Sloan’s long-awaited return to recording would be noteworthy whatever the quality, but I’m happy to report Sailover is a fine set of tunes, though perhaps too stylistically diverse to hold together as a unit. Sloan and producer Jon Tiven chose to bring in the stars to revisit several gems from the back catalog, so we get fresh takes on "Sins of the Family" (a duet with a ravaged-sounding Lucinda Williams), "Where Were You When I Needed You" (with Felix Cavaliere), "Hallowe’en Mary" and "Eve of Destruction" (both with Frank Black). Sloan’s singing has never sounded better; the years have mellowed his tone, added a subtle, confident sexiness that’s especially appealing when he indulges his Dylan fixation on the playful space opera "PK and the Evil Dr. Z." Long before he found his guru, Sloan’s songs asked big questions, and "Violence" and "All That Love Allows" show he’s still crafting ambitious verses in the quest for answers. A highlight comes near the close of the disk with the lovely "Cross the Night," so understated and simple but informed by 4+ decades of pop smarts. Sloan has some excellent new songs that didn’t make it onto Sailover, so I’m eagerly awaiting chapter two of his return. Til then, peel an eye for the hilarious live show (he knocked the roof off when he played free for a recent Scram magazine release), on the road this fall.