LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Virtual band Gorillaz released its third album "Plastic Beach" on Monday, with Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed and Bobby Womack among the eclectic list of guests featured.
Underlining the cartoon group's star-pulling power, Hollywood actor Bruce Willis also appears on the video to the single "Stylo."
"You've got to remember that the Gorillaz name goes a long way now, much further than it did at the beginning," said Murdoc, fictional bass player and self-styled leader of the band in a recent interview on the BBC Radio's 6 Music channel.
"Now it sort of gives you carte blanche really, you can ask whoever you like," he added in a tongue-in-cheek interview. "Some people will basically just agree on the back of that. Others, let's be honest, it takes a little bit more persuading."
The group, created by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, has steered clear of scoring political points despite the ecological message in the record.
The plastic beach of the title is an island of the imagination, "the furthest point from any landmass on Earth," which is the tip of a continent of waste beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
"Plastic Beach is not really a green record, it's a soundtrack for a plastic beach," Murdoc explained.
"It's taking little snapshots of many, many places around the world and then stuck them all together on a billboard so you can see how they all fit. It's not a judgment on the world, it's just a picture."
Reviews of Plastic Beach, released on EMI's Parlophone label, have been generally favorable, with the Independent newspaper's Andy Gill awarding it four stars out of five and Rolling Stone magazine three-and-a-half out of five.
"Plastic Beach, Gorillaz's third excellent album in a row, is all Albarn -- he writes the tunes, produces, sings, plays most of the music and gets people on the phone for left-field cameos," wrote Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield.
"Albarn hasn't totally given up his day job -- Blur are back in the headlines after recent reunion shows. But Plastic Beach proves that he's most truly himself when he turns into a cartoon," he concluded.
Gorillaz will be hoping to extend their early success, with record sales of around 15 million worldwide already.
Also on sale this week is "Valleys of Neptune" by Jimi Hendrix, featuring studio recordings from 1969 never before commercially available although familiar to die-hard fans from bootleg recordings.
The record, released by Sony, is part of an early wave of re-releases of Hendrix music, dubbed "Hendrixophilia" in the U.S. press, expected in 2010 and beyond.
Ireland's Boyzone also launched "Brother" on Monday, their first record since band member Stephen Gately died last October.
On Universal's Polydor label, Brother includes two tracks featuring Gately's vocals.
Editing by Paul Casciato