Kelly Flynn
Collection Total:
3363 Items
Last Updated:
Aug 26, 2011
Louden Up Now
!!! Japanese pressing of the California indie act's 2004 album, scheduled to include one exclusive bonus track, 'Me and Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story)' (Intensifieder Sunracapellectrohshit Mix 03). Beat Records. 2004.
Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983
10,000 Maniacs
MTV Unplugged
10,000 Maniacs
Love Among the Ruins
10,000 Maniacs Every song here sports the customized blend of sprightly guitars and warm-bath keyboards that marked this band's salad days. But Mary Ramsay is no Natalie Merchant, and her bland delivery ensures that these dozen tunes sound more or less identical, even if their ho-hum cover of Roxy Music's "More Than This" was a big radio hit. —Jeff Bateman
Strangest Places
Abra Moore Once part of Hawai‘i's eclectic folk-pop troupe, Poi Dog Pondering, Abra Moore reinvents herself as an Austin-based electric folk rocker with a sultry, smart vocal attack and a clutch of equally attractive songs. Her 1997 debut, Strangest Places, displays Moore's skill at crafting hooky, melodic rockers like the jangling "Four Leaf Clover" and the jaunty "Don't Feel Like Cryin'," propelled by producer Mitch Watkins' muscular guitars and earthy keyboards. Moore downshifts effectively into the set's gentler ballads, but she's at her most satisfying on the spirited uptempo tracks that thankfully dominate here. —Sam Sutherland
Stan and Judy's Kid
Adam Sandler Is Adam Sandler maturing? First there was The Wedding Singer, now there's the ambition he displays on his fourth album, Stan and Judy's Kid. The bittersweet character sketch "Whitey" is the best example of Sandler's stretching here; most surprising is that the 16-minute piece never gets boring. Another lengthy track, "The Psychotic Legend of Uncle Donnie," is more akin to the '90s' Saturday Night Live's endless bits, though it's impressive to hear such a grisly conceit on a comedy disc. Sandler succeeds with pure absurdity on the opening "Hot Water Burn Baby" and five brief "Cool Guy" vignettes. Still the finest thing here is a sequel to Sandler's classic "Chanukah Song," which reminds us that "Lenny Kravitz is half-Jewish / Courtney Love is half, too / Put them together / What a funky, bad-ass Jew." —Rickey Wright
High Strung Tall Tales
Adrian Legg Adrian Legg comes out of the British "baroque folk" guitar tradition of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and Richard Thompson, and like his predecessors, Legg plays the Anglo-Celtic roots of folk, country and classical "early music" with a chamber musician's ear for precision and harmony. On his new album, "High Strung Tall Tales,'' Legg displays a rare knack for combining strong melodic lines with arpeggiated harmonies in such a way that they flow with a graceful unity. Guitarists love him for his ability to pull off these one-person "duets," but lay listeners will love the sheer beauty of melodic and harmonic interplay.

"High Strung Tall Tales" serves up a generous serving of 20 tracks, covering all the far-flung aspects of Legg's career. You have the improvised, unaccompanied guitar of "Naive II"; the six studio collaborations between Legg's acoustic guitar and various other musicians; the four movements of his classically influenced "High Strung Suite"; and a sampling from a live show in Philadelphia in February, including four solo guitar tunes and five monologues delivered in his deadpan British delivery.

The collaborations include a lovely guitar-and-snaredrum duet, "The Crockett Waltz," and an irreverent garage rock mugging of the Christmas carol, "Silent Night." The suite captures Legg's playing at its most intricately virtuosic, and the live tracks document the wild humor and musical simplicity that make his concerts so special. —Geoffrey Himes
Fingers And Thumbs [ENHANCED CD]
Adrian Legg From the country hoedown stomp of "Lunchtime at Rosie's" to the childlike whimsy of "Rocking Horse," Adrian Legg's second Red House Records release is sure to please fans of this wonderfully dexterous acoustic guitarist. While nearly every song showcases his unbelievably quick, fluid finger playing, Legg never sacrifices melody to virtuosity. On songs such as "Shorelines" and "Cradle Songs," Legg establishes tranquil, even hypnotic atmospheres that serve as perfect counterpoints to his uptempo material. On "Tiddles," a little comedic discourse about a cat's unfortunate encounter with the neighbor's dog, Legg puts the guitar down as he tells us of the cat's sad demise ("Finally the whiff of his decomposition made plain his condition..."). A special bonus for those with CD-ROM drives: Legg includes a selection of his photographs to illustrate each song. —Percy Keegan
Guitar Bones
Adrian Legg
AFI No Description Available
Track: 10: Killing Lights,Track: 11: 37mm,Track: 12: Endlessly, She Said,Track: 1: Prelude 12/21,Track: 2: Kill Caustic,Track: 3: Miss Murder,Track: 4: Summer Shudder,Track: 5: Interview,Track: 6: Love Like Winter,Track: 7: Affliction,Track: 8: Missing Frame,Track: 9: Kiss and Control
Media Type: CD
Artist: A.F.I.
Street Release Date: 06/06/2006
Genre: PUNK
Lost in Space
Aimee Mann Dividing her time between waging war on the music industry and writing sublime pop songs, Aimee Mann shows on her fourth solo album that she is equally adept at both. "Let's hear it for guys like me," she sings over the lilting rhythms and stylish guitar work of "Guys Like Me." Her case for toppling the corporate structure is airtight; just check her Web site for the latest bulletin. Her music, meanwhile, keeps getting better. The success of the Magnolia soundtrack may have restored her confidence following the record company strife that followed her first two solo releases—Whatever and I'm With Stupid—but the wounds have not healed. "All the perfect drugs and superheroes wouldn't be enough to bring me up to zero," the former 'Til Tuesday singer imparts over the layered, lush tones of the opening "Humpty Dumpty." Meanwhile, on the emotionally distressed "It's Not," she muses over a forlorn 16-piece string section, "I keep waiting for a change but I don't know for what." It could be the prettiest, most polite battle cry ever. —Aidin Vaziri
Fortune Cookies
Alana Davis With her new album, Fortune Cookies, folk-soul songstress Alana Davis only improves on the skills and versatility glimpsed on her 1997 debut, Blame It on Me. The lead single, "I Want You," seems destined for Top 40 radio, with its universal lyrics of longing and pop-rock guitar and bass lines. The Neptunes-produced "Bye Bye" has a hip-hop beat, wah-wah guitar, and a delicious groove, bringing out the Mary J. Blige in Davis's warm, rich Edie Brickell vibe. Davis also remakes the Whodini classic "How Many of Us Have Them (Friends)," combining early-rap scratches with a jangly acoustic guitar. Davis's infinitely adaptable voice soars and growls on the self-penned "A Chance with You" and purrs on the reggae-influenced "Got This Far." Davis can't be pigeonholed into any particular genre of music—she's got a style and flair all her own, and she's released one of the strongest, most beautiful, and most complex albums of the year. —Courtney Kemp
Jagged Little Pill
Alanis Morissette Her intensely personal lyrics grabbed the headlines, but the bravest departure here is the way Morissette's unique vocals stand naked in the mix—a technique that drives home the painful honesty of tracks like "Right Through You," "Forgiven," and "All I Really Want." Sheryl Crow or an earthier Tori Amos are fair analogies, but Morissette is a genuine original with a rare ability to make listeners care, think, and question. —Jeff Bateman
Under Rug Swept
Alanis Morissette With all the attention Alanis Morissette's career has garnered, it's startling to think that on the release of her third studio CD she has yet to see her 28th birthday. Under Rug Swept finds Morissette in the producer's role, a position she seems more comfortable with at this stage than songwriter. The opener, "21 Things I Want in a Lover," finds Morissette ticking off her likes and dislikes before an attention-grabbing explosion of crunching guitar chords and a scratchy hip-hop beat. Swept's emotional flow is navigated by Morissette's vocal queues: her lower register accompanies confrontation and self-proclamation ("Narcissus"), the higher intimates vulnerability and reflection ("Utopia"). Every tone is enlivened by well-blended electronic and acoustic elements. The snag is that, as with her previous two albums, Under Rug Swept is marred by unabridged stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Her awkward syntax and distorted phrasing disorients music that's melodious and compelling. She remains acutely self-obsessed, delivering rants aimed at men who are fatally flawed and, naturally, irresistibly devastating. For now, her greatest strength as a musician lies in her ear for a powerful melody. Lyrically, she'd be better off keeping her contorted prose In Closet Locked. —Beth Massa
The Late Night Plays
Alastor With a musical nod to Concrete Blonde and PJ Harvey and lyric writing reminiscent of Morrissey, Johnette Napolitano and Tori Amos, "The Late Night Plays" is a look into a dark world of obsessive relationships, faked suicides, jealous boyfriends, surreptitious affairs, panic attacks, chilly nights spent wandering through graveyards, hours of staring at winter stars and long make-out sessions in cars parked along the red clay backroads of Alabama. The album was produced by Rusty Cobb (Injected, Butch Walker, Korn).
Songs in A Minor
Alicia Keys She may be beautiful, but Alicia Keys is a musician first and foremost. She plants herself firmly behind the piano keys on her debut, unlike many of the booty-waggin' junior divas who are crowding the R&B videoscape these days. Though many of the tracks on Songs in A Minor are embellished with adolescent angst, this 20-year-old's substantial, gorgeously soul-drenched alto putties the cracks between notes with astonishing ease. "Fallin'," the album's first single, showcases Keys at her best. She wails plaintively and passionately over rolling blues chords, in the tradition of the greats that this young talent clearly wants to align herself with—Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Aretha Franklin. She swoops and soars over the spicy, flamenco-fueled melody that opens "Mr. Mann," one of the many winning tracks gathered here. And she digs deep into a remake of the beloved Prince B-side, "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" packing more heat into her melismatic wails than most singers twice her age. —Sylvia W. Chan
Dust to Dirt
Alien Crime Syndicate
Good Mourning
Alkaline Trio Chicago's Alkaline Trio rip off more playful emo punk on Good Mourning, as Matt Skiba's profane poetry yields another set of sad but very fun songs. The band's overt pop instincts stayed were muted on past albums, notably their debut, Goddamnit!, but Mourning isn't nearly so abrasive. Draped in silky production, the band's painful odes to lost love and bittersweet joy lose some edge (witness the toothless opener, "This Could Be Love"). Still, the band has rarely been tighter, and the likes of "We've Had Enough" have enough juice to fuel mosh pits throughout the land. Skiba can make you feel bad about yourself no matter how good your mood, a talent that only true emo masters wield with such authority. —Matthew Cooke
Android Lust "Evolution" is just that, an evolution of Android Lust's sound, a link between the debut album "Resolution" and their forthcoming full length (tba, early 2000). "Evolution" features 5 new songs (including a cover of Bauhaus' "Slice of Life") and 7 remixes of songs old and new (remixers include Crocodile Shop, Cydonia, Gridlock, I, Parasite, Occultechnologies and Android Lust), plus a bonus CDROM video of "Refuse." The cd features high energy industrial dancefloor tracks next to harsh instumentals, bringing together aspects of electro and an ominous atmosphere.
The Dividing
Android Lust
Songs of Our Fathers
Andy Statman & David Grisman Another cross-cultural, acoustic-music synthesis is achieved on this collaboration between Grisman, the bluegrass/swing virtuoso who opens for Allison Krauss Thursday at Wolf Trap, and klezmer star Statman. Both are mandolinists, and on this album of seven traditional klezmer tunes, four Shlomo Carlebach compositions, and one Statman original, Statman challenges Grisman to play up to the tradition's standards, while Grisman challenges Statman to push the tradition's envelope. The result is a creative tension that keeps the music exciting. The two leaders are backed by a band that includes Meyer, classical guitarist Enrique Coria, and Phil Spector drummer Hal Blaine. For Grisman and Blaine, who are ethnically but not musically Jewish, this project is an emotional homecoming and those feelings can be heard in the playing. —Geoffrey Himes
Five Star Motel
Andy Stochansky There's a profound difference between irony and understatement, a simple truth that fuels Andy Stochansky's big-label bow from its quavering opening guitar notes. While the multi-instrumentalist and Toronto native has managed two previous releases (the well-received indies Radio Fusebox and While You Slept), he's spent most of the '90s as a sideman, including a long stint as Ani DiFranco's drummer. But it's his latter-day, novice's intrigue with the acoustic guitar that fuels much of this subtly evocative standout. With a voice that teasingly wavers between a weary Ray Davies and angelic Jeff Buckley dreaminess, Stochansky's deceptively austere constructions build on elegantly simple melodies and loping rhythms, the introspection and impressionism of their lyrics building a sense of hypnotic intrigue. The dominant subject here may be love, but hardly in the traditional romantic sense; the singer often filters the emotion through prisms of indifference ("Here Nor There"), humanistic spiritual yearning ("One Day"), fatalism ("Wedding Day"), and even as a father struggling to come to terms with his gay daughter ("Miss USA"). Some, like "Wonderful (It's Superman)" and "Mavis Said...," gather enough steam to become anthems, but Stochansky never lets them stray from his compelling, less-is-more ambient-pop sensibility. —Jerry McCulley
Women in (E)Motion
Ani DiFranco
Ani DiFranco It's only by looking back on Imperfectly, Ani DiFranco's third album that we're able to see how far she's come. It's also easy to see where she came from. At this point, DiFranco was still enough of a traditional folkie to stick a political sentiment like "She sits there like America / Suffering through slow reform" into a personal song that deals with abuse ("Fixing Her Hair"). Similarly, on many songs she sounds as though if she's already come to terms with her sexuality, then she hasn't yet come to terms with the way society deals with it. But she also demonstrates that she's figuring out how to use her voice, charisma, affected delivery, and the chance to play around in the studio on the a cappellas "Every State Line" and "Coming Up." There's also the tender, impassioned tracks ("The Waiting Song," "Served Faithfully"), which DiFranco's never had a short supply of—and never been less than moving on. —Randy Silver
Like I Said: Songs 1990-91
Ani DiFranco
Not So Soft
Ani DiFranco
Out of Range
Ani DiFranco Out of Range marks the end of the first phase of Ani DiFranco's career, not so much in terms of the way she goes about her business (as always, on her own terms) but in terms of her songwriting, arranging, performing, and, to a greater extent than ever before, growing popularity. On Range, for the first time, DiFranco's songs sound like they wouldn't be out of place on the radio (in this case, that's a good thing); on the very first track, "Buildings and Bridges," she expresses herself with greater grace and subtlety than ever before. But the message is still loud and clear: she can take what the world will throw at her, and she will persevere. The rest of the album unfolds along similar lines and often reveals similar treasures. —Randy Silver
Puddle Dive
Ani DiFranco Puddle Dive is something of a transition album for DiFranco: she's (gasp!) smiling on the cover, she's got accompaniment on nearly every track, her creed is clearly stated for the first time ("I sing sometimes like my life is at stake / 'Cause you're only as loud as the noises you make" [on "My IQ"]), and there are even some songs here that find joy, even if it's just for a moment ("Names and Dates and Times," "4th of July"). There's also, to a much greater extent than on previous albums, the frenetic guitar strum (accomplished with taped-on plastic fingernails) that is one of the hallmarks of DiFranco's maturing sound. It's the strum that complements DiFranco's stop-start, breathy vocals so well, and the combination of the two has always served to distinguish her from the hordes of folkies on the coffeehouse circuit (that is, if DiFranco's tattoos, piercings, and haircuts hadn't already done the trick). On Puddle Dive her maturing song craft (check out the bluesy "Back Around") and increasing consistency put her even further ahead of the pack. —Randy Silver
Not a Pretty Girl
Ani DiFranco Ani DiFranco's fondness for cheeky self-effacement marks her fourth album, Not a Pretty Girl. Having redefined our whole concept of cult following, the funky, punky singer/songwriter has parlayed her prowess for six-string blues guitar into an unique alternative acoustic sound. This album marks real growth for the musician. Songs like the title track or "Worthy" are more fully realized than many of her earlier pieces that lean toward artful scat or spare guitar and vocal arrangements. It also precedes DiFranco's more experimental work, a characteristic recurrent with increasing frequency on subsequent recordings. —Nick Heil
Ani DiFranco Following up two of her strongest records, Not a Pretty Girl and Out of Range, Dilate takes a different tack. It's quieter and more lush than previous efforts but just as intensely personal, with songs like "Untouchable Face" that are easier to identify with than many other DiFranco tunes. At the same time, DiFranco's old fans might not recognize the sound here, especially on tracks like the trip-hop-influenced "Amazing Grace," the shuffling "Napoleon," or the indescribable "Shameless"—this isn't the same thrash-folkie of old. There's a lot to like on Dilate, especially if you're a fan of Portishead or Lisa Germano, but it takes some getting used to. After spending time with the album, you may find it as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans, but you also might find out that the jeans never really fit quite right. —Randy Silver
Little Plastic Castle
Ani Difranco As she's gone from the Young Woman Who Could to the Woman Who Has, Ani DiFranco has explored more than her share of musical styles, all the while remaining true to her core. Even during her most extreme departures, you could hear the sound of the early albums coming through. On Little Plastic Castle, an album on which people are credited for adding pontifications, incantations, and an "evil machine" to songs, you could—for the first time—hear an almost completely new artist. Call her Ani, version 3; she couldn't have existed without hearing all of Ani, version 1's albums, and she wouldn't be as funky and experimental without the influence of Ani, version 2. She still has a lot to say—about politics, about relationships, about herself—but the messages aren't thrown in your face here (well, not as often). Instead they're wrapped in funky hooks and lots of production—anything you learn from DiFranco on this album will come from pure repetition, and for the first time, the album is varied enough, catchy enough, and subtle enough that you'll push the repeat button while cleaning the house. —Randy Silver
Up Up Up Up Up Up
Ani DiFranco Whereas on Little Plastic Castle Ani DiFranco questioned her public image in song, here the fiercely independent singer/songwriter turns away from stardom's beckoning questions to further explore her emotional balance. "Angry Anymore" is a back-porch country song (with banjo and accordion) about coming to terms with a turbulent adolescence. "Everest" floats by as a reverie of spiritual rejuvenation. Most effective is "'Tis of Thee," which deals with racial injustice. The politics are oversimplified, but the melody is one of DiFranco's strongest. She even funks it up on the extended drum-machine-driven jam "Hat Shaped Hat." But while DiFranco enjoys playing around ("Know Now Then" features a "space phone" vocal), she's strongest when most contemplative, as the title track bears out. Backed by organ, piano, and guitar, she espouses this grand truth: "Half of learning how to play / Is learning what not to play." In her quietest moments DiFranco is living proof of simplicity's great power. —Rob O'Connor
So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter
Ani Difranco Who besides Ani DiFranco would begin an album with a piercing buzz and a muttered "I don't know why the f**k I play acoustic guitars"? But then who else would release a double-disc concert set only five years after the last one? Like 1997's Living in Clip, her latest live document is sublimely packaged and messily recorded, and features the backing of a howling audience and a hot jazz-rock band. Highlights include a funky, almost gangsta take of her best New York song, "Cradle and All"; Julie Wolf's grinding organ on "Napoleon"; and the previously unreleased post-9/11, antiwar poem "Self Evident." The performances (culled from venues across the U.S., as well as France and Canada) feature lots of witty soap-boxing (apparently no one told Ani that Clear Channel's infamous banned song list doesn't exist... does it?) in addition to some gorgeous guitar picking and inventive horn lines. In the end, all the flaws, giggles, stumbling starts, and risky arrangements are a testament to how much she trusts her audience and how much they trust her. Do her fans really need another double live album? When the performances brim with this much charisma, adventure, and conviction, yes, they do. —Roy Kasten
Educated Guess
Ani DiFranco In form, this is the disc DiFranco fans have wanted for years: a return to her naked roots of words and guitar, entirely played, sung, and taped to eight-track by Ani herself. But in important ways, Educated Guess suggests there is no going back. Even alone, the lessons of DiFranco's adventurous decade with a band are apparent. Taking a wide-open approach to arrangements, structure, and sound, she piles up tracks of bell-clear, percussive guitar, then does the same with her vocals, the gymnastic phrases echoing, reflecting, and doubling back on themselves. This is DiFranco undiluted, her melodies pulled by rhythmic innovation, alliterative snippets of spoken word woven between jazz-inflected folk songs, lyrics tracing tangled webs of lovers, nations, and various versions of herself. Not surprisingly, it's excessive, but her legions say that's the price of letting ragged passion just hang out. —Anders Smith Lindall
Knuckle Down
Ani DiFranco Even after 15 years of releasing albums on her own Righteous Babe imprint, it's hard to know what to make of Ani DiFranco. Some see her as a folkie-punk-bisexual-feminist-radical-crap-kicker, while others reckon she's merely Alanis Morissette with better lyrics. On her 15th studio album the truth just might be somewhere in between. She does dysfunctional family portraits ("Studying Stones") and broken affairs ("Lag Time") just fine, but she also manages to leave room for rambling, autobiographical beat poetry ("Parameters"). And then there is the music. Matching acoustic guitars with earthy funk rhythms and soft moonlight moods with out-of-leftfield song arrangements, it reconfirms the one label everyone can agree upon: fiercely original. —Aidin Vaziri

