stunning ballad, “The Power of Love.”
Tom Jones, “24 Hours” (S-Curve) - First U.S. album in 15 years for the iconic, seemingly ageless singer.
Britney Spears, “Circus” (Jive) - She’s back just a year after her last CD, “Blackout.” This time, the paparazzi magnet is working with Lil Jon, Rodney Jerkins, Lady GaGa and Sean Garrett, among a slew of others.
Oasis, “Dig Out Your Soul” (Reprise) - Tumultuous, volatile English rock band breaks its three-year musical silence with a follow-up to 2005’s “Don’t Believe the Truth.”
The Pretenders, “Break Up the Concrete” (Shangri-La Music) - Back to the basics for Chrissie Hynde and her gang of musicians as they once again tackle rock Americana.
Tesla, “Forever More” (Tesla Electric Co.) - New material four years in coming from the Sacramento-formed hard-rock band.
Keane, “Perfect Symmetry” (Interscope) - The third album from this English piano rock band features new songs written by the trio.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “Cardinology” (Lost Highway) - The country rocker, with the emphasis on rock, releases a studio album with his band, the Cardinals.
The Cure, “4:13 Dream” (Geffen) - The legendary goth rock band fronted by the much-imitated Robert Smith cranks out 13 songs in its inimitable style.
Snow Patrol, “A Hundred Million Suns” (Geffen) - The Scottish alternative rockers hope to replicate the million-selling success of 2006’s “Eyes Open.”
Fall Out Boy, “Folie A Deux” (Island) - Is the emo-rock furor dead? Pete Wentz and his three “boys” are trying to keep it alive.
Hinder, “Take It to the Limit” (Universal Republic) - These Oklahoma rockers took three years to prepare a successor to 2005’s 3 million-selling debut, “Extreme Behavior.”
Mudvayne, “The New Game” (Epic) - Heavy-metal band from Illinois, the one that sometimes wears masks and makeup and sometimes doesn’t, releases its fourth studio project.
Nickelback, “Dark Horse” (Roadrunner) - The hot-seat album, especially since it comes after 2005’s whopping 7 million-selling “All the Right Reasons.”
David Cook, still untitled (RCA) - The “American Idol” winner’s debut album was produced by Rob Cavallo (“Green Day,” “Kid Rock”) and features the first single, “Light On,” co-written by Chris Cornell.
The Killers, “Day & Age” (Island) - Their third studio album finds Brandon Flowers and his bandmates working with British producer Stuart Price.
Scott Weiland, “Happy in Galoshes” (12th Street) - The Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman gives us his second solo CD in a decade.
Tim McGraw, “Greatest Hits Vol. 3” (Curb) - A mere two years since his last hits compilation, and with only one studio album in between, comes another collection of singles.
Johnny Cash, “Johnny Cash Remixed” (Compadre) - Spearheaded by Snoop Dogg, John Carter Cash and Matthew Knowles; features 20 Cash classics remixed by DJs and other artists.
Kenny Chesney, “Lucky Old Sun” (BNA) - The deluxe edition of the country star’s newest studio outing features a second disc of live material. The regular edition arrives in stores a week later.
Billy Currington, “Little Bit of Everything” (Mercury Nashville) - The third record by the Georgia newcomer banks on the success of 2005’s platinum “Doin’ Something Right.”
Little Big Town, “A Place to Land” (Capitol Nashville) - This country-pop band’s wonderful 2007 CD gets reissued with new cover art and four extra songs, including three fresh studio tracks.
John Michael Montgomery, “Time Flies” (Rocket Science) - Four years since his last major-label album, the one-time country star goes the independent route.
Lucinda Williams, “Little Honey” (Lost Highway) - The ninth studio effort for the revered singer-songwriter showcases guests Elvis Costello and Charlie Louvin, among others. “Real Love” is the first single.
Waylon Jennings, “Waylon Forever” (Vagrant) - The late country legend’s final recordings - eight covers and originals - are backed by son Shooter Jennings and his band, the .357’s.
Craig Morgan, “That’s Why” (BNA) - The feel-good country singer unveils his debut for a major label, the home of Kenny Chesney, after years with strong independent imprint Broken Bow.
Hank Williams III, “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” (Curb) - The controversial country-rocker, son of Hank Williams Jr., releases his fourth studio album.