Recommended Ani DiFranco Discography

Out of Range
Not a Pretty Girl
So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter
Little Plastic Castle
Living in Clip
Ani Difranco Given these tumultuous times, one would expect Ani DiFranco to confront strife head-on, but on this, her 18th album, she tunnels beneath the headlines toward deeper emotional, psychic, and institutional conflicts and causes. She begins by channeling her inner Joni Mitchell, pouring out a quartet of jazzy confessions lightly dusted with electronica, musique concrete, and keyboard drone, but urged forward by Todd Sickafoose's warm acoustic bass. His throbbing, be-bop lines are this spare but somehow atmospheric album's musical soul. As DiFranco's voice bobs and weaves around those rhythms, the personal poetry makes the politics hit harder—and vice versa. She celebrates marginalia and makes peace with a world in flux. She conveys the heat of across-the-café infatuations and grows anxious over her subconscious desires. When she locks her sights on contemporary culture, she sends a scattershot spray against celebrity cults, network news, biotechnology, Yucca Mountain, stolen elections and, of course, patriarchy. But she's a gifted enough poet and musician to keep the album from collapsing into radical rhetoric and psychobabble. The spoken-word title track begins in Hiroshima and ends in a declaration that feminism is not about equality but about "reprieve"—an amnesty from fear and hate, in other words, and an affirmation of life. In the context of a death-driven culture, her decision to bear children, "to split herself in two," becomes the most "radical thing you can do." None of her manifestos, however, would ring true if it weren't for her imaginative, even playful singing and her ever-more accomplished acoustic guitar playing, sometimes classically graceful, sometimes purely urgent. —Roy Kasten
Ani DiFranco The far-reaching lexis used to describe Buffalo, New York, singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco includes "influential," "persistent," and "cutting-edge." And 18 albums released in the 18 years since the launching of her own Righteous Babe record label means "prolific" must also be high on that list. DiFranco commemorates her nearly two decades in the business with a two-CD, 35-song retrospective that offers a sequential glimpse into the socially conscious messages and punk/folk articulation that has made her an international paladin. From early recordings such as "God's Country" (1993) and "You Had Time" (1994), where DiFranco took aim at religious autonomy and failed partnerships, to later songs that tackled violence against abortion providers (1999's "Hello Birmingham") and a pair of '80s-era presidents (2002's "Your Next Bold Move"), DiFranco's poetry-fraught lyrics are the unfeigned star of the compilation. Can't-miss selections like "32 Flavors," "Untouchable Face," and "Cradle & All" make the cut, while staunch DiFranco followers will be seduced by five new renditions of old favorites, including the intrepid "Napoleon," which blasts the rock-biz elite, and "Shameless," with its candid discourse on infidelity. The divinely packaged set includes a booklet thoroughly lined with lyrics and a recording dossier. —Scott Holter
Fellow Workers
Ani DiFranco, Utah Phillips Following their successful 1996 The Past Didn't Go Anywhere collaboration, anticorporate folksinger Ani DiFranco and vagabond historian-storyteller Utah Phillips gather for another rousing round, though Fellow Workers is a looser, funkier, more acoustic affair than its predecessor. These sessions step lively: the performers burst into seemingly spontaneous applause, cheers, and laughter. Phillips honors civil disobedience, leftist matriarch Mother Jones, and the complex feelings entwined with the promise of a better America. The album's core lies where "The Long Memory"'s soulful organ, bass, and trumpet flow into the powerful "The Silence That Is Me." DiFranco and band provide mellow fingerpicking, shattered beats, hopped-up Wurlitzer, and bass-heavy funk, beautifully complementing Phillips's wry tales and paying homage to the invaluable oral tradition. —Paige La Grone
Annie Lennox Post-Beatles, the virtues of deft song interpretation have been consistently devalued in favor of self-contained composer-performers, seldom more so than in the initial response to this sequel to Annie Lennox's triumphant solo debut, Diva. That album's gripping originals deserve acclaim, but the lush Scottish alto remains one of the most riveting pop singers of the past two decades, and this smartly chosen, meticulously arranged collection of cover versions boasts its own abundant charms in her selection of obscure gems and bona fide classics from Al Green, Procol Harum, Neil Young, the Clash, the Temptations, Paul Simon, Bob Marley, and the Blue Nile. The songs are the rightful stars here, and Lennox brings passion and nuance to a set that plays beautifully. From the cinematic heartbreak of "No More I Love Yous" to the faithful recreation of the Blue Nile's "Downtown Lights," this is ravishing pop. —Sam Sutherland
Welcome to Earth
Apoptygma Berzerk Does a talent for writing catchy melodies have to come at the expense of "industrial cred"? Norway's Stephan Groth, a.k.a. Apoptygma Berzerk, has been challenging his core audience with that question over three albums and numerous singles. But the man behind such downright tuneful industrial-dance classics as "Non-Stop Violence," "Deep Red," and "Love Never Dies" makes it clear on Welcome to Earth that he's moving in a pop direction, expectations be damned. The album opens with the hard-driving "Starsign," but don't be fooled by its dark, arpeggio synths and Groth's snarled vocals—come the chorus, he goes all wistful on us, turning what would otherwise have been a straightforward rivethead stomp into something that wouldn't be out of place on a Pet Shop Boys album. Along with the nimble, propulsive "Paranoia," it turns out to be one of the disc's few truly electrifying moments, though guilty pleasures abound. "Kathy's Song" marries a light house rhythm to vocals straight out of a mid-'80s Depeche Mode anthem, and "Moment of Tranquility" steals the bass line from the Twin Peaks theme and pins it to a disappointingly bland ballad. But Welcome to Earth's oddest (and perhaps cleverest) choice has to be Groth's cover of Metallica's "Fade to Black," which takes the plodding, dirgelike original and remakes it into a bubbly dance-floor confection. AB fans will either be annoyed by the album or find themselves seduced by its better moments. —Steve Landau
Shine On
Apoptygma Berzerk
The Very Best of Aretha Franklin: The 60's
Aretha Franklin This 16-track disc and its companion piece (Volume 2) do a great job of recapitulating Aretha's singles career at Atlantic. Some of the most compelling music ever recorded, these sides bring forth the best of one of the great singers. Whether all but rewriting "Respect" ("That girl stole my song," an admiring Otis Redding said) or barely masking the pain behind "Call Me," she tells some of the truest stories around. And what a piano player. —Rickey Wright
The Very Best of Aretha Franklin: The 70's
Aretha Franklin
Alice's Restaurant
Arlo Guthrie While the title track may seem, by now, a rather obvious and nostalgic relic, we'd do well to remember that an entire post-baby boom generation has likely never heard it. At 18 minutes, the song remains one of the most hysterical things ever recorded, and many of its politcal barbs can still sting. But the record also contained two far more lyrical pieces: "Chillin' of the Evening" and the gorgeous, sweeping "Highway in the Wind." Some will turn to this countercultural classic for side one's epic, but it's the exceptional songs on side two that will offer finer rewards. —Roy Francis Kasten
Arrested Development
Arrested Development
Assemblage 23
Assemblage 23 Dubbed the most complex Assemblage 23 release to date, "Storm" remains true to the upbeat and danceable vibe that A23 is synonymous with. The group's three previous albums quickly made them the most successful American EBM act ever and "Storm" will again propel them above the rest.
So Long, Astoria
The Ataris With a handful of indie releases and a few hectic years of touring under their belts, this release marks the Ataris big-label bow. And if the concept uniting it is an ode to the power of memory—a conceit attributed to Richard Hell, but one that ironically might as well have originated with the likes of Billy Joel—Kris Roe and company blitz their way through it with kinetic power and hooks to spare. But therein lies the rub: Fans will find this an album rife with positive energy, bright, well-constructed songs, and upbeat deliveries (if sometimes in service of awkward intellectual pretensions like "Unopened Letter to the World"'s parallels between Kurt Cobain and no less than Emily Dickinson); cynics may hear at as further evidence that punk and alternative rock have been co-opted in service of formulas as well-honed—and rigid—as anything the dreaded Corp Rock '80s ever yielded. Still, if play-it-to-the-back-rows, unabashed power-pop is what the Ataris were after here, they've delivered it with nigh perfection, right down to a slick, pumped up cover of Don Henley's classic-rock warhorse "The Boys of Summer." —Jerry McCulley
Coming Out Electric
Atomic Swindlers The Atomic Swindlers' Coming Out Electric is being met with rave reviews! With descriptions like lush, big and beautiful melodic rock, grand Beatles pop as told by Barbarella... the CD has fans across the US on an intergalactic groove. Songs: 1) Float (my electric stargirl) 2) Wonderlove 3) Space Bandit 4) Drag 5) Diamond Dreamer 6) Underground Love 7) Intergalactic Lesbian Love Song 8) Planet of a Thousand Lies 9) sex66 10) Jupiter's Falling 11) Empty Girl 12) Stars in my Pocket 13) Bonus Float music video The melodies are as beautiful and as catchy as they are off-kilter. Laragy has the perfect ironic sneer built into her vocal chords. She's acting as much as singing on every song in a manner reminiscent of great 1970's singers like Lene Lovich and Kate Bush.... The songwriting is simply superb. -Ron Netsky, Rochester City News
Auf der Maur
Auf der Maur Melissa Auf der Maur has the best rolodex in rock: She played bass for both Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins; went to school with Rufus Wainwright; and purportedly counts Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and Andrew W.K. among her romantic conquests. Her own record better be good. While Auf Der Maur's self-titled debut doesn't sound anything like either her friends or former employers, it's clear she's picked up a few tricks. Standout tracks "Followed the Waves" and "Real a Lie" storm out of the speakers with shameless arena rock bluster and volcanic urgency. Her lyrics stink (think witches and black light unicorn posters) but she compensates with the sort of million-decibel pterodactyl shriek that makes it hard to notice. And when she tries her hand at a bit of '80s-inspired noise pop with "Would If I Could" the results near My Bloody Valentine envelope pushing brilliance. She was obviously born to do this. —Aidin Vaziri
Let Go
Avril Lavigne Self-professed skate punk Avril Lavigne sings that she'd "rather be anything but ordinary" on her debut. While the fact that she had a record deal by the age of 16 separates her from the pack, too often Let Go's lyrical shortcomings drag the teenager's musically impressive recording entrée into the realm of the typical. The catchy choruses of Go are substantial, though, thanks to Lavigne's riff-driven melodies and powerful vocals, which at times adopt the unorthodox intonation quirks of fellow Canadian Alanis Morrissette. The nuanced, dynamic "Losing Grip," "My World" (which perfectly captures the ennui of suburbia), and the buoyant power-pop blast "Sk8er Boi" are the collection's highlights. But Lavigne's honest yet awkward words weigh down the likes of "Mobile," "I'm with You," and "Naked." "Nobody's Fool," which displays her Pink-like take-me-as-I-am credo, hints that someday Lavigne's lyrics will match the strength of her music. —Annie Zaleski
Under My Skin
Avril Lavigne With her breakthrough 2002 debut, Let Go, Avril Lavigne tried to market herself as the bona fide alternative to tarty teen queens, Britney and Christina. Her guitar-pop hits were irresistibly bratty but the whole "Complicated" teen pose was a little hard to swallow, especially since two songwriters called the Matrix—who had at least twenty years on the Canadian singer—fed her most of the material. Having had the chance to live a little, Lavigne returns to make good on her angsty image with Under My Skin, an album rippling with delightfully dour melodies and heartfelt lyrics about loneliness ("How Does It Feel") and fractured relationships ("Don't Tell Me"). Is it clichéd? Sure. Will it scare off her necktie and t-shirt wearing fans? Possibly. But there's nothing quite as satisfying as watching a teen-pop icon actually reveal her soul. —Jaan Uhelszki
Bouncing Off the Satellites
The B-52's
Solid Gold Hits
Beastie Boys In celebration of Beastie Boys' 24th anniversary, Capitol Records has decided to pay tribute to Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "Adrock" Horovitz and Adam "MCA" Yauch— known collectively as Beastie Boys, with the release of Solid Gold Hits. (No, the group is not breaking up.) The infomercial-worthy 15-track compendium distills the NYC trio's storied career into an ADD-friendly digest format: Covering the Boys' first platinum-mining expeditions with "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" and "Fight For Your Right" through west coast detours "Shake Your Rump," "So What'cha Want" and "Sabotage," up to last year's return to #1 with the million-plus-selling To The 5 Boroughs' "Ch-Check It Out," "An Open Letter To NYC" and "Triple Trouble" -and all points between.

Beastie Boys Photos

More from Beastie Boys

Paul's Boutique
Check Your Head
IIll Communication
Licensed to Ill
Awesome, I Shot That
DVD Video Anthology - Criterion Collection
The Quiet
Bella Morte
The Rose: The Original Soundtrack Recording
Bette Midler
Better Than Ezra Like a Jayhawks without the Los Angeles glitz, Louisiana's Better Than Ezra plays soulful country rock that's artful but bare of artifice. Regrouping after an independent debut and the death of its rhythm guitarist, the trio originally released the engaging Deluxe on its own, but it has since been picked up by Elektra. The band gets extra points for "The Killer Inside," a tune that quotes crime noir novelist Jim Thompson. —Jim DeRogatis
Sister Sweetly
Big Head Todd & the Monsters
The Essential Billie Holiday: Songs of Lost Love
Billie Holiday
The Best of Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
A Musical Romance
Billie Holiday, Lester Young Romeo and Juliet...Eloise and Abelard...Tracy and Hepburn. These are among history's great romantic relationships, but perhaps the deepest of all romances - in all of American music, at any rate - was the one that was carried on in the recording studio between Billie Holiday (1915-1959) and Lester Young (1910-1959). "Lady Day" and "The President" (they gave one another their nicknames) made a series of "sides," as they were called in those days, that to this day absolutely define love in tune. She was - and is - the greatest of all jazz vocalists. His tenor saxophone style delivered the real Birth of the Cool. Together, they sang and played with an unparalleled sense of intimacy, warmth, and sensuous, behind-the-beat swing, whether the melody was pure gold (like "The Man I Love," "Time On My Hands") or closer to brass ("When You're Smiling," "Back In Your Own Backyard"). Originally produced by the redoubtable John Hammond, and intended first and foremost for jukeboxes, these sixteen seminal performances have been culled from the Grammy-winning 10-CD boxed set Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933-1944. They also feature vital contributions from, among others, pianist-arranger Teddy Wilson, who served as leader on many of Holiday's record dates, Swing era superstar clarinetist Benny Goodman, ace trumpeter Buck Clayton (Young's cohort from Count Basie's definitive swing band), the sublime Ellingtonian alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, and Roy Eldridge, little giant of the trumpet. But Lady Day and Pres, forever dancing in the dark, make this a musical romance that will never die.
A Musical Romance
Billie Holiday & Lester Young
Growing, Pains
Billie Myers Husky-voiced Billie Myers was discovered in a London club by a producer who saw her dancing and suggested that if she could sing as well as she moved her hips, she should give him a call. The seemingly tacky pickup line was actually a legitimate business proposition, and three years later Myers has a major-label debut to show for it. Produced by Desmond Child (not the initial dance-club Casanova, in case you were wondering), Growing Pains is a standard-issue MOR rock record, clinging to every plodding '80s aesthetic in the book. Smoldering guitar chords, synthetically programmed drum rhythms, and big splashy choruses earmark the disc, while Myers does her best to sound like a predictable cross between Alanis Morissette and Joan Armatrading. On "A Few Words Too Many," she conjures the indistinct balladry of John Waite, while on "Tell Me" she gets "exotic," thanks to the accompaniment of a flute and sitar. Sgt. Pepper, this ain't. The funk-lite of "The Shark and the Mermaid" is slightly less annoying, but it's too little, too late in an album that willingly redefines the standards of blandness. —Aidin Vaziri
Storm Front
Billy Joel
Sour Juice and Rhyme
Bitch & Animal Bitch and Animal is a fresh, funky, animated duo of multi-instrumentalists, the kind you probably won't hear on the radio or see on MTV. They react to their surroundings by writing and performing sexually-energized songs that move butts and bust guts, using piles of instruments to explore piles of different musical styles. To record their new album, Sour Juice And Rhyme, Bitch and Animal locked themselves up in a house in the country, connected with nature and played croquet until their arms were sore.

With the help of co-producer June Millington (best known as the leader of the '70s rock band Fanny), Bitch and Animal effectively channeled the energetic vibes and hilarious antics of their live shows, giving Sour Juice And Rhyme more of a carefree spirit than their previous album, 2001's Eternally Hard. Bouts of comic storytelling rub shoulders with somber balladry, percussive spoken word, Carter-family country and rap. It's a sea of genres, moods and messages, expertly mixed together by two geeks living on a farm, letting it all hang out.
Björk This Icelandic marvel is such an original that, even after four Sugarcubes albums and a brilliant solo Debut, she remains an acquired taste. "Army of Me" is a turbulent, darkling tune that's almost conventional next to the gloriously eclectic material that follows. Working with Tricky, Soul II Soul/U2 producer Nellee Hooper, and string arranger/one-hit wonder Deodato, Björk looses her helium-fueled voice and surreal wordplay on Gershwinesque pop (the adorable "It's Oh So Quiet"), ambient dub ("Possibly Maybe") and all kinds of fresh dance/pop hybrids ("Enjoy," "Hyper-Ballad," "I Miss You"). Too raw and adventurous for mass success, perhaps, but a more unique, engaging, oddly accessible artist just doesn't exist. —Jeff Bateman
Blondie - Greatest Hits
Blondie Blondie Photos

More from Blondie

Greatest Hits (CD+DVD)
Parallel Lines
Plastic Letters
The Hunter
Blues Traveler This fourth album from the New York's Blues Traveler finally brought their harmonica-based blues riffs into the public eye. Indeed, "Run-Around" spent nearly a year on the Billboard singles chart. Harpman/vocalist John Popper moves easily between uptempo, rock-based tracks like "Stand" and "Crash Burn." The hidden gem here, however, is the love-struck ballad "Just Wait." Often categorized with post-Dead jam acts such as Phish, BT isn't immune from performance excesses. But when it comes to recording, they keep it (mostly) concise and always interesting. If you've heard the name and want to know what all the hoopla is about, Four is a great starting point. —Alexandra Russell
Live from the Fall
Blues Traveler
Straight on Till Morning
Blues Traveler Album number five from these New York workhorses doesn't stray any perceptible distance from their patented, John Popper-blowing blues-rock formula. "Carolina Blues" is a tasty lead single, while "Justify the Thrill," "Great Big World," and "I Dreamed About You Last Night" seem like choice followups. There's even a love song called "Canadian Rose" complete with fond references to Vancouver and, of all unlikely places, Burlington. —Jeff Bateman
Boney James The man who made R&B safe for smooth-jazz saxophonists has another possible Soul Train award winner featuring slick vocal excursions by Debi Nova and Dwele. There's also a real groove-a-thon with Bilal titled "Better with Time" that, like the lyrics state, is like an old soul record. Keyboards also stand out among these 10 tracks. Joe Sample delivers one of his patented short piano solos on the aptly titled "Stone Groove," and while Billy Preston's organ and Bobby Lyle's piano are not out front on "You Don't Have to Go Home," the aural picture they frame for the artist is masterful. James, who produced this album, has developed into a very solid contemporary jazz composer, adding spicy horn arrangements throughout that really showcase his growth in that area—particularly on "Here She Comes," which has an Incognito horn-section vibe to it. It all adds up to James's most rewarding album since 1998's Sweet Thing. —Mark Ruffin
Deja Entendu
Brand New While anything but novel, the follow-up to Brand New's emo-punk-blast debut Your Favorite Weapon features unexpected touches and wisps of maturity. YFW was all about the rage and misery of young, explosive love, presented with Weezer-like hooks. Deja Entendu isn't really over it yet; lead singer Jesse Lacey still sounds damaged and full of self-loathing on mopey, post-Smiths pop like "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot." But amidst the Jimmy Eat World choruses are experiments with sudden dynamic shifts and style (like Lacey channeling Adam Duritz for "Play Crack The Sky"), along with ruminations about the misery of cancer ("Guernica"). If Deja Entendu sounds like the work of musicians discovering their talents, it's also about learning that desperate heartache isn't just about girls who don't call back. —Matthew Cooke
Brooks & Dunn What I like about Brooks & Dunn is they never pretend to be anything more than what they are—entertainers whose main goal in life is to come up with hits so catchy they'll grab your attention through the tinniest radio speaker ever stuck in a pickup. Unlike, say, Garth Brooks or James Michael Montgomery, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn never pass themselves off as profound philosophers or social commentators. For this duo, lyrics are just an excuse to belt out a big, juicy chorus hook, usually over an equally sizable dance beat. It helps, of course, that both men are fine singers, but just as important is the fact that almost every song on "Borderline," their fourth album, contains a terrific refrain and almost nothing else that might get in the way. — Geoffrey Himes
Bruce Springsteen Limited Edition Japanese pressing of this album comes housed in a miniature LP sleeve.
Butterfly Boucher
Gonna Make You Sweat
C+C Music Factory, Clivilles & Cole The two singles "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" and "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...." certainly do the trick. They are powerful dance-pop tracks with a serious hip-hop trunk deep enough to support (almost) the rest of the album, which is a bit of a motivational cool-down. The singles will pack the dance floor, and although the rest of the tracks won't clear it entirely, this album does prove to be unbalanced in the get-up-on-your-feet department. —Beth Bessmer
Motorcade of Generosity
Cake These hipsters make music that's smart and spunky, surrounding the ironic vocals of John McCrea with a broad range of sounds: sometimes spare, sometimes funky, with occasional splashes of country and a Latin twist. Motorcade of Generorsity may lack the full-bodied punch of Fashion Nugget, the album that took Cake to the airwaves, but this 1994 CD offers the same wizened perspective on romance and modern life. And the trumpet accents of Vince de Fiore are bright and high-spirited enough for the Tijuana Brass. —Steve Appleford
Pressure Chief
Cake While artists like Beck and Radiohead see every new album as an opportunity for reinvention from the ground up, Cake has no such hang-ups. From the uniformly rustic cover art, the jerky rhythms and wobbly trumpet solos, each of Sacramento band's albums is reassuringly interchangeable. But on its fifth, the group's most distinguishing characteristic—John McCrea's deadpan, detached vocals—seems to have been given a makeover. On songs such as "No Phone" and "Tougher Than It Is" for the first time the singer seems, well, like he's actually trying to sing. It's nothing dramatic—the music will still sound immediately familiar to those who even in passing have heard hits such as "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "The Distance"—but with certain bands a little goes a long way. —Aidin Vaziri
Caroline Aiken Folk records that aren't super traditional usually lean toward one or more other styles, and this artist leans toward rock and blues, but in an acoustic way. In fact, it begins with a very credible cover of the Traffic classic "40,000 Headmen."
Alchemy Tattoo
Caron Vikre
Caron Vikre
In the Niche of Non-Senses
Caron Vikre
Everytime We Touch
Regalo del Alma
Celia Cruz The cries of "azucar" are unmistakable on Regalo del Alma, the posthumous album from salsa queen Celia Cruz. Though she was battling cancer at the time of its recording, Cruz sounds positively electric throughout the 11-track collection, which effortlessly melds native Cuban rhythms with soulful grooves and pop sensibilities. She teams with rap star El General on album opener "Ella Tiene Fuego," an irresistible call to the dance floor. The album's first single, "Ríe Y Llora," simmers under a Santana-esque guitar lick; and the bittersweet, deceptively cheery "Diagnóstico" finds Cruz visiting her doctor because she is homesick for her native country. Cruz's strength lies in her ability to personalize every song she sings; she makes every lyric, every word important. Anchored by her weathered, one-of-a-kind vocal delivery, Regalo del Alma stands as a glittering testament to a woman whose talent, spirit, and grace continue to carry the music straight to the hearts of anyone willing to listen. —Joey Guerra
Soul Disguise
Cesar Rosas On this fine solo-album debut, it comes as no surprise to find veteran Los Lobos singer-songwriter-guitarist Cesar Rosas revisiting the R&B, soul, roots-rock, and norteño ingredients that made his East L.A. band's musical stew so compelling. What's revealing is Rosas's willingness to deconstruct his Grammy-winning band's sound back to its constituent components, making Soul Disguise play like a loving journey across borders both musical and national. Rosas largely eschews the slick production values of '90s-vintage Los Lobos for considerably more grit and funk. Here he tackles with playful abandon everything from traditional Tex-Mex (his own "Angelito" and a cover of "Adios Mi Vida," both with legend Flaco Jiminez adding his distinctive accordion flourishes) to a swampy version of Ike Turner's "You've Got to Lose." Rosas stubs his toe only once, on the '70s-ish acoustic utopian ballad "Better Way." Similar journeys have been made by everyone from Steve Miller and Ry Cooder to precliché ZZ Top; it's Rosas's excursions into Stax and New Orleans R&B territory (like the delicious "Struck" and the funky "Shack and Shambles"), along with his sharp border-music and blues-roots sense, that makes Soul Disguise so distinct and satisfying. —Jerry McCulley
Film Cuts
The Chieftains Directors have come to see the Chieftains as an option when it comes time to add a stately grace to the scores of their films, a predilection that provides the impetus behind this anthology. Film Cuts consists of cuts from eight soundtracks, including Rob Roy, Treasure Island (the most generously represented score here), and Far and Away. Highlights include the funereal love theme from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and the main theme from The Grey Fox, a waning-days-of-the-West flick that demonstrated that this tight crew can evoke images that are worlds removed from their Irish homeland. —Steven Stolder
Heart Shaped World
Chris Isaak Chris Isaak managed to turn his videogenic visage and brooding masculinity to his advantage in a big way, becoming a sort of MTV-era cross between James Dean and Elvis. Heady stuff, but don't hate him because he's beautiful. In fact, Isaak had been plying his trademark latter-day rockabilly sound for some years before the inclusion of "Wicked Game" in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart jolted sales of Heart Shaped World. (But the stylish Herb Ritts video certainly didn't hurt, either.) Still, the album is a moody gem, featuring the pensive title track, the smoldering "Blue Spanish Sky," and, of course, "Wicked Game." If you still doubt Isaak's good intentions, though, check out the album's rockin' finale, a fine version of Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy." —Daniel Durchholz
Come Fill Your Glass with Us
The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem & Jack Keenan
The Clash What the hell is this? Though the two-record sprawl of London Calling—with its exploratory mutations of reggae, rockabilly, and even disco—proved that the Clash weren't content to lie fallow in a punk-rock ghetto, nothing prepares you for Sandinista's messy melange. For 36 tracks (the Clash originally released this as a three-record set for not much more than the price of one), the band tackles everything in sight, including waltz, gospel, disco, children's ditties, funk, reggae, dub, delicate instrumentals, psychedelic explorations—hell, they even play a Clash rocker or two. Though many have said there is a single great album hidden among the three here, it's the pure chutzpah of Sandinista that makes it such a particular pleasure and a brain drain at the same time. It's the document of a band that can do anything and tries to do everything. It's the glorious sound of failure. And if that ain't the Clash, what is? —Tod Nelson
Car Talk: Maternal Combustion
Click and Clack
Collective Soul
The Commitments: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The Commitments Based on Irish writer Roddy Doyle's novel and lovingly directed with admirable restraint by the sometimes bombastic Alan Parker, this quirky 1991 tribute to the enduring and universal power of American R&B took some cynical criticism for its reliance on Baby Boomer-era classics such as "Mustang Sally," "Take Me to the River," and "In the Midnight Hour." But that sword cuts two ways: by casting a motley crew of real musicians, including the guts 'n' gravel-voiced young vocalist Andrew Strong, Parker didn't have to do much coaxing to reveal the obvious respect and affection his players have for this music. The material may not be fresh, but the love with which it's played is timeless. —Jerry McCulley
Concrete Blonde Concrete Blonde's best and most mainstream album benefits considerably from a stronger focus and good production. Consistent songwriting means a lack of weak material, and the dark inflection of most of the music gives the songs an edge. The title track remains a favorite of the goth set, though it was the hit single "Joey" that garnered the most attention. The up-tempo songs are the best; "The Sky Is a Poisonous Garden", "Days and Days", and "The Beast" really stand out. Of the slower songs, "Tomorrow, Wendy" has an irony that gives it an edge. Concrete Blonde's later albums don't really measure up to the quality of this one. — Genevieve Williams
Walking in London
Concrete Blonde
Mexican Moon
Concrete Blonde
Group Therapy
Concrete Blonde Practice is said to make perfect, but perspective is arguably just as important. Group Therapy, Concrete Blonde's first new record after an eight-year hiatus, shows that original band members Johnette Napolitano, Jim Mankey, and Harry Rushakoff have gained some of just that. They've stepped out of the shadow of the Pretenders and shrugged off the Goth overtones that characterized their last commercially successful record (1990's Bloodletting), and have found that the balance between stylizing and emulating comes from putting personality—not posturing—first. Group Therapy opens with the radio single "Roxy," a tribute in form and content to Eno-era Roxy Music. With a pastiche of lyrics delivered in Napolitano's strong, throaty voice, the song sets the stage for a dozen tracks ranging in style from adult-oriented rock tunes to truck-stop country ballads to angry rock ragers about growing up and getting real. Though they occasionally read like high school poetry, the lyrics are redeemed by the sincerity of the band's performance. Group Therapy is dynamic and accessible enough to gain the band new listeners while giving old fans the sort of exciting Concrete Blonde music they've waited for since Bloodletting. —Sarah A. Sternau
Concrete Blonde y los Illegals
Concrete Blonde y los Illegals
When I Was Born for the 7th Time
Cornershop For all the talk of this record's blend of South Asian and northern English pop sounds, the music here sounds neither daringly cross-pollinated nor strangely juxtaposed. Rather it sounds like a rather conventional pop record, one that harkens back to the days when pop didn't have to be sonically conservative and genrespecific. Cornershop's willingness to make a pop record, rather than its desire to reconcile its leader's British and Indian heritage, is what makes this a great breakthrough album. —Roni Sarig
Talk On Corners [Special Edition]
The Corrs Having created a worldwide sensation with their albums Forgiven, Not Forgotten and Talk on Corners, Ireland's Corrs await the hit that will break them wide open in America. To that end, the group (who've earned a Rolling Stones openers slot) has issued a retooled version of its sophomore set, featuring five songs recast by some of Europe's hottest mixmasters, including K-Klass ("So Young"), Tin Tin ("What Can I Do?" and "Runaway," the latter song being from the group's debut), and "Dreams" (the Stevie Nicks song, remixed by Todd Terry, who turned Everything but the Girl's "Missing" into a smash). The new mixes for the most part aren't radical departures from the originals but strip away some elements, and add some spit and polish to others. "Dreams" is notable for taking the song even harder toward the dance floor without losing its appealing Celtic edge. The rest of the album is the same as the original version of Talk on Corners minus a few tracks, but still including their lovely version of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing." —Daniel Durchholz
The Caution Horses
Cowboy Junkies
Miles from Our Home
Cowboy Junkies On their seventh album, the Cowboy Junkies hitch their pony to producer John Leckie (Radiohead, Verve) and inch closer toward the mainstream. As a result, Miles from Our Home's title track might be the group's most upbeat and infectious song ever. Unfortunately, it also means Miles is frequently too pretty and pleasant for its own good. Think more Sarah McLachlan, less Velvet Underground. Still, gloom reigns supreme. The atmospheric "Blue Guitar" and, presumably, the slow, shattered "At the End of the Rainbow" (a hidden track) mourn the late singer/songwriter and Junkie hero Townes Van Zandt. "Those Final Feet," a lilting, Band-like tune, marks the passing of the 94-year-old grandfather of the Timmins siblings, who comprise three fourths of the band. Translated through Margo Timmins's endlessly haunting vocals, such sentiments keep the Cowboy Junkies' cloudy mystique alive. —Neal Weiss
Cracker This just in: David Lowery doesn't take himself too seriously. OK, so maybe that's not news to anyone. Perhaps the real news is that he takes himself more seriously than usual on Greenland, Cracker's first studio album of new material in four years. Leave it to Lowery and crew to open with a country-tinged cover of a song by the little-known West Virginia band American Minor. Yet, the sad-sack story of "Something You Ain't Got" fits in perfectly with the Cracker ethos and is one of the disc's sharpest cuts. "Night Falls," dare it be said, is a poignant and beautiful ballad about lost love. On "Maggie," Lowery sings, "you're everything I ever wanted, but I'm half of what you need." For all of the lyrical twists, the band's true strength is still its penchant for creating diverse, well-honed, and irresistible music: Here, they glide from Who-style frenzy, psychedelic folk, and raunchy blues rock to light reggae, blissful pop, and ominous prog-rock. Yes, Lowery may still trample the line between wit and goofiness like a summer camper who stole a six-pack the night before the big talent show. But, more than 20 years after he took the skinheads bowling with Camper Van Beethoven, he still has much to say and seems to enjoy saying it. —Marc Greilsamer
O Cracker, Where Art Thou?
Cracker, Leftover Salmon The idea of taking rock or pop songs and spinning them into bluegrass rave-ups isn't a new one. Traditionalists such as Del McCoury have been doing it for years, and more recently jokesters Hayseed Dixie have turned it into a quickly predictable career, covering AC/DC , Kiss, and Aerosmith. Despite the title, O Cracker, Where Art Thou? is not simply a well-worn gag. Dave Lowery and Johnny Hickman have teamed with the Colorado jam band Leftover Salmon to re-imagine 10 Cracker songs, and the results are surprisingly effective. Clearly, the guys in Leftover Salmon are great musicians, and any temptation toward improvisational excess is held in check by a respect for the songs, which span Cracker's career. Wisely, this includes a four-song cluster from the band's best album, Kerosene Hat, including a sexy "Sweet Potato," which effortlessly melds bluegrass pickin' with New Orleans rhythm, and a version of "Low" haunted by creepy banjo, pedal steel-guitar, and a Hammond organ solo. Lowery's former band, Camper Van Beethoven, experimented with this sort of musical hybrid, too, with greater abandon but less instrumental expertise. There's no way that CVB could have pulled off the double-time banjo and mandolin fretwork required in a satisfyingly traditional run-through of "Teen Angst,"" or even made it through a simple country lament like "Mr. Wrong" without smirking a little too broadly. Fans of Camper Van will probably miss that band's punky attitude—which only surfaces once, on the smashed country waltz of "Eurotrash Girl"—but these 10 songs are good enough to be twisted into new shapes without betraying the old ones. —Keith Moerer
Between the Covers
Cris Williamson, Tret Fure
The Cure
Mixed Up
The Cure
Concert: The Cure Live
The Cure White Back Cover.
The 13th
The Cure
The Cure Standing on a Beach, the first singles compilation from Britain's premiere love cats, was the capper on a period of startling, evolving growth for Robert Smith & Co. This rather less interesting 18-song companion piece documents a peak commercial run that ended abruptly with last year's Wild Mood Swings disc. The one new studio track here, "Wrong Number," is a buzzing, synth-suffused delight that hooks deep after three spins. It's the cherry on a cake built from latter-day gems like "Lovesong," "Just Like Heaven," and "Friday I'm in Love." —Jeff Bateman
The Cure No one revels in the sumptuous pleasures of melancholy like Robert Smith, the Cure's leading mopemeister. In Smith's world, it is always raining, comfort and happiness are fleeting, love is epic and torturous. On Bloodflowers, the band's 11th studio album, his lyrical prowess continues to astound. Considering the subject matter, Smith's always managed to steer clear of the clichéd, bad-high-school-poetry trap, and on Bloodflowers, the imagery is some of his most vivid and stabbing. On "The Loudest Sound," a story about a couple who are, of course, growing apart, he sings of their tension: "She dreams him as a boy / And he loves her as a girl / And side by side in the silence without a single word / It's the loudest sound I ever heard." The music grows out of the same dichromatic marriage of love's eternal hope and heartbreak's inevitable bleakness. Layers of the Cure's signature ethereal, buoyant guitar licks are paced at the momentum of a lava lamp, while melodies lurk only in an understated synth or distorted guitar. None of the songs scream "radio hit" like Wish's "Friday I'm in Love" anomaly; and although Bloodflowers is less abstract, comparisons to Disintegration are easily drawn. If this really threatens to be the last Cure album—no, really, the real end—it's a vision of loneliness and loveliness, a low note rarely surpassed in beauty and breadth. —Beth Massa
Fifty Eggs
Dan Bern At this point in his career, Dan Bern has the "New Dylan" tag stuck like glue—especially because the acoustic guitar-slinger keeps recording songs like "Oh Sister," even if it's not the Dylan song of the same name. Of course, he's also hanging out with producer/pal Ani DiFranco, and he'll probably be dubbed the "New Ani" as well, and Bern, with his reedy voice, edgy wordplay, and fierce-yet-flip attitude really does sound like the bastard child of both. Pop culture references fall like rain from Bern's lips, as do PC clichés and righteous props (especially in the high-praising "Chick Singer") but all that clutter works well in his verbose, intriguing stuff. Check out "Cure for AIDS" and "Tiger Woods." —Michael Ruby
Daniel Ash
Daniel Ash Japanese version of the former Bauhaus member solo album. US release is scheduled to come out in February 2002.
Music for a Darkened Theatre, Vol. 1: Film & Television Music
Danny Elfman
Mortal City
Dar Williams This 1996 album was a breakthrough of sorts for Dar Williams, moving her from the obscure folkie circuit to the obscure alternative singer-songwriter circuit. Mortal City comes closest to capturing her live show, and many of the songs here—"Iowa," "The Family," "The Christians and the Pagans"—have become live-set favorites. Like Williams herself, this disc is sentimental, sincere, and emotional; it's an album about growing up. When Williams titles a song "The Pointless, Yet Poignant Crisis of a Co-Ed," you know she's not writing fiction. She also could have called it "Catcher in the Rye," but that title was already taken. —Charles R. Cross
End of the Summer
Dar Williams Dar Williams's End of the Summer finds her following in the techno-folkie footsteps of Suzanne Vega and Rickie Lee Jones. Most of the tracks feature muscular rhythms provided by Sammy Merendino's programmed drum loops, and thickened textures provided by layers of electric and acoustic guitars. This new approach pays dividends for a singer/songwriter whose thin soprano and coffeehouse lyrics have often proven underwhelming in the past. Here she is encouraged by producer Steven Miller to cram as many words as possible into the herky-jerky verses and then release the tension with a chorus of simple statements and catchy melody. This allows her to run verbal riffs on slackers in "Party Generation," on therapy in "What Do You Hear in These Sounds," and on middle age in "Teenagers, Kick Our Butts." Some of these riffs are witty and some aren't, but they pay off in satisfying refrains where Williams's wispy voice is surrounded by belt-it-out harmony singers. While the title tune is Williams at her dreary, maudlin worst, another ballad, "If I Wrote You" (with harmonies by Shindell), proves the techno-folkie formula can work even at slow tempos. —Geoffrey Himes
Skanks for the Memories
Dave Attell Attell's unique blend of demented stories and off-kilter observations have made him a favorite on the stand-up circuit. He's also the star of Insomniac, one of Comedy Centrals highest rated programs. Digipak. Comedy Central. 2003.
A Totally Random Evening With Dave Barry
Dave Barry
Dave Matthews Band It's tempting to label the Dave Matthews Band as torchbearers of the Grateful Dead's moderate rock fusion and send them off on the next summer tour featuring either Blues Traveler or the Spin Doctors. But there is more at work here, particularly on the band's second major-label release. Crash pairs soothing sounds (flute, acoustic guitar, six-string bass) with a dark emotional undercurrent. The South African (by way of Virginia) frontman reveals a rare intensity on the title track and the free-form "41," while the group shows that it's not afraid to let loose on songs such as the stirring "Too Much." Producer Steve Lillywhite adds an impressive sheen to the recordings. —Aidin Vaziri
David Bowie Shrugging off an uneventful decade of boring, archaic, projects, Earthling returns Bowie to the forefront of contemporary music. While the album has garnered attention for incorporating elements of drum and bass, its most striking feature is truly Bowie himself as he recaptures an edge he hasn't shown since 1979's Scary Monsters. From the addictively danceable "Little Wonder" to the appropriately unnerving "Seven Years in Tibet," the album is full of the genius that made him so remarkable to begin with. As for the loops and samples, it's less a novelty and more Bowie's willingness to open his music to new tools. Granted, it's not as "before its time" as 1974's Diamond Dogs, but acid-laden vocals, hard-edged guitars, and arrangements that constantly border on the edge of chaos all show a pretty striking return to form from an artist who many had written off as a dinosaur. —Bill Snyder
Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars
David Bowie David Bowie's final concert as his most famous alter ego is one of the more legendary shows in the rock canon, but aficionados have frequently held this audio document, as recorded by Dylan/Monterey Pop documentary director D. A. Pennebaker, in somewhat low regard. Of course, the wonderful Ziggy Stardust album was such a pristine production that any live reproduction suffers in comparison, but fans may notice a significant improvement three decades later. Whether time has made the closer-to-garage-rock ethos of the live Spiders from Mars play better or whether it just sounds better is hard to say. But this 30th anniversary version does sound a whole lot better than all previous versions. Producer Terry Visconti has remastered what was once murk into something that sounds crisp and clear. The new packaging is lovely and the entire concert—incidental intro music and all—is documented for the first time. Pity the rights couldn't be re-secured to include Jeff Beck's long-deleted appearance on "Jean Genie," and Jacque Brel's "My Death" is still a tad melodramatic. But you also get most of the great Ziggy tunes, a few earlier classics, several from the then-unreleased Aladdin Sane, a terrific "All the Young Dudes," and perhaps the best cover ever of the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat." —Bill Holdship
David Byrne
White Ladder
David Gray
De La Soul Is Dead
De La Soul 180 Gram Vinyl pressing. De La Soul's second album, orginally released in 1991.
George Is On
Deep Dish The first new studio album from Deep Dish since 1998's release of Junk Science, George Is On features 14 new studio tracks including the amazing dancefloor filler "Flashdance". "Say Hello" is set to follow in its footsteps. The album also features an interpretation of "Dreams", which has been rerecorded with Stevie Nicks herself. There are also two tracks with long time collaborator Richard Morel, and further appearances from Anousheh Khalili - the vocalist on "Say Hello" and "Flashdance".
Hellbilly Storm
Demented Are Go "Uuuuaaaaaaaaaaaa..., Hotrod Vampires" creeps out of your speakers, carried by Sparky`s unmistakable crusty voice. The Slap-Bass clatters and you know DEMENTED ARE GO are back from the graveyard and tougher than ever. How many words can still be dropped on a band who's been dedicating its life to touring the planet for more than 25 year's and is never shy to show the world the ugly, malformed faces of Rock'n'Roll? After five bothering years of emptiness, complete with a wicked and fresh line-up, DEMENTED ARE GO are finally giving birth to the brand new soundtrack of your life: "Hellbilly Storm"! The upcoming new strike has the typical DEMENTED ARE GO balls with a new spicy flavor, as well as some new musical attempts never before attempted, helping them to definitely find and cement their very own unique style. "Hellbilly Storm" is following in the heritage of all the bad stuff Rock'n'Roll has to offer. It's the sonic equivalent of a 70's splatter movie, a 50's grindhouse, Rock'n' Roll lovesong, clear through to acid-soaked 60's garage, ending up somewhere in drag-punk heaven Lose some brain cells listening to "Hellbilly Storm", the monster that lurks within Rock 'n' Roll's closet. Enjoy DEMENTED ARE GO!
Some Great Reward
Depeche Mode Depeche Mode's lyrical content, at times impossibly contrived, is a potential source of frustration. "I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours / But I think that God's got a sick sense of humour / And when I die / I expect to find him laughing," goes the chorus of "Blasphemous Rumours," an antireligion song using attempted teenage suicide and fatal car accidents as testimonial. Lyricist Martin Gore always scores points for creative rhyming, but one gets the feeling the choice of subject matter is nearly arbitrary, that the band could write equally depressing songs about a bad hair day—and mean it. But this is the fun, and maybe even the genius, of Depeche Mode. When it comes to patent controversy, they are as self-indulgent as they wanna be. Depeche's first U.S. single, "People Are People," also contained on Some Great Reward, is no less of an eye roller than "Blasphemous Rumours," but its tone is inversely inspiring to the nihilistic picture painted by "Rumours." Two other opposites that attract, the naughty little industrial-lite, S/M-colored "Master and Servant" perfectly juxtaposes the leaning-on-the-windowsill-staring-at-the-moon love song "Somebody." —Beth Bessmer
Depeche Mode Violator is Depeche Mode's most mainstream, chart-climbing album. Although it contains only nine tracks, half of them are tailor-made for the dance floor. This album was conceived when dance-club DJs were gaining recognition alongside original composers. Heavily influenced by techno-pop, the singles "Policy of Truth," "Enjoy the Silence," and "World in My Eyes" prove that DM did their homework. A particular highlight on this fantastic album is the bluesy guitar line Martin Gore lays down on top of the synth-dominated grooves on "Personal Jesus." —Beth Bessmer
Playing the Angel
Depeche Mode The first new album from Depeche Mode in four years, its first since 2001's gold and Top 10 Exciter, Playing The Angel is quintessential Depeche Mode-hi-tech electronic pop with enormous hooks and yet faster paced, more urgent than recent albums. The band has sold upward of 50 million records worldwide during its 25 years, but Playing The Angel sounds as fresh and exciting as any in Depeche Mode's glorious history
The Devlins The Devlins' fourth full-length is designed for lovesick dreamers. Is it any wonder their music has been popping up in such dark-tinged productions as HBO's Six Feet Under ("Waiting") or Mike Nichols' Oscar-nominated Closer ("World Outside," also from 1997's Waiting)? As Colin Devlin sings in "Someday," "Someday you'll find your place in time." A similar sense of longing permeates the entire moody, melodic enterprise. Colin, who also handles guitar duties, is joined by brother Peter on bass and Guy Rickarby on drums. Based in Dublin, the Devlins don't sound like any other Irish group that comes to mind (although they do resemble a few Scottish ones, like the Blue Nile ). At times on Waves, however, they evoke another notable sibling duo, New Zealand's Finn Brothers (Neil and Tim from Split Enz and Crowded House), but their sound is smoother, more subdued. Waves was engineered by Danton Supple of Coldplay fame. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
No Angel
Dido Dido's debut is molded from Sarah McLachlan's intimate soul, Sinéad O'Connor's Celtic yelp, and Beth Orton's morose resolve—with all the sharp edges rounded out. Sculpted by producers Rollo (her brother) and techno-scientist Youth, No Angel is dream-pop mixed with Portishead-esque trip-hop; the results are midtempo ballads that would feel at home in Seal's neighborhood. The melancholy opener, "Here with Me," incorporates acoustic rhythm guitar, fluid strings, and a snare-driven tempo that simulates the slapping of rain off a windshield. "My Lover's Gone" is ethereal and misty, sounding at once ancient and modern with its synthesized ocean sounds and seagull cries. The only clunker is "Don't Think of Me," a passive, soft-bellied cousin to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know." These songs play out beautifully in that quiet zone between slumber and consciousness—where you can see everything behind closed eyes. —Beth Massa
Green Mind
Dinosaur Jr.
Brothers in Arms
Dire Straits Propelled by Mark Knopfler's literate songs, gruff vocals, and spidery guitar work, Dire Straits had overcome initial skepticism for their resistance to '70s new wave accents in favor of a rootsy traditionalism. This 1985 album captures the band consolidating a far more epic style than the concise shuffles and ballads that the original scrappy quartet had reeled off, their ambitions fueled by the larger canvas afforded by the CD. One of the first albums to exploit the format's longer playing time, Brothers in Arms was initially released in separate versions for CD/cassette and edited LP, and the band became digital poster boys on a world tour sponsored by CD hardware interests. Critics that had once warmed to the band sniffed at the marketing, but the album remains their best known, noteworthy for the MTV staple "Money for Nothing" and the breezy rock shuffle "Walk of Life," as well as for the wistful "So Far Away," the plot-driven narratives of "Ride Across the River," and the title song. —Sam Sutherland
Disappear Fear
disappear fear
Seed in the Sahara
disappear fear
Pet Your Friends
Diz and Getz
Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz
Ego Trip
DJ Keoki
In Search of Sunrise, Vol. 4: Latin America
DJ Tiësto Though he's as close to being the quintessential trance DJ as anyone, Tiësto has in the past used his mix records to drop new, sometimes challenging material (e.g., 2003's Nyana). But that's never been what the Sunrise records are about. Like 2004's Olympics-anthem release Parade of the Athletes, the vibe is all-inclusive, overtly positive, and infused with a strong orchestral bent that broadens its appeal. The first disc works up a lather after a lukewarm start, ending strongly with tracks from Gabriel & Dresden and BT ("Force of Gravity," spiffed up with a Tiësto remix). The second disc isn't so shy, though the Ibiza sheen gets a little glossy. If there's one thing this DJ can do, it's convincingly integrate a distinctive vocal ("Silence," anyone?), and his collaboration with Aqualung's Matt Hales on "UR" is no exception. One gets the sense that Sunrise 4 could have been just one disc and still delivered the essential punch—but even though it's a bit bloated, this collection unquestionably has the epic heft for which Tiësto is known and revered. —Matthew Cooke
The Meanest Of Times
Dropkick Murphys After hitting it semi-big when "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" (from 2005's The Warrior's Code) was prominently featured in Martin Scorcese's Oscar-winner The Departed, Dropkick Murphys return with another round of punch-drunk punk on The Meanest of Times (it's unclear whether the title refers to the current state of world affairs or the scowling Catholic schoolyard hooligans depicted on the record's cover...). Continuing their usual melding of the Pogues' raved-up Celtic strains with the bouncy energy of early Green Day, the result is somewhere on the lines of If I Should Fall from Grace with God getting in a fender-bender with Dookie—seven Boston punks can sure make a lot of noise. Life isn't only a party for the band, however, and there's more than a dash of Springsteen's somber human portraits in the broken-down company men and damaged families observed in songs like "Tomorrow's Industry" and "Surrender". The Meanest of Times' aggressive musical swagger and driving instrumentation don't obscure the fact that the Dropkick Murphys have something insightful to say. —Ben Heege
Ghost of a Dog
Edie Brickell
Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars
Edie Brikell and the New Bohemians
Côco Do Mundo
Electro Coco
Angels & Cigarettes
Eliza Carthy British singer, songwriter, and fiddler Eliza Carthy graduates to a lush, expansive pop palette with her move to a major U.S. label, but this second-generation troubadour's persona hasn't been compromised. Daughter and erstwhile bandmate of English folk legends Norma Waterson and Sir Martin Carthy, the younger Carthy embraces a balance of tradition and experimentation; her earlier solo projects have confirmed her modernism as vividly as her body piercings and brash hair colors. On Angels & Cigarettes, her band executes a quantum shift in wattage, cushioning her ripe, lyrical fiddle lines and a filigree of acoustic stringed instruments with thick synthesizer textures, layered percussion, and bursts of orchestral drama (courtesy of arranger Van Dyke Parks) that reconcile '90s trip-hop with '60s art-pop. Her dusky alto meanwhile follows a sturdy thread through recent stylists such as Beth Orton, Sandy Denny, Linda Thompson, and the singer's own mum. Carthy's indelible Yorkshire accent and the striking candor of her lyrics meanwhile sound both up-to-the-minute and as plainspoken as Child ballads. She strikes different sexual pitches, from gentle eroticism ("Whole") to matter-of-fact bawdiness ("The Company of Men"), and injects a tart element of class-consciousness to her portraits of the perfect and privileged ("Beautiful Girl"). For adventurous pop fans and open-minded folkies, Angels & Cigarettes is both lovely and addictive. —Sam Sutherland
The Best of the Song Books
Ella Fitzgerald Trying to cull a single-CD "Best of" from the 16-CD set of The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books may seem like a daunting task, but it's also foolproof. The complete set is a monument to the century's greatest songs and, arguably, its greatest singer, and this selection is a series of gems programmed to simulate a Fitzgerald performance, carefully sequencing joyous uptempo swingers and moving ballads. Recorded between 1956 and 1964, Fitzgerald's finest years, the CD includes arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Billy May, and Buddy Bregman, as well as a superb rendering of "I've Got It Bad" with the Ellington orchestra and Johnny Hodges. Balancing the orchestral settings are some intimate small-group performances, including a witty rendition of Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets" and Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." This is an ideal introduction to the "Song Books," a selection so good it will appeal to owners of the box sets. —Stuart Broomer
Best Of Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong Ella Fitzgerald's voice was satin to Louis Armstrong's sandpaper, but when you put them together on a single song, their chemistry was unimpeachable. This disc selects highlights from the three albums they made together at Verve (including their Porgy and Bess), and adds a spiffy live track from the Hollywood Bowl. Though they don't harmonize much (Armstrong's voice wasn't built for harmony), Ella's dignified swing and flashes of teasing wit play off Satchmo's gritty, good-humored roar symbiotically. The material is mostly lightweight Tin Pan Alley stuff (lots of Gershwin, plus the likes of "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"), and they fly it like a kite. —Douglas Wolk
Taste This
Ellen Degeneres
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Elliot Goldenthal, L'Arc-En-Ciel, Lara Fabian Asian Version featuring a Bonus Track: 'screaming' by Candy Lo.
The Parlance of Our Time
Elwood Every summer must have its requisite Beck-descended slow burner, and for summer 2000, a likely contender is Elwood's debut, The Parlance of Our Time. The opening track, a sure-fire remake of Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown," augmented by a midtempo hip-hop groove and rapped verses, is a perfectly predictable top-down anthem. Prince Elwood Strickland is the third generation of Southern men, and his good ol' boy musical persona, a blend of laid-back attitude and self-importance, is fully embodied in the release. The album aims to please, yet its concerted effort to maintain a high coolness quotient comes off as contrived (think Everlast). That said, Elwood has extensive studio experience, having worked as an engineer on records by De La Soul, The The, Tricky, Mos Def, and Adam Yauch, and this experience is well employed. Jazz and soul elements are intelligently interspersed on these tracks, and the momentum throughout the disc builds into a diverse climax. The last three songs are a redeeming finale, incorporating relatively experimental electronica that utilize his studio skills to full effect. The attempted street cred combined with a Southern gentility results in an effort that is a bit too familiar, but Parlance will get plenty of hands wavin' in the air like they just don't care. It's a respectably disposable summer release with lots of promise for future, more enduring efforts. —Beth Massa
At the Ryman
Emmylou Harris & the Nash Ramblers While live recordings can be treasured mementos for those who were present at the show, they're often substandard versions of favorite material. The live At the Ryman avoids this by covering the material of artists who've influenced Harris's music, rather than concentrating on her own hits. From Steve Earle and Bill Monroe to the Everly Brothers and Creedence Clearwater Revival, her choices are solid and sometimes unexpected (Bruce Springsteen). Harris's love of the music—and appreciation for the audience—shines through in these performances. The songs may have been done better elsewhere (most notably by the songwriters) and Emmy's delivery is at times uneven (as with any live performance), but the talented, fun-loving, all-acoustic Nash Ramblers do much to compensate. —Alexandra Russell
Enigma So much unnecessary fuss was made over Enigma's juxtaposition of the sexual and sacred. After all, Prince had been doing it for years, and his take on it was far more interesting—and a lot more daring. But Enigma's MCMXC A.D. did manage to work a lot of people into a lather, both on the dance floor and behind the pulpit. Their inclusion of chanting monks in "Sadeness," over wooshy ambient noises and a slower hip-hop-appropriated beat was a sensation. "Callas Went Away" promised more than it could deliver, although "Mea Culpa" stands as one of the few shining moments on the CD. The idea of mixing new age aural wallpaper with beats that you can do a slow grind to is actually rather intriguing. Spicing it up with controversial religious chants isn't a bad idea either. But there's got to be something personal to it. After the initial novelty wears off, there's nothing to MCMXC A.D. other than bland, cold, impersonal repetition. Now, that might be what most people are used to, but what's so sexy about it? —Steve Gdula
The Celts
Enya Born Eithne Ni Bhraonain, this classically-trained pianist was kid sister in the musical family that became Clannad, joining the Irish band in 1979 but dropping out amicably three years later to pursue her own muse. This music, produced in the mid-'80s as the soundtrack to a BBC series, was released as her debut in 1987 and promptly ignored—yet its mix of atmospheric soundscapes and Enya's lush, layered vocals, sung in both English and Gaelic, is the template for her subsequent global hits, beginning with Watermark the following year. —Sam Sutherland
The Memory of Trees
Enya To many people, Enya has become synonymous with new age music. Her haunting voice, clear and crisp above richly woven musical arrangements and adaptations, represents some of the best in the genre. Her performances on The Memory of Trees justify the Celtic songster's reputation. Songs like "China Roses" and "Hope Has a Place" complement the simple elegance of traditional folk music with luxuriantly layered instrumentation and highly crafted studio production. The ultimate effect is dazzling, to be sure. Whether she sings in English, Gaelic, or Latin, Enya conveys a profound, if slightly disconcerting, mix of spirituality and sensuality. —L.A. Smith
Erasure This album arrived shortly after singer Andy Bell's revelation that he had been living with HIV for more than six years, suffering from debilitating pain. It's no wonder the music carries a more somber tone than the sugar-smacked synth-pop of '80s hits "Chain of Love" and "Blue Savannah." But it's hardly a gloomy affair. Yes, there is a more ominous tone to lyrics like "The tears that are falling, there's no room for doubt." And yes, the choruses aren't quite as chaotic. But for the most part this is vintage Erasure, right down to the Casio-sounding keyboards that permeate tracks like "Here I Go Impossible Again" and the ABBA imbued cheek of "Don't Say You Love Me." Erasure is clearly a band too engrossed by life to be knocked down by its mundane realities. —Aidin Vaziri
Riding with the King
Eric Clapton B. B. King It sounds like the beginning of a story: "So, Slowhand and the King of the Blues were riding in a car ..." If this is a musical journey, it's the kind that rolls down long, empty stretches of country highway at 80 miles an hour, with the top down and the stereo blasting. Clapton and King may be more city than country, but this collection has the relaxed, laid-back feel that only comes from a pair of veterans doing what they do best. What they do here is cover 12 classic blues songs, many of them staples of King's repertoire, so the title of this album makes sense. Whether it's the rollicking rock & roll of the title track, or the acoustic shuffle of "Key to the Highway," or the sweet notes of "When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer," a real sense of pleasure comes through on this album, the kind of pleasure one gets from jamming late at night with a good friend. —Genevieve Williams
Erin McKeown Erin McKeown's third album is to be commended for its sense of adventure. There are 14 tracks on Grand and they encompass at least that number of musical styles, among them winsome indie-pop, gentle country-rock, lushly orchestrated barrel-organ stompery and pretty electronica that verges on trip-hop. When trying to frame McKeown in terms of other artists, you end up with an equally impressively diverse peer group: Tanya Donelly, Rickie Lee Jones, Bjork, Liquorice and Shivaree (with whom McKeown shares a drummer, George Javori).