Lee Ann Womack, “Call Me Crazy” (MCA Nashville) - Another stunning traditional country album from Texas’ peerless vocalist produced by the renowned Tony Brown.
Toby Keith, “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy” (Show Dog Nashville) - Toby, Toby and more Toby ... the prolific country honcho releases his fourth studio album in as many years.
Rascal Flatts, “Greatest Hits Volume 1” (Lyric Street) - This multimillion-selling country-pop group’s first compilation includes 13 hits plus a second CD with three Christmas songs.
Randy Owen, “One on One” (Broken Bow) - The former Alabama lead singer goes solo on an album produced by the red-hot, in-demand John Rich.
Brad Paisley, “Play” (Arista Nashville) - A mostly instrumental record showcasing Paisley’s amazing guitar prowess; with guests Keith Urban, Steve Wariner, Buck Owens and others.
Kevin Costner & Modern West, “Untold Truths” (Universal South) - Yes, he’s a musician, too. The actor finally records the country-rock music he’s been playing for years.
Taylor Swift, “Fearless” (Big Machine) - Young country-pop sensation, who wrote or co-wrote all the songs on her huge debut disc, vies for a second blockbuster.
Billy Ray Cyrus, “Back to Tennessee” (Lyric Street) - Miley Cyrus’ dad attempts to sustain his once-flagging country career with another studio CD since his Hannah Montana papa role.
Trace Adkins, “10” (Capitol Nashville) - The 10th album, counting two greatest-hits CDs, for the Louisiana country singer with a booming baritone and an imposing physique.
Missy Elliott, “Block Party” (Atlantic) - Ms. Misdemeanor works with Soul Diggaz, Danja, the Arkitects, Timbaland and Point Guard on her newest since 2005’s “The Cookbook.”
Kanye West, “808’s & Heartbreak” (Roc-A-Fella) - Boastful rapper delivers his fast follow-up to 2007’s “Graduation” about a month earlier than expected.
Ludacris, “Theater of the Mind” (Def Jam) - Illinois’ Christopher Bridges invites Common, Lil Wayne, the Game, T-Pain, T.I. and many more to the party that is his sixth studio disc.
Scarface, “Emeritus” (Asylum) - Lil Wayne and Bun B are confirmed guests on this Southern rapper’s (he’s from Houston) ninth effort.
50 Cent, “Before I Self Destruct” (Aftermath/Interscope) - Another controversial rapper, he’s boastful as well, rapidly following up his previous CD, 2007’s “Curtis.”
Marco Antonio Solis, “No Molestar” (Fonovisa) - One of Mexico’s most respected and requested singer-songwriters pens 10 songs for a quick studio follow-up to 2006’s “Trozos de Mi Alma 2.”
Calle 13, “Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo” (Sony BMG Norte) - Puerto Rico’s hip-hop duo of Residente and Visitante, amply lauded and awarded, turn in studio album No. 3.
Ricardo Arjona, “5to. Piso” (Warner Music Latin) - The provocative and praised singer-songwriter returns with another batch of originals spearheaded by the first single, “Como Duele.”
Michelle Williams, “Unexpected” (Columbia) - The former Destiny’s Child member switches to contemporary R&B after two gospel releases.
Mary Mary, “The Sound” (Columbia) - Gospel-R&B duo offers up a dozen tunes, one of which features rapper David Banner as a guest.
Labelle, “Back to Now” (Verve) - The return of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash on a supercool, vocal powerhouse album that sounds old yet new.
John Legend, “Evolver” (Columbia) - Love and relationships get explored on the soul singer-pianist’s third studio album co-produced by Kanye West.
Brandy, “Human” (Epic) - A new label and new career phase for Brandy Rayana Norwood; the CD is co-produced by Rodney Jerkins.
Anthony Hamilton, “The Point of It All” (RCA) - North Carolina’s neo-soul singer, songwriter and record producer unleashes his fourth studio project.
Musiq Soulchild, “On My Radio” (Atlantic) - The single “Radio” precedes Soulchild’s fifth studio effort, which features guests Mary J. Blige, Common and others.
Ciara, “Fantasy Ride” (LaFace) - Guests galore, from Missy Elliott to Ludacris, Young Jeezy to Lil’ Jon, on the third studio recording from Austin-born Ciara Princess Harris.