An album this stylistically promiscuous needs a fairly imposing central personality to hold it all together, and McKeown just about manages on this score, as well. Her voice, while somewhat cutesy and cloying, never becomes overbearingly so—it's at its best on a lovely version of the Judy Garland standard "Lucky Day"—and she's an engaging narrator of her tales. There aren't enough songwriters to whom it would occur to write a song in the form of a letter from Igor Stravinsky, holed up in Hollywood in the 1940s while he waited in vain for Dylan Thomas to recover from tuberculosis so the pair could write an opera together. —Andrew Mueller
Dollars and Sex
Escape Club
Eszter Balint On Mud, Eszter Balint displays a singular vision that filters elements of country and blues through a jagged-edge urban sensibility. If you had turned a corner in Lower Manhattan and discovered the flickering lights of a wood-frame juke joint shimmering from the far end of some shadowy alley, the sound floating towards you in the darkness might be something like this. From the first snarl of the slide guitar in opening track "Pebbles & Stones," you'll hear the mystery and menace that distinguish most of these starkly arranged tunes. But once Eszter starts to sing in her hypnotic, unsentimental voice, you'll discover there's a lot more to Mud than atmosphere. Eszter is a terrific storyteller, terse but evocative. "You'll come out of this alive," she assures someone - maybe the listener? — over the stripped-down blues-funk of "Good Luck." "You're just stuck in a bad dream tonight."

On Mud, bad dreams have never sounded so good. An accomplished musician who has contributed both violin and vocals to recordings by cutting-edge talents like Marc Ribot and Michael Gira, Eszter has long been a notable figure on the downtown Manhattan music and movie scene. The players she's assembled here - Michael DuClos, Chris Cochrane, and Nic Brown - have backgrounds in rock-jazz-noise combos like Curlew and Skeleton Key. Co-producer and guitarist J.D. Foster has worked with artists ranging from Dwight Yoakam to Ribot. With Eszter, he manages to keep these songs musically and emotionally direct, while allowing enough unpredictable touches to give each one of them a unique, not-quite linear shape. The arrangements may generate a lot of tension, but, in the end, Eszter and Foster let the listener off sweetly, with a piano-and-voice balled called "Who Are You Now" that serves as a gentle denouement to these backwoods urban dramas.

Who are you now? You might just be asking yourself that after you experience the persepective-altering sound of Mud.
Eurythmics - Greatest Hits
Eurythmics One of the earliest things that we learned about Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart was that the duo had style. In their first few MTV videos, including "Sweet Dreams" and "Love Is a Stranger," they were just as notable for their androgynous suits and rubber utility coverall, as they were for their ice box synthetic dance beats. But as Eurythmics continued to churn out one hit after another, something else became refreshingly apparent: In the midst of all of the impersonal drum machines and frozen electronics, Lennox displayed both rhythm and soul. With a voice powerful enough to hold its own against genre queen Aretha Franklin ("Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves"), Lennox added another dimension to the haunting moodiness of "Who's That Girl" and "Here Comes the Rain Again." Changing personas and musical stylings with every release, Eurythmics blasted out horn-infused rockers ("Would I Lie to You"), country-fied twangers ("Thorn in My Side"), and melodic brilliance ("When Tomorrow Comes"). Greatest Hits captures the band's most inspired moments and justifies all of the original fuss. —Steve Gdula
Eurythmics Peace, Eurythmics's first studio album in a decade, finds Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart proving the durability of their musical bond. Where their solo efforts were usually well crafted and unexciting, Peace makes clear how inspired the two can be when working together. The ballad (and first U.S. single) "17 Again" is nice if overly sentimental; the reprise of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" at the end treads Stinglike ground to little appreciable effect. But songs such as "I Saved the World Today" and "Beautiful Child" vividly return to the depth of Touch and Be Yourself Tonight while updating Eurythmics's chemistry for 1999. In short, Peace is a happy surprise that will find listeners hoping for more. —Rickey Wright
Evanescence No Description Available
No Track Information Available
Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 03/04/2003
Anywhere But Home
Evanescence Essentially a live showcase for their mega-selling breakthrough Fallen, this CD/DVD combo set chronicles Evanescence in peak form during a subsequent tour stop in Paris. The performances here lean early on the crunch of guitarists John Lecompt and Terry Balsamo (reaching a peak on the the band's potent cover of Korn's "Thoughtless"), but ultimately revolve around the melodramatic, goth-rooted vocal charisma of singer Amy Lee. It's on stripped-down, yet still larger-than-life takes of "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal," as well as the shadowy grace of "Breathe No More," that Lee stakes her claim to the alt.diva throne. Taken as a whole, the forceful renditions here argue that this live recording was hardly premature, instead well documenting the band's more direct musical tack and considerable live chops. The CD contains the appropriately named, previously unreleased studio track "Missing," while the DVD supplements its crisply shot and edited concert performances with four videos and an hour of documentary footage and interviews. —Jerry McCulley
Eve 6
Eve 6 A California trio signed to a major label straight out of high school, Eve 6 plays the most potent brand of punk-pop this side of Green Day. The group's self-titled debut is an engaging mix of Jon Siebels's snarling guitars, Tony Fagenson's thundering drums, and bassist Max Collins's emphatic vocals and surprisingly erudite lyrics. These guys may have blown off their SATs to take a crack at rock stardom, but there's nothing lacking in their verbal skills on the hit singles "Inside Out" and "Leech." Hopefully, their math is good, too, so they can count the royalty checks from this short (it clocks in at under 40 minutes, rare in these days of overlong CDs), sharp rock gem. —Daniel Durchholz
Unnatural Selection
Evolution Unnatural Selection

This product is manufactured on demand using CD-R recordable media.'s standard return policy will apply.
Infinity on High
Fall Out Boy After the success of From Under the Cork Tree, Fall Out Boy earned the right to indulge their whims. Fortunately, their instincts tend to serve them well (not counting those infamous cell-phone photos). On their most adventurous album, Def Jam prez Jay-Z introduces "Thriller," while Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds produces groove-heavy hit "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" and "Thnks fr th Mmrs." A few new flourishes aside, however, like guitarist Joe Trohman's Metallica moves on "Thriller," the Chicago-bred band remains true to their punk-pop roots, even if vocalist Patrick Stump sounds like Mr. Sexyback on "This Ain't a Scene" and "I'm like a Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me + You)." You can thank bass player/songwriter Pete Wentz for the unwieldy song titles. As he explains in "Fame < Infamy," "I am God's gift / Why would he bless me with such wit without a conscience." Whether spicing up their recipe with R&B swagger or playing it straight, FOB are at their best when they crank up the volume. Hence, the piano-based "Golden" is the weakest track on an otherwise solid outing. Hey, maybe they just wanted to see what a stadium looks like bathed in the glow of a thousand lighters. Taking its title from a letter Vincent Van Gogh sent to his brother Theo ("Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high"), Fall Out Boy's fourth seems likely to follow its predecessor into the platinum stratosphere. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Woman to Woman
Fem 2 Fem
Fem 2 Fem
Phantom Center
America Town
Five for Fighting Five for Fighting is actually just one guy with a rather substantial chip on his shoulder who's taken his name from the amount of time a hockey player spends in the penalty box for fighting. Los Angeles native and erstwhile prodigy John Ondrasik really knows his way around a melody, bolstering it with a dramatic sense of timing and rhythm like a more modern and hipper Elton John. And that defiant chip does makes for powerful poetry, although oftentimes he sacrifices logic and clarity for the sake of iambic pentameter. While "Superman" is a catchy affair about the restrictions of being superhuman and the desire to belong ("I'm only a man in a silly red sheet looking for special things inside me"), it's doubtful that anyone who ever read a DC comic would believe that Superman would ever be "digging for kryptonite on this one-way street," since a loose fragment from Superman's home planet might turn him into a blubbering infant or a giant ant. At best, Five for Fighting follows in the narrative-based path paved by Counting Crows. —Jaan Uhelszki
Welcome Interstate Managers
Fountains of Wayne After a four-year hiatus notable for some film and television soundtrack work, a lapsed contract, and a relaxed songwriting schedule Fountains of Wayne return with their third and best CD to date. The New York-based power-pop quartet delivers a diverse feast of infectious melodies and endlessly clever lyrics. Songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood still slide on a sweet scale between the Beatles and the Monkees, but they've branched out from '60s sounds to include bona fide alt rock ("Little Red Light," "Bought for a Song"), orchestrated pop ("Halley's Waitress"), a country lark worthy of Dwight Yoakam ("Hung Up On You"), and hints of psychedelia ("Supercollider"). The Cars-flavored "Bright Future in Sales" and "Stacy's Mom" warrant heavy-rotation airplay. Following their acclaimed eponymous debut and the vastly underrated Utopia Parkway, Welcome Interstate Managers leaves no doubt that Fountains of Wayne are gaining strength. —Jeff Shannon
Son of Cheep Thrills
Frank Zappa Another extremely broad sampler of Frank Zappa's music from Rykodisc, Son of Cheep Thrills contains more than enough music to justify its price but offers nothing new for longtime fans. Like its equally cheap predecessor, this eclectic set contains a smattering of tunes that cover the entire range of Zappa's career. Unlike the selections on some of Ryko's more focused Zappa retrospectives, the music here pokes at Zappa's more challenging and off-center pieces and could serve as a road map for interested newcomers who may not know where to start within Zappa's huge discography. The greasy doo-wop tracks "Love of My Life" and "WPLJ" provide entrée to Zappa classics such as Cruising with Ruben & the Jets. Some of his more intricate instrumentals will hopefully engender interest in Jazz from Hell or the fantastic You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series. If you enjoyed Strictly Commercial or another Ryko retrospective and are at a loss for a next Zappa purchase, this disc may point you in the right direction. And Zappa experts and completists may find this well-priced disc a welcome diversion while waiting for the next lost tapes to appear from the vault. —Andrew Boscardin
Bang!...The Greatest Hits of Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Leaves of Grass
Fred Hersch In 1855, Walt Whitman—arguably the greatest poet the United States ever produced—first published his magnum opus, Leaves of Grass. Now 150 years later, jazz pianist Fred Hersch has skillfully adapted Whitman's work to music. With a mid-sized ensemble featuring cellist Erik Friedlander, saxophonist Tony Malaby, and vocalists Kate McGarry and Kurt Elling, Hersch, himself a fluid and finessed pianist, takes a back seat to his wonderful arrangements, which encompass martial cadences, hymn-like timbres, Latin rhythms, and ballads. Part VII and Part X of "Song of Myself," the longest work on the disc, range from Charles Mingus, Scenes in the City-style effects to a bluesy, down-home slow drag. Clearly, Elling's majestic baritone voice is the centerpiece of this work. He scats like a bop improviser, narrates like a Shakespearean actor, and sings like an opera star. It is fitting that that the elasticity of jazz truly captures the timeless essence of Whitman's words. —Eugene Holley, Jr.
Execution Tracks
Funker Vogt War and death are preoccupations of many industrial bands, but few are quite so engrossed by the topics as Germany's Funker Vogt. Execution Tracks, their third full-length, thus fits in nicely with past titles such as 1997's We Came to Kill and the double-EP collection Killing Time Again. Song titles like "The Voices of the Dead" and "Fortunes of War" indicate the kind of lyrical content FV traffic in, and the pictures of tanks and warplanes on the CD jacket should clean up any lingering confusion. As for the music, this time around the band goes for a cleaner, even more techno-influenced aggression—as if one were present at a rave held in a World War I trench following a mustard-gas attack. The rhythm patterns aren't quite as aggressive as they've been in the past (battle fatigue, perhaps?), but Jens Kästel's growled, processed Vocals of Doom pack enough of a wallop to scare the combat boots off you. A competent, solid effort. —Steve Landau
Maschine Zeit
Funker Vogt 2007 reissue of the classic ''Machine Zeit'' album from German EBM/electro legends Funker Vogt. Includes two bonus tracks in a digi-pak.
Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors
George Winston George Winston cites the Doors as a seminal influence on his music in the liner notes for the 20th anniversary edition of Autumn. Winston is a voracious musical explorer, and the Doors are among several musical tributes Winston has rolling around in his head. He's already paid homage to pianist Vince Guaraldi with Linus and Lucy. Winston's take on the acid-rock shamans is sometimes magical, sometimes regretful. It's no secret that George isn't a great technician, and you can hear the flaws whenever he remains true to the melody, especially replicating Robbie Krieger's guitar lines. But some songs are just perfect for Winston, notably "Crystal Ship," which he expands into a gorgeous meditation. Winston mixes the hits, including "Light My Fire," with some eccentric personal choices like "Spanish Caravan" and "My Wild Love." Ardent Doors devotees may cringe, but Winston fans will find a home here. —John Diliberto
Baz Luhrmann's La Boheme
Giacomo Puccini, Ekaterina Solovyeva, Wei Huang, Lisa Hopkins With the visually dazzling efforts of his "Red Curtain" film trilogy behind him (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), director Baz Luhrmann set his sights on Broadway and a reworking of his triumphant, career-forging 1990 Australian Opera production of Giacomo Puccini's evergreen tearjerker, La Boheme. With it now set in 1957, six young voices alternate in bringing the tale of the doomed love affair between the seamstress Mimi (Lisa Hopkins, Wei Huang, Ekaterina Solovyeva) and the writer Rodolfo (Alfred Boe, Jesus Garcia, David Miller) to life in its original Italian on this cast album. Other than using the vocal dream-team gambit, Luhrmann has played Puccini's music surprisingly straight in this production, a sharp contrast to the dizzying musical cut-and-paste of Moulin or his tellingly titled pop album, Something for Everybody. It's a wise tack, and wholly in step with the director's stated goal of emphasizing the story's timeless drama while keeping the operatic masterpiece true to itself for a new audience. The staging may showcase Luhrmann's dazzling production, but the music here is still pure Puccini. —Jerry McCulley
You Can't Fight What You Can't See
Girls Against Boys The mid-'90s are experiencing a bit of a renaissance in 2002. Perhaps the enduring proliferation of slick teen-pop and toothless hip-hop has finally sent people scrambling back to more substantial, albeit noisier, times. So what better moment for Brooklyn's quasi-hardcore heroes, Girls Against Boys, to reemerge? Leaving behind the ill-advised electronic ornaments of its previous major-label release, 1998's Freak*on*ica, the quartet returns to its indie-rock roots, physically and spiritually, on You Can't Fight What You Can't See. It is the band's most brutal album in ages, and the most fun, showcasing greasy riffs and joyously tilted rhythms on foundation-rattling tracks like "Kicking in the Lights" and "Miami Skyline." Dangerously exciting. —Aidin Vaziri
Glis Glis is comparable to VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berzerk and Covenant.......with a more playful style of lyrics. Also includes guest vocalist Jenn Parkin from Epsilon Minus.
Godsmack In a post-Seattle Sound rock world, there's still a hunger for music that's dark, dirgelike, and heavy. And the void left by Soundgarden and company is being filled by a spate of bands, including Boston's Godsmack, who even nicked their name from an Alice in Chains song. Like Creed and Days of the New, Godsmack are raging and disenfranchised, as singer Sully Erna's lyrics illustrate: "I am in a living hell / Makes me wonder if I'm alive" or "You're pathetic in your own way / I don't like you anyway." Though the territory being mined isn't new, Godsmack's grungy grooves, potent energy, and strong hooks are irresistible. With a dash of Tool and a smattering of Filter seeping through, Godsmack are on the money, especially on "Whatever," the tantalizing "Get Up, Get Out!," and the strident and syncopated "Bad Religion," on which Erna puts one in mind of James Hetfield. While Godsmack's approach may not be fresh, the foursome's strong songs and powerful energy are still intensely tasty—especially for those with a taste for songs on the sober—but never staid—side. —Katherine Turman
Gogol Bordello /Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike
Gogol Bordello
Beyond the Shadows
Golden Bough
Good Charlotte
Good Charlotte
Demon Days
Gorillaz A side project doesn't usually hit gold, especially when said project is a quirky virtual collective fronted by cartoon characters. But the first, self-titled album by Gorillaz—the brainchild of illustrator Jamie Hewlett and Blur frontman Damon Albarn—actually hit platinum and turned into a surprise worldwide hit. Naturally expectations were a lot higher for Gorillaz's sophomore effort, but Demon Days actually is even better than its predecessor. With producer Dan "the Automator" Nakamura gone, Albarn, a.k.a. 2D, has paired up with DJ Danger Mouse (responsible for the infamous Grey Album that illegally mixed the Beatles and Jay-Z) to steer the musical ship, while a whole new slew of guests enlivens the proceedings. Albarn has described Demon Days as being darker, but there's a real kooky dance-party vibe coursing through the CD. Despite its somber tone, "Kids with Guns" is lifted by a killer bass line, for instance, while the catchy first single, "Feel Good Inc," is augmented by an appealing contribution from De La Soul. Other noteworthy guests include Roots Manuva and Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird on the dubby "All Alone" and Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder on the bouncy "DARE." And yet it's a 69-year-old actor who gets to deliver the most baffling contribution—just listen to Dennis Hopper's spoken-word narrative on "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head." Elisabeth Vincentelli
Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead
Skeletons From The Closet: The Best Of The Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead
Gregorian Chant, The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos Thanks to good marketing, good cover art, and good luck, this disc probably has sold more copies than most other recordings of Gregorian chant put together. It's often quipped that most of those discs have been listened to exactly once and put away—to the puzzlement of many musicians and critics, who point out that there are more beautiful, more varied performances by professional singers available. Yet the singing of these Spanish Benedictines has a special quality that probably explains this disc's popularity—a reverent serenity that no doubt stems from the fact that the monks are actually praying, not just performing. Granted, Chant can become a bit monotonous with repeated listening, but it really gives you the sense of devotion that has always been the purpose of "Gregorian" chant. If this recording (ahem) enchants you at first, wonderful. If you get bored with it later, don't give up—there has been an extraordinary variety of styles and sounds over the 1,500-year history of plainchant, so go exploring with Anonymous 4, Ensemble Gilles Binchois, Sequentia, or Ensemble Organum. You won't be sorry. —Matthew Westphal
Razorblade Romance
Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights
Hank Dogs Combining a rock-solid Fairport Convention-like musical base with sterling vocals and songs, Bareback is an album that extends and undermines the British folk tradition in a fascinating manner. The Hank Dogs are not only the year's most promising folk groups; they're responsible for one of '99's outstanding debuts, regardless of genre. —Steven Stolder
Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?
Harvey Danger There's a disturbing trend in the Northwest: bands are getting way over-hyped before their first full-length record (which is often mediocre and disappointing) even hits the streets. Seattle's Harvey Danger, however, deserved the buzz that their debut CD generated. Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? was quite simply one of the best local records released in 1997. It has the pop accessibility of vocalist Sean Nelson's high-register croon (not unlike Jeremy Enigk), and the energetic and dynamic punch of a band—guitarist Jeff Lin, bassist Aaron Huffman, and drummer Evan Sult (The Rocket's assistant art director)—that has developed its chops together for more than four years. Harvey Danger have drawn all the worthwhile elements from '90s indie rock and created a sound that is at once their own, yet completely familiar. Lin's guitar is full and confident, ranging from full-on power chords to buzzing melodies, while Huffman frequently takes the leads with his fat, distorted bass humming away. Sult ably links the two with a minimum of flash and pretense. Nelson's clear-as-a-bell vocals and sardonic, clever, and frequently emotional lyrics are both the album's strongest and weakest aspects. Occasionally his verbosity overcomes the music and his almost condescending sniping becomes a little tiresome. However, these are minor complaints in the big picture, because songs like "Carlotta Valdez," "Flagpole Sitta," and "Problems and Bigger Ones" are true gems, and for a first effort, this is as close to flawless as a band can get. —Adem Tepedelen
Drive it Like You Mean It
Heather Luttrell Drive it like you mean it by Atlanta native Heather Luttrell
A Rollins in the Wry
Henry Rollins On the track "Clintonese," Mr. Henry Rollins sums up the former United States president's Paula Jones case deposition: "Basically, he had 800 spears a minute thrown at him for five hours, and dodged every one of them." Rollins throws plenty spears of his own on his latest spoken-word album, recorded from a series of weekly shows at the Cafe Luna club in Los Angeles. He nearly always hits his targets—which range from people who shop at Rite-Aid to his own tired pick-up lines—and he does so with a dexterity and penchant for free association that is both brutally funny and honest. A Rollins in the Wry is, without a doubt, a comedy album. While he may not be quite as incisive as Dennis Miller, as prone to screaming as Sam Kinison, or as pissed-off as Bill Hicks, Rollins combines elements from all three in a way that assures you'll be laughing and, later, playing your favorite cuts for your friends. —Mark Huntsman
Hot Animal Machine / Drive By Shooting EP
Henry Rollins, Henrietta Collins, The Wifebeating Childhaters
Hi-Fi Killers
Hell Yeah
Hot Hot Heat Hot Hot Heat hail from Victoria, B.C., a town best known for imitating the queen's England in the service of tourism. But never fear: the high teas and manicured gardens are all well and good, this band knows that bad manners are what rock is all about. Case in point, the song "Goodnight Goodnight," in which a former girlfriend learns "you're embarrassing me, you're embarrassing you...this isn't goodnight, this is goodbye." There's nothing quite so much fun as a good dis song, and the Heat keeps the fun going on their newest album, Elevator. Virtually every track on the CD is short and sweet with plenty of energetic, poppy goodness. Standouts include "Ladies and Gentleman" (another semiburn: "everybody's got the same story—we never wanted him here, he showed up anyway."), "Middle of Nowhere," "Soldier in a Box"—well, I'll stop before I list them all. —Leah Weathersby
The Soul Is in the Software
Icon of Coil
Uploaded And Remixed
Icon of Coil
100 Broken Windows
Idlewild Edinburgh's noise merchants have stepped through the looking glass with this newest release. While harmony and traditional song structure used to play second fiddle to their anguished cries and hearty gusts of guitar squall, 100 Broken Windows displays a more mature quartet: still edgy but wonderfully tuneful. It's a formula that's less "Sex Pistols for students," as they've been previously described, and more "R.E.M. for street punks." That comparison seems inevitable, given lead vocalist Roddy Woomble's passionate delivery of cloudy-clever lyrics, but plenty of other influences come to mind throughout as well: exhilarating, throaty Nirvana-esque sing-a-longs ("Roseability," "Idea Track," "Actually It's Darkness") and emotive Fugazi-like stormers ("Listen to What You've Got," "Rusty"). But these 12 tracks are thoroughly the band's own and ultimately live well beyond any easy points of reference. —Bob Michaels
Speak for Yourself
Imogen Heap If the voice sounds familiar, that may be because a couple of tracks have been featured on The O.C., while Frou Frou's "Let Go" appeared in Garden State. (Frou Frou is a collaboration between Heap and producer Guy Sigsworth.) Her sophomore release, after a UK-only debut, is a fine showcase for the singer/songwriter's swooping vocals. Her style, which incorporates layers of multi-tracking, lies somewhere between Sinead O'Connor's banshee howl and Jem's more delicate musings. There's more of a groove to her ouvre, however. At times, she almost sounds like Norway's Annie—by way of Kate Bush. The overall effect is plush and luxurious, if occasionally generic (a more stripped-down approach would really allow that instrument to shine). The one song that doesn't quite fit the electro-pop pattern is the vocoder-saturated "Hide and Seek," in which Heap enters Laurie Anderson territory (specifically 1982's "O Superman"). It's a risk that pays off, although its placement midway through the recording threatens to throw the balance off. (It would have made more sense at the end.) Aside from writing and singing, the multi-talented musician also recorded and produced Speak for Yourself. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Acoustic Soul
India Arie Excellent Condition
Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship
India.Arie Log onto an India.Arie lyrics page and you won't come away expecting an easy-breezy listen—here's an artist, remember, who made a name for herself by declaring her disdain for silicone and Cristal on her 2001 debut. What's consistently a revelation for new recruits to the Arie camp, then, is how good the music makes you feel. No matter how heavy the subject matter (and it still gets heavy—God surfaces in the first verse of "Intro," the prayerful opening song), she delivers it in such a way that it ends up feeling like homespun wisdom—accessible, cloudless, and heartening. Testimony, no minor R&B/soul achievement, is full of such earth-mother moments: "The Heart of the Matter," a cover of the Don Henley song, is what a hug might sound like if it were music; "There's Hope" reminds tunefully that you don't have to pay to smile ("You better thank God for that"); "Private Party" points up the benefits of getting naked before a mirror and liking what you see (impossible as that sounds, it'll seem less so after listening); and "I Am Not My Hair," a sexy thumper featuring Akon, celebrates not the hair, not the skin, but "the soul that lives within." Musically, "Testament" is a testament to the benefits of branching out; in addition to gospel and hip-hop, you'll also find country and pure pop forays here. All of it works, and works wondrously. Arie may be the Oprah of the music world: she's spiritual, she's got her head screwed on straight, and whatever she touches turns to gold. Or at least it ought to. —Tammy La Gorce
Shaming of the Sun
Indigo Girls
Women: Live from Mountain Stage
The Indigo Girls
Peace & Love, Inc.
Information Society
Insoc Recombinant
Information Society 12 of the hit '80s dance/ pop group best tunes remixed by the likes of David J, Girl Eats Boy, Razed In Black, Rosetta Stone, Spahn Ranch and Leather Strip. Includes no less than four versions of their huge hit 'What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)'. 1999 release.
Brushfire Fairytales
Jack Johnson Fans of Willy Porter, Ben Harper, and G. Love will all want to check out Jack Johnson's engaging folk- and blues-inflected pop. Born in Oahu, Hawaii, Johnson, a former surfer and film-school graduate, has a knack for acoustic ballads whose calm surfaces hide a subtle but strong lyrical undertow. "It seems to me that 'maybe' pretty much always means 'no,'" sings Johnson on "Flake," which features crony Harper on slide guitar. Production by J.P. Plunier (who also handles Harper's recordings) is simple and uncluttered: acoustic guitar and drum tracks share the foreground with Johnson's easygoing vocals, which evoke everyone from G. Love (who recorded Johnson's "Rodeo Clowns" on his Philadelphonic album) to Nick Drake to Willy Porter. And while Johnson may not have Porter's guitar chops, these songs have a relaxed beauty and understated depth that reward repeated listening. —Bill Forman
On and On
Jack Johnson Japanese pressing limited edition price for Jack Johnson's 2003 album adds one bonus track. 17 tracks. Def Jam.
Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George
Jack Johnson Admit it: If you had to pick an artist to give voice to the wackadoo thinkings of a monkey beloved by most of the American populace over age 3, you could do a lot worse than Jack Johnson. Black Eyed Peas? Too hyper. Death Cab for Cutie? Too ironic. They Might Be Giants? Too eggheaded. Johnson, though the object of much rightful jealousy—here, after all, is a guy who only stumbled into music and vaulted himself up the charts after a successful career as a pro surfer—turns out to have the goods to do H.A. Rey, Curious George's creator, proud. Fans familiar with Johnson's earlier discs will recognize a certain laconic sprawl and easy fascination in his songs that suits the theme of perpetual puzzlement perfectly (here, let's not forget, is a guy who racked up fans with songs called "Bubble Toes" and "Banana Pancakes"). That the music takes a childish turn barely registers—songs like opener "Upside Down" are classic Johnson, all wonderment and groove, and the collaborations with friends Ben Harper, G. Love, and Matt Costa warm up, wink, and scamper off before packing on the weight of excess meaning. "We're Going to Be Friends," track seven, seals the deal—when you can make the White Stripes sound compatible with the Man with the Yellow Hat, you know you've got a multi-generational winner. —Tammy La Gorce
James Taylor: Greatest Hits
James Taylor James Taylor's mid-'70s departure from Warner Bros. may be one of the best things that ever happened to the label; otherwise, it might not have been in such a rush to compile his Greatest Hits, one of the company's biggest sellers ever at 11 million and counting. Taylor's style, which all but defines the word diffident, has more backbone than it's often given credit for. Here, as surprisingly complex songs like "Carolina in My Mind" (in a newly recorded version) and "Steamroller" stack up, he sounds like an artist worth spending some time with. At the least, few of his singer-songwriter cohorts came up with a melody as lovely as "Sweet Baby James." —Rickey Wright
Jann Arden
Finally Woken
Jem Though the downbeat electronica and laconic vocals of Cardiff-born Jem Griffiths find her lumbered with a "Dido-wannabe" tag, she's actually much more adventurous than that. On the whole, Finally Woken sounds like someone finally told Beth Orton to cheer up, and at its best the album finds Jem reveling in all the studio tricks available to her. The opener, "They," loops a nonsensical children's chorus to create a mood of Danny Elfmanesque creepiness, while "Come On Closer" and "24" manage to use crunching electric guitars and strings while avoiding any comparison to Evanescence. The title track combines a loping beat with a jazzy vocal delivery that's reminiscent of Portishead, and "Save Me" is a better-than-average R&B track that's sure to be covered for years to come. Unfortunately, too much of the album's latter half sinks into a slow-paced Didoesque electronic slurry, though Jem's to be applauded for at least trying to liven things up with the cod-reggae of "Wish I." —Robert Burrow
Pieces of You
Jewel No Description Available
No Track Information Available
Media Type: CD
Artist: JEWEL
Street Release Date: 02/28/1995
Jewel It's time for an update of our image of Jewel, the ingenue who set the music world on fire with her 1995 debut album, Pieces of You. After all, that effort consisted primarily of songs Jewel had written several years before, some of them dating back to her days as a free- spirited waif living in a van on the beach in San Diego. Now, at 25, she's become a sort of guru for self-expression and full disclosure, revealing perhaps too much of herself in see-through dresses worn to awards shows and a critically drubbed (yet bestselling) book of poetry. Spirit makes plain why Jewel's well-intentioned yet sometimes facile lyrics strike a chord with her audience while her poetry lies flat on the page. On songs like "Deep Water," "Hands," and "Down So Long," her words are borne aloft by sparkling melodies and her soaring voice, making even the most cynical observer take a schoolgirl-notebook image such as "your heart like grape gum on the ground" or an unreassuring platitude like "If I could tell the world just one thing / It would be that we're all OK" somewhat in stride. On Pieces of You, Jewel posed the musical question "Who will save your soul?" On Spirit, it sounds like she wants to do it herself. And the truth is, if you don't overanalyze it, the album does act as a sort of balm for wounded psyches or maybe a primer for raising your own inner child. Maybe she's right and we are all OK. Who knew? —Daniel Durchholz
Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Jewel The word "confessional" is frequently applied to folk of all stripes, including folk-rock and folk-pop, which is where Jewel comes in. Even within the bounds of folk, however, her music is more nakedly confessional than most. (Too nakedly, some have carped.) Along with a coterie of Nashville pros, she began her latest musical journey by laying down another introspective song cycle in the vein of 1995's Pieces of You. Dissatisfied with the results, the Texas-based artist scrapped that effort and re-recorded with Rob Cavallo (Green Day). This lends her sixth album the expected rock edge, but Jewel hasn't changed her spots. If anything, she sounds more like, well, Jewel than she did on dance-oriented departure 0304. She's still pop star ("Fragile Heart"), sensitive folkie ("Long Slow Slide"), and scrappy country gal ("Stephenville, TX"). Her Joni Mitchell-esque soprano soars as high as ever, with more of a sardonic Dylan chaser than before. What's changed is that maturity has granted Jewel, now in her early 30s, greater perspective—"Growing up is not an absence of dreaming," she states in the title track—and a sense of humor missing from her more earnest early work. On "Satellite," for instance, written when she was 18, but revamped since, she notes that "the Pope," "rock and roll," "Valium," even "Miss Cleo" can't fix her broken heart. In her statement about the album, Jewel claims that, after years of ups and downs, she's "not broken, just more myself." —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Ring Them Bells
Joan Baez
Gone from Danger
Joan Baez Joan Baez has always been a top-notch interpreter and a perceptive spotter of young talent. On Gone from Danger, she hooks up with a number of talented young songwriters, simultaneously offering them a higher-profile platform for their work and giving her own career a needed boost. Folk-rocker Sinead Lohan contributes the gorgeous "No Mermaid" and "Who Do You Think I Am," while Baez takes on a trio of tunes by Richard Shindell, including "Reunion Hill," which ranks with the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (which Baez memorably covered) and Dave Alvin's "Andersonville" as among the best contemporary songs about the Civil War. There are also songs by Dar Williams ("February," "If I Wrote You") and Betty Elders ("Crack in the Mirror") and one by Baez herself ("Lily"). All of them are terrific, and the performances are among Baez's best since her commercial heyday. —Daniel Durchholz
Crystal Planet
Joe Satriani
Company You Keep
John Gorka By turns philosophical, whimsical, and nakedly confessional, John Gorka's ninth album keeps to fairly safe, well-traveled singer-songwriter terrain but finds a few revelations along the way. Gorka calls in friends Ani DiFranco, Patty Larkin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Lucy Kaplansky, though their contributions are rarely more than light shadings for his unpretentious songs of recovered faith and earned fellowship. If Gorka can't always resist playing the armchair therapist—dispensing advice to himself and others—his self-deprecating humor undercuts any preachiness. "Shape of the World," especially, has a bemusement worthy of John Prine, and the word play of "Wisheries"—"I cast pearls before the parliament / Got some girls for the ex-president"—has a charming, absurd intrigue. Gorka isn't exactly breaking new ground, but he remains one of the most consistently intelligent singer-songwriters working today. —Roy Kasten
The Best of John Hiatt
John Hiatt John Hiatt has had such extraordinary success as a songwriter that, even if you haven't followed his career as a performer, you'll find you know most of these songs by virtue of their hit cover versions. Bonnie Raitt ("A Thing Called Love"), Suzy Bogguss ("Drive South"), Rosanne Cash ("The Way We Mend a Broken Heart"), Jeff Healey ("Angel Eyes"), and Aaron Neville ("Feels Like Rain") have all dipped into the Hiatt songbook with spectacular results. Hiatt's originals (plus a couple of new tracks) are terrific in their own right, thanks to his gritty vocal style and stellar accompaniment on some tracks by Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, Jim Keltner, and Sonny Landreth. The only missteps here are a rerecorded version of "Have a Little Faith in Me" (the original is one of Hiatt's most powerful performances) and the inclusion of "Take Off Your Uniform," a distant memory from Hiatt's days as a new waver in the Elvis Costello mold. —Daniel Durchholz
Johnny Cash
Strange Red Afternoon
Jones Korte
Joydrop From the leadoff track, "Fizz," you might correctly surmise that Joydrop are a garagey, raucous, female-led pop band. But this Canadian foursome are also much more. Using samples and loops for an effect that is modern yet organic, Joydrop are not easily categorized. Their songs run the gamut from mellower adult alternative to modern rock, drawing logical comparisons to the Cardigans and Garbage, with a tad of Blondie swagger tossed in. With 14 songs adding up to more than an hour of music, Metasexual showcases the wide range and depth of the quintet's talents. Vocalist Tara Slone, whose opera and theater training serves her well, moves easily from pensive to powerful, her delicate yet forceful pipes the glue that binds Joydrop's sometimes disparate Euro-style pop. —Katherine Turman
430 N. Harper Ave.
No One Is Really Beautiful
Jude Stylish Boston-born singer/songwriter Jude's delightful album is full of literate and precocious lyrics sung in an affecting tenor that trips a feathery falsetto, at times sharing an emotional space with Jeff Buckley. But Jude is also an inveterate wordsmith and a keen observer. The strongest song on this George Drakoulias-co-produced effort, "Charlie Says," paints a bittersweet Hollywood canvas with the same sure and insightful brush that Al Stewart used on "Electric Los Angeles Sunset." Likewise the pure-pop noir lament "I'm Sorry Now" is smart and playful, tender and biting. Jude is not locked into any one style. The folkie word-tumbling "You Mama You" contrasts with the dark and moody "Battered Broken," while "I Do" could be straight out of Jim Croce's songbook. The soft funk of "Rick James" and "Out of L.A.," while less successful exercises, or the Beatlesque "She Gets the Feeling," nonetheless convey the breadth of Jude's pop palette. — John Sutton-Smith
Bible of Dreams
Juno Reactor Originally released in 1997, this record showcases the transformation of Juno Reactor from a dance/trance style orientation to more aggressive thematic styles and a more diverse range of influences such as pop and world. The music still retains the high BPM's and unique custom sounds as before, but moves away from the repetitious styling associated with conventional trance acts.
Kaiser Chiefs Is it too early for a Britpop revival? Not on the watch of Leeds quintet Kaiser Chiefs, who just a decade after the release of Blur's scene-making 1994 album, Parklife, offer a striking follow-up. They've hired the same producer—Stephen Street. They've studied the same influences—the Buzzcocks, the Jam, the Kinks. They've even picked up the same English slice-of-life themes—"I wanna wear my clothes tight/Matching jackets and a fistful of notes/New sneakers and a fresh pack of smokes," goes "Saturday Night." The resulting album, Employment, is just as catchy and captivating as you might expect, swinging from the stormy social commentary of "I Predict A Riot" to the shouty insouciance of "Oh My God." A Trainspotting sequel can't be far off. —Aidin Vaziri
Legs to Make Us Longer
Kaki King Kaki King fulfills the promise of her debut, Everybody Loves You, with an album that stretches a guitar sound already torn between the compass points. A frenetic player, King is a musical descendent of Michael Hedges, though she usually cites the underrated Preston Reed. Both guitarists employed two-handed tapping techniques to whiplash effect. So does King, although her phrasing is more abstract and her mind still moves faster than her hands at times. Signing up guitar mutant David Torn as producer, King is clearly intent at defying convention. Joined by a sparse rhythm at times, her sound is taking on a slight country edge. You can hear it on "Doing the Wrong Thing," with King playing electric guitar (or a processed acoustic) using her 10-fingered agility to create a rolling melodic counterpoint to the drummer's train rhythm. She rips it up on "Magazine," literally pummeling the fretboard with her fingers, ripping out a mad dervish. She also sings, with a Chet Baker-fragile voice; pleasant, but nothing that makes want to hear that instead of her guitar. —John Diliberto
In the Moment
Kaskade From DJ/producer Kaskade comes a deep house masterpiece that transcends the genre. Smooth vocal gems and soulful compositions. "A captivating album of jams that are deep enough for late night dance floor action and melodic enough for next week's dinner for six. Quite lovely"—Billboard.
Bring the Night
Kaskade Turntables are a capricious lot. One day they demand electro or minimal; the next they want anything but. This is, of course, what makes dance music exciting: the fluidity of movement between genres allows the DJ to be not just a technician, but a musical prophet of sorts—someone who gives the people what they want before they know they want it. And few know this drill better than Bay Area house maestro Kaskade, whose follow-up to last year's Love Mysterious, Bring the Night, is a DJ mix that aspires to nothing more than making you shake it. He wastes no time getting to the point with the opener, Axwell's "I Found U," a track with an old-school vibe that could turn a convention of CPAs into a pack of gyrating house converts. Kaskade's own remixes—of Nelly Furtado's lilting "All Good Things (Come to an End)" and Floetry's "SupaStar" (mixed in key with Milton Jackson's ecstatic "Cycles")—shine against a solid supporting cast that includes the most recognizable names in dance music, such as Armand van Helden, Bob Sinclar, and Fedde le Grand. You have to hand it to a guy who one minute can put out an album of some of the most intelligent and moving house on offer, and the next get behind the decks and unpretentiously blow up the dance floor. Bravo. —Brent Kallmer
The Red Shoes
Kate Bush
Kate Rusby Folk music seems simple, and many pretenders pull into town with little more than a presentable voice and a handful of beginner guitar chords. Much more infrequently, performers come along with basically the same constituent parts but through the sheer force of their artistry and integrity are able to use these simple elements to communicate whole lifetimes of experience. Such a performer is youthful Kate Rusby, who sings with the focus and depth one usually associates with the graceful compensations of age. Her crystal-clear voice (reminiscent in turns of Linda Thompson and Sandy Denny) rings out from the first cut. Rusby's assured delivery is dappled with small, unmasked idiosyncrasies that add emotional immediacy. Meanwhile, the all-acoustic presentation is inventive but never slick or overwhelming. Hourglass announces an important new light in the traditional British folk scene. —Anthony Bonet
Slingshot Professionals
Kelly Joe Phelps Though Kelly Joe Phelps initially attracted attention for his virtuosity on slide guitar, he continues to extend his musical dimensions with each release. Once a solo troubadour, here the singer-songwriter features his richest arrangements to date, as producer Lee Townsend enlists stellar support from guitarists Bill Frisell and Steve Dawson, violinist Jesse Zubot, percussionist Scott Amendola (who's worked with Charlie Hunter), accordionist/keyboardist Chris Gestrin, vocalist Petra Haden (daughter of jazz great Charlie Haden), and bassists Andrew Downing and Keith Lowe. The musical atmospherics occasionally invite comparisons with kindred spirits such as Bruce Cockburn (the opening "Jericho"), Mark Knopfler ("Window Grin"), Richard Thompson ("Not So Far to Go"), and even a hint of Tom Waits ("Waiting for Marty"), but in the end Phelps defies categorization. A singer of bluesy grit, he remains a great guitarist, yet he plays with an understatement that enhances the material, rather than overwhelming the listener with hot licks. —Don McLeese
New Sacred Cow
Devil Without a Cause
Kid Rock It's fitting that the Kid Rock revival got started when the Beastie Boys featured him in their Grand Royal magazine—and not because the kid from Detroit shares their skin tone. Rock has often been compared with the early Beasties—the boys of "Fight for Your Right to Party" and "Brass Monkey," the boys no one ever thought would grow up. With lines like "I ain't straight outta Compton, I'm straight out the trailer" and "I started an escort service—for all the right reasons," it's obvious that Kid Rock doesn't aim to follow suit. But that's no hindrance to Devil—backed by the funky metal band Twisted Brown Trucker and special guests like blues vets Robert Bradley and Thronetta Davis, Rock is hosting one hell of an interesting party. Ultimately, Rock's party is great, schlocky fun, equal parts old Beasties and Sebastian Bach—making Devil a guilty pleasure, the Starship Troopers of hip-hop. —Randy Silver
Ruck Zuck
KMFDM The companion EP to the 2005 full-length, "Hau Ruck". "Ruck Zuck", which loosely means "Right Now", joins the tradition of KMFDM's classic EP releases. This 9-track record contains over 40 minutes of music, including remixes and never before released material. KMFDM continue to create ultra heavy beats with a sly dose of political irony on their cover of DAF's dance floor classic "Der Mussolini". "Ansage" closes out the disc with a German spoken word soundscape that mirrors the tone of our times. "Ruck Zuck" commands the attention of all dance, electronic, and industrial fans right now!
Follow the Leader
Korn Love 'em or despise 'em, you've got to give Korn props for kick-starting a new metal movement that blends aggressive hip-hop rhythms with roaring hate-metal riffs. In the wake of the band's 1994 debut, many like-minded groups cropped up, including Deftones, Snot, and Limp Bizkit. But with the release of Korn's disappointing 1996 sophomore effort, Life Is Peachy, the imitators seemed likely to usurp the innovators. Maybe that's why Follow the Leader is so crafty and inspired. Instead of continuing on cruise control, Korn have diversified their formula, experimenting with mood and dynamics while intensifying their melody and noise thresholds. "Got the Life" blends a seductive disco beat and vocals reminiscent of "Epic"-era Faith No More with oppressive guitar chimes and squawks. "Children of the Korn" features a propulsive rap beat, throbbing bass lines, and angry guest vocals by Ice Cube. But just when Korn's groovin' psychedelic fury starts to make listeners see red, the band lashes out with "All in the Family," a hilarious rap-metal diss-fest duet with Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, that proves Korn are much more than the sum of their rage. —Jon Wiederhorn
Hungry for Stink
L7 The L.A. quartet was already way up in the grrl pantheon when this disc put them over the top. "Hungry for Stink" delivers a primitive, sludgy, and pissed-off sound, but listen closer for the sonic invention on tracks like "Shirley, She Has Eyes" and "Riding With the Movie Star." —Jeff Bateman
Lacuna Coil U.S. edition of the Italian goth rock act's third album includes enhanced video track 'The Making of Coma Lies'. Century Media. 2002.
Law of Love
laura esquivel 11 tracks 1. vogliatemi bene / frag. 2. mala 3. burundanga 4. o mio babbino caro 5. nessun dorma 6. a nadie 7. senza mamma (frag.) 8. san miguel arcangel 9. tre sbirri. una carrezza. (frag.) 10. a su merced 11. finale
Laura Love Love cuts an interesting figure, what with her Ani DiFranco-looks and a remarkable voice that's someplace between Tracy Chapman and Odetta—with a dash of scatting yodelese for extra spice. Start immediately with "I Am Wondering," a deceptively simple tour de force that interpolates a Rodgers & Hammerstein standard into her own bemused musings. Love's originals ("Can't Understand," "June 4th Foundation") are fresh and bracingly intelligent: she somehow injects new life into "Amazing Grace" by giving it a zydeco feel, and the spartan take on Nirvana's "Come As You Are" is flat-out wonderful. Trad rarely sounds this contemporary. —Jeff Bateman
Seeing Things
Laurie Lewis If Earth & Sky, the compilation that was Laurie Lewis's Rounder debut, served to showcase her bluegrass roots, Seeing Things finds her breaking new musical ground. To be sure, there's still plenty of fiddle, mandolin, and high lonesome harmonies to be found here, and Lewis's respect for traditional music shines through. But these songs range all over the musical map, from the lilting Norteño swing of "I'll Take Back My Heart" to the sly, bass-driven shuffle of "Kiss Me Before I Die." Tom Russell's haunting "Manzanar" tells the story of Japanese internment during World War II, while Darol Anger grows a "forest of fiddles" (as the liner notes put it) around Lewis's lovely, clear soprano on the traditional "The Blackest Crow." Lewis has always been a hard artist to pigeonhole, gracefully moving between musical genres as different as bluegrass, jazz, gospel, and traditional folk. With Seeing Things, she establishes herself as a powerful, diverse singer/songwriter who deserves a much wider audience. —Mary Park
Leftover Salmon
Leftover Salmon On their self-titled sixth album, Leftover Salmon strip away the more eclectic elements of their "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass" and come up with a simpler but soulful sound rooted in both bluegrass and the blues. Drew Emmitt's vocals on songs like "Down in the Hollow" and "Weary Traveler" have a genuine high, lonesome twang that wouldn't sound out of place in a traditional bluegrass band, while his sound on bluesier numbers like "Last Days of Autumn" has an engaging laid-back feel. But even though the group is performing more traditionally structured songs instead of loosely organized jams, there are still plenty of opportunities for the group to exhibit the instrumental virtuosity that has made them favorites on the jam-band circuit. Newcomer Noam Pikelny is a blazing banjo picker in the Béla Fleck mode, and every time he breaks into a solo the energy level kicks up a notch. Leftover Salmon's new take on traditional styles has more than enough imagination to keep fans of the band's older, more freewheeling style happy, even as the more disciplined performances attract new ones into the fold. —Michael John Simmons
Mama Said
Lenny Kravitz Sometimes it's fun to take the albums of latter-day rockers and play spot-the-influence, and on Mama Said, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. "Always on the Run," with its punchy horns and emphatic vocals, is cribbed from Sly Stone. "What Goes Around Comes Around," with its understated arrangement and Kravitz's falsetto, is straight out of Superfly-era Curtis Mayfield. "Stand By My Woman" and "All I Ever Wanted," meanwhile, are so directly copped from John Lennon—lyrically, sonically, attitudinally—that it ought to be actionable. Younger fans might not care about any of this, of course, because in and of themselves, Kravitz's songs are tuneful, and they do rock. —Daniel Durchholz
I'm Your Man
Leonard Cohen Even the production, laden with synthesized strings and cooing female choruses, is wry on I'm Your Man, a definitive Leonard Cohen album. Though still touched with the tragic ("Take This Waltz," based on a Garcia Lorca poem), the album often achieves its high points by combining Cohen's world-weariness with black-humored evocations of social and romantic ills and artistic quandaries. "I was born like this, I had no choice," the gravelly Cohen intimates at disc's end. "I was born with the gift of a golden voice." —Rickey Wright
Dear Heather
Leonard Cohen Leonard Cohen must be the envy of countless singer-songwriters. Who else has been cozily buffered from the ravages of pop music than this eminent but never particularly prominent Canadian wordsmith? Nearing four decades as a recording artist, Cohen has never left his original label, despite failing to ever register anything resembling a commercial hit. Long ago shed of the "new Dylan" trappings that greeted his first recordings, Cohen now cushions his carefully wrought lyrics in smooth keyboard-and-vocal-heavy arrangements that owe far more to MOR pop and cabaret then folk-rock. His words and delivery have become more nuanced and playful as he's grayed. Listen to the sexy self-deprecation of "Because of" ("Because of a few songs/ Wherein I spoke of their mystery/ Women have been/ Exceptionally kind in my old age") or the weary resolve of his 9-11 statement, "On That Day" ("Did you go crazy or did you report/ On that day…they wounded New York?"). Dear Heather, likes its creator, is at once new and old, familiar and fresh. —Steven Stolder
Leæther Strip
Significant Other
Limp Bizkit Florida-bred metal-rappers Limp Bizkit sold a million-plus records of their debut largely on the strength of a George Michael cover song. But the band indeed had "Faith" and the group's second outing proves that the Bizkit have the goods. Still, it seems as if boastful frontman Fred Durst is loading the band's deck again, this time by including scads of guest vocalists, such as Stone Temple Pilots' singer Scott Weiland, Method Man from Wu-Tang Clan, and Korn's Jonathan Davis. (In fact, Korn gave Limp Bizkit a leg up in the industry.) But the 16 diverse yet cohesive tracks on Significant Other don't need any help. Not as heavy as their mentors Korn—or as they are on their debut—Bizkit give Everlast a run for his money on the tuneful and appealing "Rearranged." "Just Like This" is another winning hip-hop and rock entry, while the amusing and memorable "Nookie" (as in "I did it all for the nookie") has self-deprecating lyrics not unlike the Offspring's "Self-Esteem." Bizkit segues with ease from pleasing rock and hip-hop amalgam to spooky Tool territory on "Don't Go Off Wandering" to moshable moments in the entreaty "Show Me What You Got." Significant Other may be hard to categorize, but it's easy to like. —Katherine Turman
Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water
Limp Bizkit The splicing together of nu metal, rap, funk, and sterile electronica laced with dark melodies as infectious as anything Britney has to offer inspired 6 million people to purchase copies of Limp Bizkit's Significant Other. With Chocolate Starfish, they perfect their formula. From the electro-infused "Intro" through the contagiously chugging "My Generation" to the straight-up rap of "Getcha Groove On," Chocolate Starfish is a slick, clinical, and flawless platform for Fred Durst's effortlessly savage—and occasionally unintentionally comic—sociological rants geared toward disaffected youth. Ultimately, though, it's that undeniably intelligent musical backdrop—the brooding guitar sound that gave the Mission Impossible 2 theme haunting new life and menace, and defines "Hot Dog," "Full Nelson," "My Way," "Rollin'," "Boiler," and "It'll Be Okay"—that makes this a seething work of genius. The fact is, with rap and rock saying pretty much the same thing, Limp Bizkit have plenty of competition. They just do what they do better than everyone else. —Dan Gennoe
Lisa Loeb Though Tails was her debut album, Loeb had already hit the stratosphere of the pop charts a year earlier with "Stay," a monster hit from the soundtrack of the film Reality Bites. "Stay" is also included on Tails, but the other 12 tracks demonstrate Loeb had more than one good song in her, even if none of them found similar success on the singles chart. Loeb's knack for infectious, buoyant pop shines through on such instantly catchy tunes as "Snow Day," "Rose-Colored Time" and "Waiting for Wednesday"; quieter, darker numbers such as "Hurricane," "Alone" and "Lisa Listen" reveal a more reflective side; and "Taffy" shows she's occasionally willing to let loose and rock as well. —Peter Blackstock
Mean People Suck
Little Guilt Shrine Tracks: 1. Hello ; 2. Fable ; 3. Bill ; 4. Know How ; 5. Govinda ; 6. Lag ; 7. Anywhere ; 8. Juliette Lewis ; 9. Loma Lip Lava ; 10. Ollie-Ollie Option ; 11. I Have Everything ; 12. Jumptuesque Nesn-Blesn
Exile in Guyville
Liz Phair
Rachmaninov: Symphonies Nos. 1-3; The Isle of the Dead; Symphonic Dances
London Symphony Orchestra
The Book of Secrets
Loreena McKennitt McKennitt's recordings always have the quality of a spiritual sojourn; her songs are those of a seeker, whether she's setting Yeats, Scripture, or her own words to her compositions. It's this that attracts people to her music, and The Book of Secrets is no exception, whether it's the lazy rhythms of "Marco Polo," the sober joy of "The Mummers' Dance," the poignancy of "Skellig" or "Dante's Prayer," or the drama of Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman." "The Highwayman" is a particularly strong effort, especially in comparison to her earlier setting of "The Lady of Shalott"; McKennitt has become much more skilled at musical narrative. This is music that can be enjoyed on many levels, from McKennitt's growing skill as a composer to the deeper questions posed by her lyrics. —Genevieve Williams
Joyful Noise: The Lounge Tribute to Ani Difranco
The Lounge Brigade
From the Land of Volcanos
Lucia Whether performing as a member of KMFDM or screaming out melodies with her former band Drill, fans are used to hearing Lucia's powerful pipes—described by the NY Post as "sinful pleasures that would leave the most chaste feeling guilty just for listening." That's what makes her debut solo effort so surprising, because it showcases her introspective songwriting style and dynamic vocal dexterity. The emotional depth and melodic variety on this release will amaze long time admirers and win legions of new fans.
The 3 Tenors in Concert 1994
Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras It's not opera; it's not a pop concert; it's not Broadway. It's all of these and none of them. Once you accept the fact that this sequel to the original blockbuster concert recording is less about music and more about entertainment and the power of musical personalities, you can appreciate what you're hearing as an event—phenomenal and bizarre, momentous and frivolous. This is an occasion to celebrate the voices and egos of three huge superstars, and to have fun listening as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras interact, bouncing lines off each other and playing to the overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience. Much of the fun and flavor of the concert is dependent on seeing the action, though, and without the visuals you notice flaws in the singing much more. Domingo comes off as the more solid performer, and his voice is in far better shape than the other two. But if you crave big, high, and loud—and you don't take your opera too seriously—you'll love this disc. —David Vernier
Made by Maceo
Maceo Parker
On How Life Is
Macy Gray Gray starts from a solid foundation of retro funk and soul and builds on it by adding hip-hop signifiers and modern studio techniques. The result is one of the better debuts of the year, thanks to Gray's blunt proclamations ("I've committed murder... and I don't feel bad about it") and inimitable vocal phrasing. On How Life Is offers the sass of a '20s blueswoman plus the don't-mess-with-me strength of a 21st-century R&B icon-in-the-making. —Keith Moerer
The Trouble with Being Myself
Macy Gray
Madeleine Peyroux
Careless Love
Madeleine Peyroux When Madeleine Peyroux's debut, Dreamland, was released in 1996, its success threw her for a loop. She's taken eight years to create this follow-up, and, at age 30, she brings a confidence and resilience to this dozen-song set. She's able to move seamlessly between songs by writers as diverse as Elliott Smith and W.C. Handy, whose title track was popularized by Bessie Smith. Though American-born, Peyroux absorbed the language and culture of France growing up in Paris with her French-teacher mother. On her debut, she covered Edith Piaf, and this time out she wraps herself around "J'ai Deux Amours," which Josephine Baker sang to the Allied troops during World War II. —David Greenberger
Half the Perfect World
Madeleine Peyroux Smokey-voiced chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux's third CD is a lovely collection of after-hours ruminations and should confirm her rise to fame. Credit producer Larry Klein for doing a bang-up job with the album's sound: the elegant, pared-down arrangements are all brushed drums, acoustic guitars, and cool organ licks. But of course it's Peyroux's voice that brings it all home—preferably one where the shades are drawn, embers are smoldering in the fireplace, and the white wine is kept dry. Two-thirds of the songs are well-chosen covers, including a duet with k.d. lang on Joni Mitchell's "River"; a relaxed version of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'," from Midnight Cowboy; a delicately lilting samba take on Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas's title track; Serge Gainsbourg's "La Javanaise," performed in the original French; and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," from Modern Times. The four originals, all coauthored by Peyroux, easily keep up with such august company, especially "I'm All Right"—written with Klein and Walter Becker, it captures the easy sophistication of Becker's regular band, Steely Dan. Fans of Norah Jones (whose collaborator Jesse Harris cowrote three of the songs) should gobble up this album, but Peyroux is no mere imitator: She's her own, very real thing. —Elisabeth Vincentelli

More Madeleine

Careless Love
Got You on My Mind
(with William Galison)
Got You on My Mind
Madeleine Peyroux, William Galison Got you on my mind is the collaboration between chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux and harmonica virtuoso/ guitarist William Galison, with whom she has toured extensively in recent years. On Ms. Peyroux's first recording since Deamland, Madeleine and William cover a wide variety of tunes, from a Josephine Baker classic through tunes made famous by Willy Dixon, Stevie Wonder and John Lennon, as well as three delightful original compositions. The accompanying musicians are stars in their own right, including Bob Dylan's bassist Tony Garnier and Saturday Night Live's drummer Shawn Pelton, and there is a delightful cameo by none other than Carly Simon. To many of Madeleine's fans, Got You On My Mind represents her exquisite singing at its most natural and unconstrained — in an informal, musical context close to her roots and to her heart. What comes across most strongly from this CD however, is the amazing musical chemistry between these two extraordinary artists.
Ray of Light
Madonna Never underestimate Madonna's power of persuasion: By nearly all critical accounts, Ray of Light, Madonna's first album of new material since 1994's Bedtime Stories, and her first since motherhood, is her richest, most accomplished record yet. While Ray of Light is being tagged as Madonna's big leap into electronica, it's important to note two things: First, her music has always had close ties to dance culture, and, second, her collaborator William Orbit is no Chemical Brother. Though it has all the latest blips, bleeps, and crackles electronica has to offer, Ray of Light is still largely an adult album, completely within Madonna's realm. Still, Orbit's tasteful sonic constructions provide Madonna with her most adventurous, hippest musical backdrop ever. What's more, the arrangements and production are understated enough to highlight an even bigger development: Fresh from singing lessons on the Evita set, Madonna's vocal range, depth, and clarity have never been stronger. But larger pipes don't necessarily make for deeper, truer music. Never a master lyricist, Madonna's words have worked best when they've practically been slogans ("Vogue," "Express Yourself"). This time she goes for more emotional depth, and even tries her hand at ethno-techno-mysticism ("Shanti/Ashtangi"). She largely stumbles, however. The tone conveyed on songs like "Nothing Really Matters" is a self-centered pat on the back that belies her claim to a newfound altruism. It's enough to make you wonder, now that Madonna's given up being our material girl, if maybe she's set her sights on becoming the center of our spiritual world too. —Roni Sarig
Madonna Mama Madonna returned from the spiritual world and got her groove thing goin' once again for Music. Flanked by Ray of Light's tried-and-true producer William Orbit and a French newcomer, DJ and producer Mirwais, Madonna pours her heart out on the dancefloor, combining self-revealing lyrics with retro-electro beats. Reinventing herself as an urban cowgirl pimpette, Madonna once again sets the standard for mainstream pop, which will probably only be topped by her next release. —Beth Massa
Madonna: GHV2
Madonna So there's this pop singer... you may have heard of her? Madonna, she's called, and the word is that she's basically all image; she went through a put-your-hands-all-over-my-body phase, then she got spiritual, and then she started wearing cowboy hats. Between all the gossip columns and photo shoots, though, she's left an unmatched trail of devastatingly wonderful singles—roaring dance records, tender ballads, and a curious combination of the two that is her personal specialty ("Secret" and "Ray of Light"). How many artists' best-of-the-second-decade collections crowd out legitimate hits? ("American Pie," anyone? "This Used to Be My Playground"?) Unlike 1990's Immaculate Collection, GHV2 doesn't have any new material; "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," from Evita, and the glorious '60s pastiche "Beautiful Stranger" are the only songs that haven't appeared on a Madonna album before. But it compresses her past 10 years worth of records into an hour of one peak after another. —Douglas Wolk
Buena Vista Social Club Presents: Manuel Guajiro Mirabal
Manuel "El Guajiro" Mirabal For his first solo album, 71-year-old trumpeter Mirabal has created a tribute to the seminal bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez. The latter was a tres-wielding maverick who reveled in Cuba's African heritage and gave new opportunities to the piano and brass. With three trumpeters on board, it is not surprising that the tracks often explode into blaring, festive, sloppy—precise fanfares, but Papi Oviedo on tres and pianist Roberto Fonseca more than hold their own. The singers also get a workout, notably on Me Bote De Guano, with its humming opening chorus and robust tenor lead vocal. The late Rubén González, who was Rodriguez's original keyboard man, is heard on Dombe Dombe, a tune he suggested for the set list. The sessions were recorded in Havana at legendary Egrem Studios with a minimum of technical bells-and-whistles and if the sonic texture is somewhat rough and remote, it only adds to the studio-live atmosphere. —Christina Roden

Recommended Similar Titles

Buena Vista Social Club
BVSC Presents Omara Portuondo
BVSC Presents Ibrahim Ferrer
Introducing Ruben Gonzalez
Mambo Sinuendo
Notorious C.H.O.
Margaret Cho
Songs About Jane
Maroon 5 Maroon 5 aren't the first band to fuse R&B and rock, but they certainly are one of the most convincing. One can almost hear Stevie Wonder's beaded braids clattering in time to their deep, funky grooves. At best, the band conjures up latter-day Motown, complete with a shuddering organ and hyperbolic vocals; at worst, they sound like a stylized boy band, with all the attendant close harmonies and dramatic pauses. But despite these musical schisms, Maroon 5 are a thoroughly engaging outfit, thanks to throbbing bass lines, hooky songs, and lead singer Adam Levin's swaggering delivery. —Jaan Uhelszki
The Collection
Martha Wash When it comes to the domain of disco divas, Martha Wash reigns supreme, with a phenomenal, gospel-trained voice. The Martha Wash Collection samples her career from her pre-Weather Girls period—both "Taking Away Your Space" and "It's True I Do" are credited to Two Tons of Fun—up to her work with hit-machine C&C Music Factory, though "Strike It Up" is the only Black Box-era track represented here. Wash's vocals always embody the emotion of every song she blesses with her talent, from the warmth and passion of her lower registers to the high energy of her disco-siren wails. With the range and drama of the human experience Wash is able to evoke—and invoke—with her music, it's better to drop the limiting "disco" from the "disco diva" title. Just crown her diva. Period. Purists might want to know that the version of the classic "It's Raining Men" that's included here has RuPaul standing in for Izora Armstead. —Steve Gdula
Live Wide Open
Martin Sexton Martin Sexton is one of those musicians who is so spectacular in concert—without a band, without a net—that his studio recordings are often a bit of a letdown. The double-CD set Live Wide Open, which inaugurates Sexton's own label, Kitchen Table Records, finally brings to record the essence of his high-wire shows: from blissed-out Ray Charles-style R&B and gospel to soaring pop ballads to his almost campy transformations into a '70s heavy-metal god. To accomplish all this, Sexton needs nothing more than his megawatt voice, deep-pocket guitar (jazz comping, rock lead, and funk bass rolled into one), and the sly grooves of his longtime drummer Joe Bonadio. Sexton's two major-label efforts, The American and Wonder Bar, had their moments but tended to muffle his extravagant gifts as a singer and performer with conventional pop production; 1996's Black Sheep fared much better by only lightly supplementing his solo style. But Live Wide Open is the next best thing to the sweaty in-person experience. —Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Sky Above
Martin's Dam
Shooting Straight in the Dark
Mary Chapin Carpenter Mary Chapin Carpenter's third album perfected her mix of singer-songwriter introspection, storytelling, and the occasional up-tempo mood changer. It spawned a huge country radio hit in the surprisingly durable zydeco romp "Down at the Twist and Shout," but the most memorable track is "Going Out Tonight," a gutsy, folk-rocking statement of purpose from a brokenhearted woman who's gonna start living again even if it kills her. —Rickey Wright
Stones in the Road
Mary Chapin Carpenter The 1994 sequel to her mainstream country breakthrough on Come on Come On further underscores Mary Chapin Carpenter's true identity, more Ivy League folk rocker than new country cowgirl. Her coolly delivered, deeply felt songs include meditations on family, community, and social injustice without rant or cant, never more so than on the gently incisive midlife reflections of the title song, which filters historic milestones and childhood lessons through its delicate verses. Elsewhere, she sketches a heart-breaking, restrained speculation on the inner life of a blind, deaf mystery man ("John Doe No. 24") with the economy and detail of good short story. The set's many love songs are no less intelligent, emotionally authentic, or moving. Chapin Carpenter's elegant yet earthy alto is beautifully framed in the settings, coproduced with longtime collaborator John Jennings, that balance jangling guitars, rippling piano, occasional fiddle and crisp rhythm sections closer to the best of L.A. country rock than what normally emanates from Nashville. —Sam Sutherland
No Protection: Massive Attack Vs. Mad Professor
Massive Attack This is the studio work of London's prodigious dub godfather, Mad Professor, who takes Massive Attack's Protection album as raw material to create a completely new experience. Bits are added, dropped out, accentuated, run through sonic effects, drenched in reverb, turned inside out until the songs disappear and in their place emerge reborn textural soundscapes. No Protection gives a sort of discursive aural commentary on Protection's original songs, pointing out all the obscured details—the minutest percussive rings and beeps, the most mesmerizing bass loops. —Roni Sarig
Yourself or Someone Like You
Matchbox Twenty The sound of Southern rock gets a facelift for the '90s on Yourself or Someone Like You, the record that made Florida's Matchbox 20 a success story. Rob Thomas's charismatic and passionate vocal delivery carries this collection of captivating, personal-story songs, based on honest, heart-felt lyrics rich with cathartic emotion. Anyone who's felt so scarred by love that they can't imagine taking the chance of getting hurt again will relate to a song like "Push" (an exhilarating feminist anthem disguised as just another relationship-on-the-rocks song). A much-needed break from the alternative pack. —Gail Worley
Brave and Crazy
Melissa Etheridge TRACK TITLES: 1. No Souvenirs 4:33; 2. Brave and Crazy 4:38; 3. You Used To Love To Dance 5:34; 4. The Angels 4:40; 5. You Can Sleep While I Drive 3:15; 6. Testify 4:29; 7. Let Me Go 3:56; 8. My Back Door 4:24; 9. Skin Deep 3:11; 10. Royal Station 4/16 7:09
Never Enough
Melissa Etheridge An album that never spawned hits on the magnitude of "Bring Me Some Water" or "I'm the Only One" from her debut, Melissa Etheridge's sorely overlooked third effort is a gold mine of poetic contemplation, sensual declarations, and emotional pleas. Of her first five albums, Never Enough is the one that best shows her range. Stepping away from electric guitar-based rock and blues and toward such exploratory tunes as the piano-backed "The Letting Go," the beat- and sample-driven "2001," and the uncommonly poppy "Dance Without Sleeping," Etheridge proves she's not a one-riff musician. She seems to push through her stylistic fears a bit, yet stays comfortably within the boundaries that her raspy belt can reach. Never Enough offers a healthy dose of Etheridge's trademark soul-twisting rock in the form of "Ain't it Heavy" and the angry, possessive of "It's for You." But the addition of pattern-busting songs makes this album a particularly mature, rich, pleasurable listen. —Sally Weinbach
Yes I Am
Melissa Etheridge Yes I Am is the album that catapulted Melissa Etheridge into superstardom. The 1993 collection's mercilessly driven, bluesy songs—nearly all dripping with sensual lyrics and rousing rhythms—made it the ideal breeding ground for a couple of career-enhancing music videos. The eerily possessive rock ballad "Come to My Window" hit the tube first with a bizarre twofold portrait of Etheridge and her guitar and actress Juliette Lewis having a nervous breakdown. This single brought the album into the public consciousness and was quickly followed by the similarly obsessive, slow-groovin' "I'm the Only One" and the co-dependence-battling "If I Wanted To." But the album's real strength is in the hidden gems untouched by MTV programmers. The slow-building "Silent Legacy," the undulating blues scream "Yes I Am," and the playful, acoustic "Ruins" are what make this album a whole. —Sally Weinbach
Listen Hard
Melissa Ferrick
Bluring the Edges
Meredith Brooks 12 tracks. Colombia Records release.
Deconstruction [ENHANCED CD]
Meredith Brooks When Meredith Brooks broke through with her 1997 single "Bitch," you could pretty much cut the irony with a knife: a song that was meant to show off her multidimensionality (as well as that of all women) instead became a song that defined her, and in many ways limited her. With Deconstruction, Brooks seems to be trying to take down that graven image piece by piece. Sure, there's plenty of energetic, melodic guitar rock similar to that with which she scored on Blurring the Edges ("I Have Everything," "Shout," "All For Nothing"), but there's also a funky edge to her take on Melanie's "Lay Down" (featuring a guest appearance by Queen Latifah), and some lovely ballads ("Nobody's Home," "Back to Nowhere"). Her lyrics aren't particularly deep (notably the overreaching and unfortunately titled "Cosmic Woo Woo"), but Deconstruction is a follow-up effort that should put an end to the name-calling. —Daniel Durchholz
Breakfast in the Field
Michael Hedges Released in 1981, Breakfast in the Field was part of the thrilling, early '80s rollout of "new acoustic" music unveiled by Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, where each new release and new artist seemed to yield something revelatory. The startling uniqueness of guitarist Michael Hedges's imagination and style, however, was not fully recognized until he introduced a host of tradition-jarring innovations (unexpected tunings, tappings, and rhythmic slaps) on the magnificent Aerial Boundaries three years later. Here, on just the 13th recording to carry the Windham Hill logo, the 28-year-old Hedges involves himself more with straightforward finger-picking technique—which is dazzling—and more of the peaceful, pastoral sound typically associated with early Windham Hill releases. On these terms, the disc (at a brief, vinyl-era 34 minutes) is a quiet, elegant jewel, adorned with endearing melodies ("Eleven Small Roaches," "The Unexpected Visitor"), astonishing displays of nimbleness ("Peg Leg Speed King," "Silent Anticipations"), and hints of quirkiness to come ("The Funky Avocado"). Bassist Michael Manring contributes to several tracks and even pianist George Winston, fresh off the release of Autumn and spurred by the team-spirit togetherness of early Windham Hill, lends a few notes to the reflective concluding track, "Lenono." —Terry Wood
Live on the Double Planet
Michael Hedges Michael Hedges hardly needed to prove that he was an astonishing performer in person as well as in the studio, but Live on the Double Planet does the job nonetheless. Hedges features a number of songs from his brilliant Breakfast in the Fields release, including that album's title track and the acrobatic "Silent Anticipation." He throws a few vocal numbers into the mix as well, including standard-issue covers like Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," the Beatles' "Come Together," and one from far out in left field, Sheila E's (courtesy of Prince) "A Love Bizarre." The album shows off Hedges's sense of humor as well, as he interpolates a vocal riff from the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" into "The Funky Avocado." —Daniel Durchholz
Michael Hedges Torched is the album Michael Hedges was reputedly working on when he was tragically taken from us in a car wreck in November 1997. It reveals Hedges exploring his fervent desire to be a singer/songwriter, rather than the virtuoso guitarist who influenced a generation of string-pickers. Hedges played the whole guitar, not just the strings, turning it into a tribal orchestra that rendered his gorgeous and often quirky melodies. That Hedges is rarely heard on Torched. Instead Hedges's vocal side prevails. Torched is a scattered collection of nearly completed songs and rough tracks, all highlighting his spiritual search and romantic yearnings. As a singer/songwriter, Hedges was influenced by the 1960s and '70s Jackson Browne-James Taylor axis of earnest proclamations. He's even joined by '60s veterans David Crosby and Graham Nash, who added their harmonies to "Spring Buds" after Hedges passed. On the title track, he sings of spiritual transformation by fire, adding some distorted fuzz guitar to scorched effect. On "Promised Land" he waxes biblical. There are a few instrumentals as well, including "Fusion of the Five Elements," an early, triple-speed demo for the song that wound up as the title track to Oracle, Hedges's last official album. Other pieces like "Dream Beach," "Arrowhead," and "Ursa Major" would have fit comfortably on Oracle with their wistful melodies and arrangements that have Hedges playing flutes, percussion, and keyboards in addition to guitar. Posthumous albums are always problematic. We'll never know if Hedges actually wanted these tracks to be released, and over all the vocal songs don't match his more carefully articulated Road to Return vocal album from a few years back. With Torched we're left with embers from a musician who usually gave us bonfires of brilliance. —John Diliberto
The Piano: Original Music From The Film By Jane Campion
Michael Nyman Michael Nyman came of age as a classical composer in the radical London of the late '60s. His work embraces multiple vernaculars (jazz, avant garde, conceptual art) and helped cement the foundation of what came to be known as minimalism. Decades into his career, Nyman's score to Jane Campion's film The Piano made him a star. The movie's themes of colonialism and silence (its protagonist, portrayed by Holly Hunter, cannot speak) were perfectly aligned with his longtime interests in world and ambient music. Horn players assist members of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in fleshing out Nyman's stately, hymn-like motifs. On the more heavily orchestrated cues, sentimentality wins out over minimalist restraint; the best tracks feature Nyman on solo piano, playing the rudimentary, faux period repertoire of Hunter's character. —Marc Weidenbaum
Captain Swing
Michelle Shocked
Short Sharp Shocked
Michelle Shocked The '80s folk revival yielded a diversely talented generation, some reared on the aesthetic and ideology of punk, some on their '60s singer-songwriter predecessors. They were looking for the directness of expression and connection with audience that stripped acoustic music promised. Michelle Shocked built an audience through her strident activist messages and raw, almost naked songs; she had the sincerity that the audience craved. Despite the militant cover—in which a cop is seen choking a protesting Shocked—the record is memorable for its reveries of childhood, its simple sense of hope, and Shocked's minimalist guitar and hoarse, youthful voice. —Roy Francis Kasten
Kind Hearted Woman
Michelle Shocked
Deep Natural
Michelle Shocked Although double albums are again de rigueur, the mercurial Shocked pushes the envelope on her first release in four years. Fully free from major-label duties, Shocked picks up where the quasi-gospel vibe of the limited-edition Good News left off (even reprising a few tracks) and delivers the most expressive singing of her career. She fuses deep Southern funk, Jamaican dub, ambient country-folk, and socially and sexually conscious soul (à la What's Going On) with poignantly confessional, faith-based lyrics. "The more I forgive, the more I forget/Let it go, let it go," she consoles herself. The sprawling instrumental companion disc, Dub Natural, has moments of artistic surprise (especially the supernova blues rock of "Draughts of Dublin"), though it rarely finds the purpose and spiritual poise of this set's main attraction—Shocked's ardent singing and gleaming, inspired songwriting. —Roy Kasten
Texas Campfire Takes
Michelle Shocked Re-issue includes the edited 1987 version and the complete, original & unedited session with never-before-released songs and narratives including a 52-page journal of rare photos from the 1980s. The paper sleeves & booklet are housed in a slimline cardboard box. Mighty Sound. 2003.
Arkansas Traveler
Michelle Shocked Released in 1992, the original Arkansas Traveler is a travelogue of the old-time string band and fiddle tunes Michelle grew up playing in East Texas. Out of print since 1998, it features collaborations with a jawdropping list of Americana heroes and pioneers. This reissue has been digitally remastered and includes 7 bonus tracks of previously unreleased material.
Michelle Shocked Michelle Shocked released three albums simultaneously on June 21, 2005: Mexican Standoff, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Got No Strings. They were collected together in this three-CD set, appropriately titled Threesome.

Mexican Standoff

Shocked sounds particularly playful while playing things loose on the most roots-oriented of these three albums. Stylistically, Mexican Standoff divides itself down the middle, with the first half exploring Mexican border music and the second half devoted to Texas-style blues. The Mexican music ranges from the mariachi brass of "Lonely Planet" to the conjunto accordion of "La Cantina el Gato Negro" to the torchy "Match Burns Twice." On "Wanted Man," Shocked moves into the sort of narrative territory frequented by the likes of Joe Ely and Tom Russell, while "Picoesque" matches gospel piano with vocal dramatics so over the top they amount to caricature. While the first half of the album is all over the musical map, the bluesy half is more of a piece, with stinging guitar and bedrock organ suggesting that Shocked has channeled the swaggering spirit of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.

Don't Ask Don't Tell

Don't Ask Don't Tell is the most seriously ambitious and eclectic of the three, so much so that Shocked might have considered combining the strongest tracks from its companions with the best here to make a single powerhouse release. It's also the least conceptually focused, though the centerpiece of a kiss-off song, "Hardly Gonna Miss Him," suggests a theme of love gone bad, reinforced by titles such as "Elaborate Sabotage," "Fools Like Us," "Evacuation Route" and "Goodbye." Whatever Shocked has lost with the end of a relationship, the song cycle benefits from a creative emancipation. Like a musical chameleon as she adopts various vocal styles, she sounds willing to try anything—from the jazzy sophistication of "Early Morning Saturday" to the hipster spoken-word wisdom of "How You Play the Game" to the rollicking New Orleans spirit of "Don't Tell." Most atmospherically audacious is "Don't Ask," which sounds like a cross between Dr. John in his Night Tripper days and Uncle Remus. Don't miss the unlisted bonus track, which ends Shocked's most diverse collection to date in an explosion of punk-rock fury.

Got No Strings

The most kid-friendly of the three, Got No Strings brings the spirit of swing—from western to supper-club—to a collection of Disney soundtrack tunes. The steel guitar of Greg Leisz helps transform the familiar "A Dream Is a Wish" into a honky-tonk waltz, until the sprightly fiddle of Gabe Witcher takes a break that recalls the 1930s' Hot Club of France. Shocked imbues "When You Wish upon a Star" with a breathy sophistication, gives "A Spoonful of Sugar" a bluesy tinge, and has never sounded more tender than she does on the lullaby "Baby Mine." Producer/guitarist Nick Forster of Hot Rize and band provide sprightly support throughout. From the hipster scat of "To Be a Cat" to the concluding yodel of "A Spoonful of Sugar," Shocked and her musicians sound like they're having fun. —Don McLeese

Recommended Michelle Shocked Discography

Texas Campfire Tapes
Short Sharp Shocked
Captain Swing
Arkansas Traveler
Kind Hearted Woman
Deep Natural
Kind of Blue
Miles Davis This is the one jazz record owned by people who don't listen to jazz, and with good reason. The band itself is extraordinary (proof of Miles Davis's masterful casting skills, if not of God's existence), listing John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley on saxophones, Bill Evans (or, on "Freddie Freeloader," Wynton Kelly) on piano, and the crack rhythm unit of Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Coltrane's astringency on tenor is counterpoised to Adderley's funky self on alto, with Davis moderating between them as Bill Evans conjures up a still lake of sound on which they walk. Meanwhile, the rhythm partnership of Cobb and Chambers is prepared to click off time until eternity. It was the key recording of what became modal jazz, a music free of the fixed harmonies and forms of pop songs. In Davis's men's hands it was a weightless music, but one that refused to fade into the background. In retrospect every note seems perfect, and each piece moves inexorably towards its destiny. —John Szwed
The Dark Side of the Spoon
Ministry To hear longtime Ministry mainstays Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker tell it, Dark Side of the Spoon is some sort of lighthearted comic romp. Getting there was anything but; virtually completed in 1997, most of the original Spoon was scrapped and rerecorded the following year for an eventual 1999 release. But longtime Ministry devotees needn't worry that Jourgensen and Barker have traded in the band's formulaic hard-edged mix of heavy-riffing guitars, percussion loops, and techno-industrial flourishes for a dash of Noël Coward. In fact, aside from the song titles—"Nursing Home," "Eureka Pile," "Vex and Siolence"—listeners without a lyric sheet handy are going to be hard-pressed to enjoy the witticisms present in the album's typically overwrought, electronically subverted vocals. And who knows? Maybe if one sang Gilbert and Sullivan through a distorted megaphone in an echo-prone parking structure, it would sound just like this. Allow us the liberty of mixing our equestrian metaphors: Spoon only proves how tough it is to paint a horse of a different color when you're a one-trick pony. —Jerry McCulley
The Sound of White
Missy Higgins The Australian success story of 2004, 21-year-old singer-songwriter Missy Higgins had her critically acclaimed album The Sound of White certified quintuple platinum in her homeland and won an ARIA (Australia's Grammy) for Best Pop Release. Now The Sound of White, produced by John Porter (Ryan Adams, Los Lonely Boys, The Smiths), and the sincere, earthy, passionate sound of Missy Higgins arrive to conquer America.
Lilith Fair: A Celebration Of Women In Music, Volume 2
Morcheeba Similar in scope to Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music, which captures the inaugural tour, the 1998 festival is presented on volumes 2 and 3, with each disc available separately this time around. Volume 2 offers a large dose of the folksy acoustic fare we've come to associate with VH-1 (i.e., Natalie Merchant, Lisa Loeb, Shawn Colvin), with a side helping of angry-young-woman rock (Tracy Bonham, Sinead O'Connor, Holly McNarland) and an assortment of other performers. While wholly enjoyable, the standouts are Queen Latifah's diva-style dish on "Life," O'Connor's impassioned "Fire of Babylon," Angelique Kidjo's West African pop tune "Never Know," and Emmylou Harris's duet with Sarah McLachlan on "Angel," which transports the Surfacing hit to realms heretofore unrealized. —Paige La Grone
MxPx It must be tough to be a skate-punk band with anti-authoritarian lyrics and a definite Christian bent for more than a dozen years and not switch up the formula at least a little bit. In the case of the mildly popular MXPX, their music continues to morph from the left of the dial towards the right on their tenth album. This is not a bad thing, per se. "Darkest Places" is the kind of anthem they've always excelled at, and even covered in the thick candy coating of radio-sheen production, it packs a mighty wallop. The real weak link in the band at this point is vocalist Mike Herrera. He sounds fine when reverbed and multitracked and whatever else on the choruses, but his flat delivery on many of the songs is just not enough to carry them now that they're no longer angry diatribes. He's just no Milo, you know? That said, his words are pretty ironic and great, and they do help make "Young and Depressed" and "Wrecking Hotel Rooms" into classic teen angst pop-punk songs, absolutely begging to be heard in the latest teen blockbuster. There's a reason all those old school rockers had backing singers; perhaps MXPX could borrow a few from Rod Stewart? He doesn't seem very busy these days. —Mike McGonigal
Left of the Middle
Natalie Imbruglia A cross between Alanis Morissette and Kylie Minogue, you couldn't engineer a more likely late '90s pop star than Natalie Imbrugila if you tried. Blessed with a stunning bone structure and a passable voice, Australian soap star Imbruglia and producer Phil Thornally turned Ednaswap's gritty "Torn" into a swirling pop confection. Nothing else on her debut quite matches it, in part because Left of the Middle hews closer to the center than it cares to admit. Imbruglia manages to touch on a wide range of female styles—angry ("One More Addiction"), electronica ("Big Mistake"), and yearning ("Smoke")—without leaving her fingerprints on any of them. —Steven Mirkin
White Lilies Island
Natalie Imbruglia The sophomore slump is tough for any artist, but it's got to be daunting when your worldwide smash debut four years ago (1998's Left of the Middle) dominated the charts based on someone else's song (Ednaswap's "Torn"). For her second album, pop singer Natalie Imbruglia allies herself with big-name producers/collaborators but takes a slower, moodier direction. While the singer/songwriter has maintained the key elements of her first album—a mixture of pop rock, acoustic and electronic embellishments, and gritty guitars—there's a greater sense of emotional turbulence here. The best moments on this effort are the edgier ones: the anxious opener, "That Day," with its nervous guitar and tumbling lyrics; the yearning space-pop of "Sunlight"; and the sparkling electro-acoustic rock of "Wrong Impression." Not all the tracks are keepers, but there is an appealing honesty and understated quality to White Lilies Island that makes it sound refreshing. After all, sadness can be catchy too. —Bryan Reesman
In My Hands
Natalie MacMaster In My Hands finds Natalie MacMaster pushing out even further from the traditional Cape Breton-style fiddling of her lineage, offering up her most ambitious and engaging project to date. Beginning with the ethereal dance-beat-underscored title cut, MacMaster takes on vocals for the first time, approximating something quite unexpected and altogether charming: Lisa Germano meets Rumi in a head-on collision of explosive sensuality and acid-funk ceilidh groove. Elsewhere the sprightly fiddle mistress plays ringmaster to a revolving all-star cast of musicians, including Irish accordionist Sharon Shannon, fiery flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook, Nashville fiddler Mark O'Connor, and bluegrass sweetheart Alison Krauss, who provides vocals on the crossover ballad "Get Me Through December." Despite MacMaster's envelope pushing, traditionalists need not fear; for every far-fetched "Flamenco Fling" or raving "Space Ceilidh" there's the bittersweet restraint of "The Farewell" or the simple fiddle and step-dance exuberance of "Mom's Jig." More fun than a barrel of monkeys, this set will find a wide audience. —Paige La Grone
Natalie Merchant Though the minor hits "Wonder" and "Jealousy" bore a reasonable resemblance to Merchant's work with 10,000 Maniacs, most of Tigerlily clearly established her as a solo artist apart from her former band. The record's first single, "Carnival," drove that point home, with a hook based more on rhythm than melody and the haunting voice of Katell Keineg adding an intriguing dimension to the chorus. Elsewhere, much of Tigerlily is remarkably solemn and subtle, from the low-key opener "San Andreas Fault" to the widower's lament "My Beloved Wife" to the eight-minute opus "I May Know the Word." Also of note is "River," an emotional ode to friend and fallen star River Phoenix. —Peter Blackstock
Live in Concert
Natalie Merchant With just a pair of CDs—Tigerlily and Ophelia—in her solo-career arsenal, Natalie Merchant isn't an artist you'd expect to release a live album. Perhaps Merchant is fond of playing live, which shows throughout these 11 tracks despite her relaxed, unflappable vocal delivery. The former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman leads an amped "Wonder" and then coos into "San Andreas Fault"; the latter is expansive and dramatic, a direction Merchant is exploring that's alternately off-putting and charming. Merchant's version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is even more philosophical and meditative. Add to that a languid take on Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" and you have a full-scale portrait of Merchant's mindset. The ever-somber music is limited in its emotional scope, but there are few performers in mainstream pop who excel more in that range. —Andrew Bartlett
Not Dead
New Mongrels
Silver Side Up
Nickelback Following Staind's footsteps, Nickelback make the personal public and vent a history of frustration and resentment to melodic hard rock. The band's second album, Silver Side Up, starts with "Never Again," an angry tirade against domestic violence that sheds light on the issue without too much sap or sentiment. The album's catchy radio hit "How You Remind Me" and the song "Woke Up This Morning" tell of rotting relationships, while other tracks touch on damaged hope and lost dreams. The post-grunge, alt-metal combo backing these songs packs as strong a punch as the lyrical material, going hard with lots of hooks. The additional slide guitar on "Hangnail" and sludgy, alt-metal riffs on "Hollywood," "Money Bought," and "Where Do I Hide" add a little meat to the alt-rock bones on Silver, elevating Nickelback above the heap of copycat rockers clogging the airwaves. —Jennifer Maerz
Nikka Costa Somewhere on a soulful musical timeline between Sly Stone and Joss Stone, you'll find Nikka Costa. While many find chart success by putting out palpable but forgettable pop/soul mixes, with "can'tneverdidnothin'" Costa has once again written and recorded a funk/soul/rock mix that rises her above the plethora of pseudo-soul. Coming from a family tree with deep musical roots (her father Don was a well-respected producer/arranger who worked with Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.), Nikka Costa began her recording career at the age of eight, where she scored a European hit with her cover of "Out Here On My Own" from the movie Fame. For the next 20 years, Costa put out a handful of releases she herself has downplayed as inferior before coming into her first considered `real' solo effort, the impressive, soul-filled Everybody Got Their Something. For her new release, the funk and rock has been turned up considerably; Costa's shining moments of uptempo strength come via the funk-heavy tracks, most notably during the cover of Tina Turner's "Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter", with its spectacular horn section. The CD's other highlights come in the ballads, most specifically the disc's two closers, the tender "Hey Love" and the raw emotion of "Fatherless Child" about the passing of her legendary dad. "can'tneverdidnothin'" is a disc that is rare in it's authentic, sincere groove, and it seems likely that as Costa continues to grow, so will the depth of her music. —Denise Sheppard
Tonight and the Rest of My Life
Nina Gordon Veruca Salt were a band torn between catchy pop hooks and arena rock dreams. Producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crüe) tried to help them realize the "big" sound with mixed success. Now, he's helping former Veruca Salt singer-guitarist Nina Gordon turn away from "big rock" and toward the lush power pop championed by musicians like Aimee Mann. The title track, "Now I Can Die," and "2003" feature stacked harmonies and a carefree gait that recall the melodic renaissance of early-'80s new wave, with the additional bite of modern-day production values. Hammond B-3s, pedal steels, Mellotrons, and Chamberlins add somber texture to "Horses in the City" and "Hold On to Me" without sacrificing the straight-ahead rock feel. Producer Rock adds a bit too much gloss here and there, but in any case Gordon's a power-pop diva in waiting. —Rob O'Connor
With Teeth
Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor has always been a one-trick-pony, but it's a damn good trick: sunny melodies filtered through ferocious electronics. Unfortunately, the trick's impact was often watered down by a tendency toward petulance and self-absorption. Still, almost six years after NIN's last release, The Fragile, the trick itself has lost none of its Teen-Beat-from-hell appeal. With Teeth blisters from the start with "All the Love in the World," and tracks like "The Collector" take full advantage of Dave Grohl's sledgehammer drumming. Reznor stretches occasionally, trying out different tactics, from crunchy, overtly commercial rave-ups ("The Hand That Feeds") to borderline New Wave ("Only"). But Teeth isn't about stretching. It's about doing the same trick, only better, with less clutter and more bite. By neatly distilling the sparseness of Pretty Hate Machine with Downward Sprial-style density, it ends up being the most focused record in the NIN catalog. -Matthew Cooke
Pretty Hate Machine
Nine Inch Nails Considered the breakthrough album that delivered a more palatable version of industrial music to the commercial audience, Pretty Hate Machine left its dingy mark on pop culture. The abrasive "sonarchy" of the album was first churned by despondent club-goers who roiled with the rhythms and aligned with the angst-ridden convictions. Since its release, the album's tempered deviations came to signify an aesthetic reverie for machine-driven martyrdom. Permeated by hissing engines and dissonant strains, the tracks cascade outside channels of modern complacency. Hits like "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It" are recognized by the acidic beats, piercing riffs, and lyrical hostilities which snare the listener with disparaging rhapsody. Not for the light-headed, Pretty Hate Machine afflicts the inner sanctum and strikes a nerve. —Lucas Hilbert
Rock Steady
No Doubt As much as No Doubt have protested that they are a singular unit and not "Gwen and her guys," Gwen Stefani's much-touted duets with rapper Eve and techno mogul Moby did nothing to juice the boys' spotlight, which had been steadily dimming since the release of 2000's Return of Saturn. But all that banter is silenced with Rock Steady, on which the music is definitely the star, unfettered by Gwen's cutesy-clouded feminism or dumped-by-the-boyfriend woes. Having mostly departed from their ska home base, No Doubt's well-navigated exploration of hip-hop beats, reggae, and the reunion of '80s keyboards and guitars finds the group picking up the pop-rock baton that Garbage dropped with an unsettling thud. Rock Steady's delegate of stalwart producers perfectly decorate the disc with their respective expertise; Ric Ocasek (new wave), Prince (R&B), Nellee Hooper (trip-hop), Sly & Robbie (dub), and William Orbit (trance) offer some staying power to music that's always been on the edge of disposable. Despite their disparate styles, the songs complement each other like stars and stripes. This is No Doubt's best album to date, and as they continue to expand their influences, the party only gets bigger. —Beth Massa
The Singles 1992-2003
No Doubt Though they've suffered death, departure and fraught internal and external relationships, No Doubt have kept faith with fun throughout, as The Singles very clearly proves. As their troubles have made them far from prolific, it's culled almost entirely from three albums—Return of Saturn, Rock Steady and their mega-hit Tragic Kingdom—with just the quirky, warped ska of "Trapped in a Box" to represent their eponymously titled major label debut.

As said, it's excellent fun, from the opening power anthem "Just a Girl", through the ultra-modern, Madonna-like "Hey Baby" and the urgent, melodious power pop of "Excuse Me Mr" to the Chicago-style break-up ballad "Don't Speak". It's easy to see how this colourful band of Anaheim skanksters came to be seen as an energising antidote to the crushing male miserabilism of grunge. There are a few extras; a reverent cover of Talk Talk's "It's My Life", a dance-metal "Hey Baby" remix and a live repeat of the cute, Leonard Cohen-quoting "Underneath It All", featuring Gwen Stefani's vocal and a simple acoustic guitar. But, naturally, it's the hits that count and they're all here, every bouncing, beaming one of them. It's a fine testament to one of America's most enduring pop acts. —Dominic Wills
The Offspring It seems like the terms catchy and punk shouldn't go together, but for the Offspring, they do. Listening to Ignition, one gets the sense of rage tightly controlled, powering the band's uptempo, driving material. While their sensibility is firmly punk, the Offspring have clearly borrowed from heavy metal for their chord progressions and guitar sound—check out the solos on "Nothing from Something" and "Forever and a Day." While this album didn't have the major-label success of its follow-up, Smash, all the ingredients that made that record a hit are here, if not quite as refined: angry, incisive lyrics; fast-driving rhythms; and—dare one say it—melodic chord progressions. It's easy to hear why Ignition was an underground hit and why the Offspring's later records, while somewhat diluted, have been so successful. —Genevieve Williams
Dead Man's Party
Oingo Boingo Before he wrote half the soundtracks in the world (Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas) Danny Elfman led himself an eccentric little rock band called Oingo Boingo. Actually they weren't so little; in fact, the eight-man band boasted one of rock's finest horn sections in addition to Elfman's devilishly good, often humorous songs. Dead Man's Party is Boingo's finest hour, melding their whacked-out mix of XTC, Frank Zappa, and Tower of Power with a genuine pop sensibility. Elfman is in perfect vocal form here, leading the combo through their biggest hit, "Weird Science" (which put Elfman on the soundtrack path) as well as Boingo chestnuts "Fool's Paradise" and the infectious, macabre title track. —Michael Ruby
Pretend I'm Human
Orange 9mm
Vapor Transmission
Orgy As good as Orgy's 1998 debut Candyass was, Vapor Transmission (2000) kicks things up a notch. The Los Angeles-based five-piece goes straight for the jugular this time, abandoning new wave covers and creating a few fresh classics along the way. The result sounds like Depeche Mode after several consecutive viewings of Blade Runner: edgy, moody, and armed to the teeth with enough sonic bombast to jumpstart techno-goth fans everywhere. Vocalist Jay Gordon's hoarse histrionics are perfect for the band's surreal paranoia and lust; imagine a romanticism with room for lyrics such as "Transglobal spectacle with post mortem and fame / Popsicle cannibal, can you hear me?" The production by Skinny Puppy's Dave "Rave" Ogilvie is a bright purple fluid that turns Orgy's blood into a deep murk, dark but dazzling. While Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson may be the most prominent techno-rockers, Orgy's Transmissions are louder and clearer.—Jason Josephes
Here We Are
Paul Simon 1964-1993
Paul Simon In contrast to the single-CD Negotiations and Love Songs, which skates swiftly across his solo canon, this three-disc box follows Paul Simon's evolution from the folk-rock of Simon & Garfunkel toward a highly personalized synthesis of pop, vintage rock, folk, and world music. Laid out in chronological order, 1964-1993 reminds us that the Queens, New York, troubadour was dabbling in hymn-lined melodies, Third World accents, and doo-wop melisma long before Graceland or Songs from the Capeman. While Simon's painstaking craft produced little in the way of shelf material (consisting here of a long unreleased track, "Thelma," a solo demo for "Bridge over Troubled Water," and live versions of six other classics), the set does make room for sturdy gems, including "Slip Slidin' Away" and a satisfying array of his enduring album tracks. —Sam Sutherland
This Fire
Paula Cole After a promising but overlooked debut album, Paula Cole kept the bills paid with a fateful stint as Peter Gabriel's vocal foil on his 1994 Secret World tour. Gabriel's immersion in richly theatrical, primal vocals only magnified Cole's already fevered attack; it's obvious that his sense of adventure as a producer and writer also struck conceptual sparks with the Massachusetts singer-songwriter. This Fire, Cole's self-produced 1996 breakthrough, finds her investing her songs with outsized emotions, framed by consistently inventive arrangements built around Cole's keyboards, and reaching a zeitgeist-piercing intensity on "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait," making Cole seem very much like Fiona Apple's older, slightly less cracked sister. —Sam Sutherland
Paula Cole Paula Cole's third release is a lesson in sticking to what you know. A trained jazz vocalist, Cole uses this studied vocal styling with great affect. Never overusing her vibrato, she breathes a unique and emotional character into each song with a well-placed whisper, unexpectedly powerful crescendo, or a desperate, aching wail. One moment she portrays a freestyling beat-poet rapper ("Rhythm of Life"), the next a tragically downtrodden blues mamma ("La Tonya"). She also knows how to produce a song. On "Free," sitar uncoils behind a scrim of dark ethereal notions. The title track has bright acoustic-guitar melodies dancing on shimmering synths that resonate like the rim of a crystal water glass caressed by a wet fingertip. Throughout, she builds a foundation of sprawling, blooming musicality adapted from her preceptor Peter Gabriel. But lyrically, Cole slips into her bad habit of harping on the obvious. On "Amen" a DJ's scratch flips a switch in the middle of the song where Cole begins spouting a list of notorious characters in need of repentance, citing Saddam Hussein, Jack Kevorkian, O.J. Simpson, and all Reagan-era republicans. Exhibiting a Jewel-esque naiveté on "Be Somebody," she advises, "In the face of totality, show the other cheek." The lyrics are trite, but after a few listens, they're a minor distraction from the mighty-fine body of music contained in this release. Amen to that. —Beth Massa
Song Yet to Be Sung
Perry Farrell Perry Farrell has always been an unconventional figure in music. His band Jane's Addiction fused punk and metal aggression with tripped-out Eastern melodies, becoming influential predecessors to future legions of modern alternative rockers. As the mastermind behind the huge left-of-the-dial Lollapalooza festival, he brought together some of the coolest names in rock, rap, metal, and punk for groundbreaking arena shows across the country. Never one to sit still, Farrell continues to test out new avenues for his creative musical energy, and nowhere is this more clear than on Song Yet to Be Sung. This album is Farrell's first full-length step into the electronic world he's inhabited for years as a DJ. He's fallen in love with the idea that two turntables can unite different cultures and take them to a higher place, and Song is a celebration of that spiritual elevation from the everyday. It's also a celebration of the Hebrew Jubilee, a time of renewal in which all burdensome ties are released in the name of community forgiveness. Musically, Song swirls different styles—downtempo, drum & bass, techno, dub, world, and a little rock—around a softer version of Farrell's signature wail. It's an upbeat mix that swells with optimism while generating a deep musical groove. Overall, Song shows Farrell as a musical Midas who continues to turn each new project he embarks on into gold. —Jennifer Maerz
Passion: Music For The Last Temptation Of Christ
Peter Gabriel To call Peter Gabriel's Passion a pivotal recording in the development of the world music genre would be a significant understatement. What makes Passion so undeniably huge is, of course, its global reach but also its expert handling of what could've easily become polyglot babble. Vocalists Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Youssou N'Dour, and Baaba Mal bring strong Middle Eastern and African voicing to the project, and Balkan textures come via the ney flute and doudouk. But Gabriel is the glue, offering electronic ambient flows between the multiple streams. Gabriel also brings something even less tangible: an awesome visual imagination that takes often seamless sounds and makes them impress the listener with picturelike colors and phrasing. This is, however, far more than an ambient global mix. To be certain, the intertwined rhythms stand out but always do so both unto themselves and as brushstrokes on a larger canvas. Never mind that Passion helped launch North American careers for N'Dour and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, this is a stellar musical achievement by any standard. —Andrew Bartlett
Peter Gabriel So is generally regarded as a peak in Gabriel's recording career, notable both for its solid set of songs and lush yet musicianly production. For Gabriel, who'd put his music in theatrical contexts ever since his days with Genesis, the modern sound of So (co-produced with Daniel Lanois) was itself a dramatic conceit that effectively played off the more organic roots of many of its songs. The album's big hit was "Sledgehammer," the English rocker's somewhat stilted take on the Stax/Volt style of rhythm & blues. Gabriel was much more powerful on his own art-rock songs, such as "Red Rain," which evoked nuclear ruin with its cascading rush of guitars and synthesizers. "Don't Give Up" is perhaps Gabriel's best ballad, with Kate Bush's heavenly second vocal enough to give anybody encouragement. But the song that best exploited So's blend of technology and soul is "In Your Eyes," a beguiling rhythmic tapestry in which Gabriel duets with Youssou N'dour. —John Milward
Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats
Peter Gabriel Subtitled - 16 Golden Greats. UK reissue of 1990 compilation, remastered at Metropolis Mastering, London by Tony Cousins (Brian Eno, David Sylvian). Repackaged with a slipcase and revamped 12 page booklet.
Goofyfoot EP
The Wall
Pink Floyd The Wall is less a collection of songs than a single work, which is sometimes frustrating; the plot lacks enough coherence to hold the snippets of music together. However, there are occasional flashes of brilliance on what ranks as Pink Floyd's most ambitious project. Most of these come from the fully developed songs, which have become classics in their own right. "Hey You," "Mother," and especially "Comfortably Numb" are subtle, incredible pieces of music. Though complex, they move at a relaxed pace, allowing the listener to absorb them slowly; this kind of pacing was something Pink Floyd excelled at. Also worth noting is the "Another Brick in the Wall/The Happiest Days of Our Lives" medley, which has become a staple of rock radio. —Genevieve Williams
Is This Desire?
PJ Harvey Each of Harvey's previous albums has been a distinct affair as she took steps forward in not only forging her sound but also exploring the wealthy veins of rock & roll. So on first listen, Is This Desire? almost disappoints; it's very close to the same dark, woozy, and bluesy musical territory she staked out on To Bring You My Love. But it's been said that though good stories can be read once, great stories must be read twice, and, like great literature, this album deserves repeated listenings to appreciate its beautiful complexities and subtle shadings. A recommendation: Spend a few nonstop hours with Is This Desire? It will change you. —Tod Nelson
Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea
Poi Dog Pondering
Every Breath You Take: The Singles
The Police
The Singles
The Pretenders Ignoring the "Precious" side of Chrissie Hynde's rocking and writing, The Singles still captures a good bit of what was special about her in the '80s. Bopping assertions of strength ("Brass in Pocket"), wistful dreaminess ("Talk of the Town"), flat-out weepers ("2000 Miles"), her tough-mom attitude ("Middle of the Road")—the many sides of her seven-inches are generously surveyed herein. —Rickey Wright
The New Romance
Pretty Girls Make Graves
Music for the Jilted Generation
The Prodigy Japanese reissue of the British electronica act's 1995 album. CBS. 2004.
Chakra Red
Project Pitchfork
Out of Time
R.E.M. Though R.E.M. titled a later album Monster, this 1991 smash was the true monster, with the little Athens, Georgia, quartet graduating once and for all from its jangling independent-rock roots. The confusion Michael Stipe communicates in the catchy "Losing My Religion" and the dark-and-dreamy "Low" hit the mainstream-rock audience when it was most primed for uneasy angst. (Nirvana's Nevermind was released a few months later.) There are also odd but successful experiments, like ceding the opening "Radio Song" to rapper KRS-One (with Stipe playing the moaning straight man) and going peppy for the surprisingly nonsarcastic "Shiny Happy People." —Steve Knopper
Around the Sun
R.E.M. Having delivered their last great album with 1992's haunting Automatic For the People, R.E.M. spent more than decade attempting all kinds of reinvention, from the pointlessly noisy Monster to the painfully dull Up. But with Around the Sun it feels like the band is getting its bearings back. Not only is it the Georgia trio's most consistent album since the 1997 departure of drummer Bill Berry, but it also sees the return of the lush imagery and intricate playing of the band's vintage years. There are trains, mandolins, Man Ray skies. More importantly, it seems heartfelt. Witness the gorgeous disquietingly dark opener "Leaving New York," the rapturous folk of "I Wanted to Be Wrong" and the solidly intense "Boy In the Well." At 13 generous tracks, it's far from perfect but—just when everyone thought R.E.M. was down for the count—Around the Sun is an unexpected bruiser of a comeback. —Aidin Vaziri
Rachael Sage
Rachael Sage, RACHAEL
The Little Prince
Rachel Portman This may not be the most sophisticated opera undertaking of the decade, but it's one of the loveliest. There are precious few operas which really appeal to children—I've never seen a child sit through Hansel and Gretel without fidgeting—but this one is magical. Composer Rachel Portman is well-known and respected as a composer for film; she has among her credits The Cider House Rules, The Human Stain, Chocolat, not to mention Emma (1996), for which she won an Oscar. Antoine de Saint-Exupery's novella Le Petit Prince is a sentimental favorite of millions, and it's easy to explain why: the combination of poignancy and perception, and the wistfully sad relationship between the Prince from another planet and the downed pilot, which ends in a transcendent acceptance of death, is exquisite once the refusal to believe is eliminated. If you meet the work half way, you're absorbed entirely. Portman's music, and this performance, will bring you right into the vividly colored dream in an entirely accessible idiom. It would be easy but fruitless to condescend to this work. It's just so pretty, and the performances so fine, that all criticism falls by the wayside. Treble Joseph McManners is an ideal Prince; he never makes you sick with cuteness. Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes is always believable in the role of the Pilot—and this is not an easy, throwaway part. The familiar Leslie Garrett, Tom Randle, and Willard White are on hand as soloists too, and former boy soprano Aled Jones makes a cameo. This is beautiful, charming music that complements the words. The more one hears the music itself, the more unselfconsciously enchanting it becomes. Drop your pre-conceptions and enjoy. —Robert Levine
Kid A
Radiohead How is it that Kid A's opening track, laden with an electronic vocal stuttering "bleh, bluh-bleh bleh bluh" is the most fascinating statement made in rock & roll this year? Because somehow, even when Radiohead blathers and blips nonsense, it's profound. The band's future-perfect musical grammar may be hard to decipher, and the melody is even more subliminal, but the journey traveled with Radiohead reveals them to be not only rock music's greatest adventurers in 2000, but teachers as well. —Beth Massa
How We Quit the Forest
Rasputina You can litmus-test yourself with the name alone. If you don't appreciate the stained-glass humor of a trio of corseted female cellists warping the moniker of the Mad Monk, chances are you're going to despise the creepy, Gothic-edged sonatas on this sophomore CD, easily one of the year's most curious releases. Get the gag? Good. You're in for one hell of a strange sonic trip, with campy bandleader Melora Creager as your wisecracking guide. "Strange" as in a nimble plucking of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" chestnut. Or an intensely fiddled send up of the DeBeers jewelry commercial, "Diamond Mind," with Creager commanding: "I want that diamond!/I want that thing!/A tennis bracelet, a ring!" Elsewhere, the disc is alternately jarring ("LeechWife," "Olde HeadBoard") and gentle ("Rose K," "Herb Girls of Birkenau"). Creager's subject matter gets downright sinister at times. Where else can you hear yarns concerning the ancient medical practice of leech application? Heel to shovel, Creager digs deep into the catacombs of the surreal until you have no choice but to dig Rasputina. —Tom Lanham
Genius & Friends
Ray Charles It doesn't take a lot of marquee names to sell a Ray Charles record, but the Genius proved long before 2004's Genius Loves Company that he was a master collaborator as well as a very natural one. On Genius & Friends, Rhino Records smartly capitalizes on Charles's gift for investing any duet with both backbone and bluesy, velvety soul by rounding up recordings he made in 1997 and 1998 and swelling them with the sounds of artists he inspired. The result is both brilliant and frustrating: brilliant because artists like Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight, and Patti LaBelle so reliably tread their tracks with care and affection, reining in all that raw vocal power where a song requires it; and frustrating because it would have been incredible to hear each of the very different artists gathered here trading verses with Brother Ray in real time—producer Phil Ramone fused these songs together. (In two cases, we do get the pleasure: "Big Bad Love", recorded in 1994 with Diana Ross for the film The Favor, and "Busted," recorded live in 1991 with Willie Nelson.) To the producers' credit (add Ahmet Ertegun and Quincy Jones to Ramone) the audio wizardry required to make this disc does not once interfere with the sense it conveys that the chosen artists really were Ray Charles's friends. Hear it especially on the Idina Menzel heartwarmer "I Will Be There" and Blige's "It All Goes By So Fast," as silkily convincing as it is bittersweet. —Tammy La Gorce
Razed in Black
Razed in Black The highly anticipated, revolutionary 2003 studio album from under ground industrial icons Razed In Black! Features the singles 'Share This Poison', 'Vision' (featuring Athan Maroulis of Spahn Ranch) and 'Blush'. Includes 8 remixes and 2 bonus live videos 'Master' (performed at The Key Club-Los Angeles) & 'Overflow' (fan clips from 50 States). Deluxe digipak. Cleopatra.
Under the Table and Above the Sun
Reckless Kelly
The Way I Feel
Remy Shand Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a very cold place. Perhaps Remy Shand's debut, recorded in his Winnipeg bedroom, is his effort to cozify the Canadian city. It's a warm slice of the vintage soul that's been popularized by artists like D'Angelo and Maxwell, replete with shimmering musical touches—a clavinet here, a Rhodes there. Shand's falsetto often mimics, and at times evokes, soul legends, though his sometimes skinny delivery lacks both the pelvic thrust and the world-on-my-shoulders weight of the genre's finest. Songs like "Take a Message" are winsome, if wispy, in their romantic sentiments. "Rocksteady" features lovely instrumentation punctuating Shand's vocals, while the heftier "Liberate" finds him rebelling against an unnamed enemy (the Mounties?). Pleasant, but not always convincing. —Cristina Restrepo
Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?
Revolting Cocks
Cocked and Loaded
Revolting Cocks
Richard & Danny Thompson
Metro Blue
Richard Elliot Tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot was a member of the legendary horn line in Tower of Power, so it's no surprise that funky and soulful grooves empower Metro Blue. From the cascading lines in the opening "Inside Out" to the ethereal balladry of the closing title track, Elliot's playing ties the set together with undeniable personality. Urban and nocturnal in character, the ten songs are infused with a sense of the organic, through those warm and human sax lines. Trumpet and flugelhorn player Rick Braun is also a key member, playing off of, or in tandem with, Elliot. He also co-produced and his keyboard elements add an emotional layer throughout, such as when he utilizes the sound of pizzicato strings on "People Make the World Go Round." —David Greenberger
Richard Strauss: 5 Great Tone Poems
Richard Strauss
Across a Crowded Room
Richard Thompson
Rumor and Sigh
Richard Thompson His odyssey through British and American folk and rock has taken Richard Thompson from Fairport Convention's initial stabs at becoming England's Jefferson Airplane to deserved status as an inimitable guitarist and songwriter; "possessor of the magic touch," as the Fairport anthem "Come All Ye" aptly dubbed him. Also playing Stratocaster, acoustic guitar, or mandolin, he has written an astonishing body of songs that can time-travel from moor and meadow to factory town and cyberspace and keep both tragedy and farce in focus. This superb 1991 solo album is no exception. Spurred by his darting electric jigs and reels, up-to-the-minute and old as the hills, the set juggles traditional forms and modern production to comment on sex education ("Read About Love"), homicide ("I Feel So Good") and, as always, love gone wrong ("I Misunderstood") or tragically interrupted ("1952 Vincent Black Lightning," at once a gentle parody of Beach Boys car songs and a rigorously constructed acoustic ballad). —Sam Sutherland
Mock Tudor
Richard Thompson A literate songwriter and fearlessly talented guitarist, Richard Thompson is also a complete bust when it comes to romance. Or so Mock Tudor, which details love gone wrong from an early age to present, suggests over and over. Fortunately, Thompson makes his troubles worth our concern, thanks to his mix of wounded perseverance ("Dry My Tears and Move On") and all-out bile (the vindictive but ultimately self-destructive "Hope You Like the New Me"). —Keith Moerer
Front Parlour Ballads
Richard Thompson This selection of largely acoustic, predominately solo performances finds Richard Thompson trading the guitar pyrotechnics of his electric albums for greater intimacy, vocal subtlety, and emphasis on his storytelling lyrics. Though this is Thompson's first acoustic release of all-original material, "Row, Boys, Row" and "The Boys of Mutton Street" could pass as traditional British folk balladry, while the droll humor and stately musical grace of "Miss Patsy" recall some of Thompson's early work with Fairport Convention. The songwriting is as ambitious as the arrangements are minimal, from the bitter misanthropy of the character study in "A Solitary Life" to the bittersweet yearning of "Cressida" to the hypnotic insistence of "My Soul, My Soul." In "Let It Blow," Thompson applies his sharp wit to the tale of a serial husband with a penchant for quickie marriages, as the weddings signal the end of the romance. Even when he turns down the volume, he never tones down the creative intensity. —Don McLeese

Recommended Richard Thompson Discography

Fairport Convention, Unhalfbricking
Fairport Convention, Liege & Lief
Fairport Convention, Full House
Richard & Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Richard & Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights
Hand of Kindness
23 AM
Robert Miles Japanese Release to Contain Bonus Track(S).
Live 2002
Robin Williams \""\""These are Troubled Times My Friend,\""\"" and no one can make non-sense of them like Robin Williams. The Academy Award actor and Grammy-winning takes the stage for his first stand-up concerts in 15 years.
No Track Information Available
Media Type: CD
Title: LIVE 2002
Street Release Date: 11/19/2002
Robinella & the CC String Band
Robinella & the CC String Band Most jazz-country hybrids tend to emphasize the instrumental side of the equation, but Robinella and the CCStringband, a mostly acoustic bluegrass-tinged quintet from Knoxville, Tennessee, break the mold by putting Robinella Contreras's stylish vocals front and center. When she sings about getting her kicks from an old fruit jar on her version of Red Foley's classic "Tennessee Saturday Night," her sophisticated phrasing and the swinging mandolin breaks from her husband Cruz Contreras make it sound as if she's talking about martinis instead of moonshine. But Contreras still has some twang in her voice, and even when she scats, as she does on "Honey Honey Bee," there's a "front porch" feel to her singing. For some, Robinella and the CCStringband may sometimes be a bit too laid back, but their easygoing charm is a pleasant change from the frenetic tempos that drive many bluegrass-inspired bands. —Michael Simmons
Blanket For My Soul EP
Robinella and the CC String Band An EP, of tracks compiled from their previously independenly released albums. TRACKS; 1.Feeling Good 2.I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me 3.In The Dark 4.White Lightnin' 5.Blanket For My Soul 6.Mistakes 7.Gospel Medley
The Wall: Live in Berlin, 1990
Roger Waters Roger Waters staged this all-star revival of his Pink Floyd grand opus 11 years after the Floyd original and 7 years after The Final Cut, his last work with the band. It's a curious artifact of its time, as evidenced by the presence of the Hooters. Enlisting a mish-mashed cast of turn-of-the-decade stars, ranging from the Scorpions to Bryan Adams to Joni Mitchell, Waters attempts to give his production a new relevance. And, of course, where timeliness is concerned, there was some other business involving a wall going on in Berlin 'round about then. But aside from scattered highlights from the likes of Van Morrison (whose commanding "Comfortably Numb" makes one long to hear more from the Van the Man in a rock setting) and Sinead O'Connor ("Mother" is yet another example of her estimable interpretive powers), this Wall isn't so imposing as its studio predecessor. —Steven Stolder
A Black and White Night Live
Roy Orbison & Friends
Single Bullet Theory
Running With Scissors 1. (Hey You, Are You) Asleep 2. Single Bullet Theory 3. Act Your Age 4. Sorry 5. Liar 6. Kings and Queens 7. *@!#?! 8. Laughing 9. Rage 10. My Funny Valentine
Excuses for Bad Behavior, Pt. 1
Sandra Bernhard
Sandström: The High Mass
Santana How could Carlos Santana hope to follow the massive comeback album Supernatural? The solution he settled upon was to once again pull in as many guest artists as possible. Shaman features a slew of stars, but, despite their presence, the instrumental "Victory Is Won" is the standout track here, as Santana blazes through an exhibition of his patented fusion of Latin and rock. In contrast, the sugary pop single "The Game of Love," sung by Michelle Branch, illustrates the lack of consistency that mars the album. Only Ozomatli and Macy Gray seem to totally get Santana. That said, his cover of Angelique Kidjo's "Adouma" is storming, and Santana stands strong when he ventures into world-music territory ("Foo Foo," "Aye, Aye"). However, if the celebrated guitarist had concentrated a little more on who he is and not on who he believes people would like him to be, he'd have made a better album. —Jake Barnes
Sarah Brightman Andrew Lloyd Weber's favorite leading lady will quickly make her mark as a pop artiste. Vocally, the Kate Bush analogy is accurate, but Brightman is far less adventurous and hence more accessible. —Jeff Bateman
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Sarah McLachlan Pre-Lilith Fair, McLachlan had critical acclaim and a cult following but was otherwise just another hard-working female singer/songwriter—one who wasn't blasting down doors with overt sexuality or popping along in front of a male Svengali. Similar in their emotional urgency to her more recent work but delightfully less polished, these folk-rock songs are surprising gems. If not for McLachlan's poignant vocals, lyrics like "Your love is better than ice cream" (on "Ice Cream") would sound childishly absurd (especially alongside deeper material like "Hold On"), but here they're given just as much respect as the weightier issues she explores. A great album to accompany your moments of introspection. —Rebecca Wallwork
Sarah McLachlan There's the requisite number of gorgeously melodic and deeply heartfelt songs here—the addictive "Sweet Surrender," the Hollywood-style ballad "I Love You," the sad, profound "Angel," the flat-out spectacular "Witness." McLachlan's not prolific, but this short, bittersweet album proves again that what she and producer Pierre Marchand do release is cut from the finest of cloth. —Jeff Bateman
Bloom Remix Album
Sarah McLachlan Many remixed CDs are mildly amusing at best. Sarah McLachlan's Bloom, on the other hand, is a showcase of world-class musicians reworking her timeless compositions to match their compelling styles, rather than just adding dance beats to pre-existing Sarah songs. The list of contributors to this collection is most impressive, likely to bring non-folk fans into her fold. Reggae legends Sly & Robbie have done some amazing dub-meets-downtempo work on "Train Wreck," arguably improving upon the original cut. DMC (of Run DMC fame) collaborates with Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas to turn out the very BEP-sounding track "Just Like Me," which is centered around McLachlan singing the chorus of "Cats In The Cradle." Famed South Asian DJ Talvin Singh has created a rich, tabla and sitar-infused take on the achingly beautiful "Answer," guaranteed to be a hit at yoga studios and aromatherapy shops everywhere. As far as the other songs are concerned, the majority are amped-up and turned into house music, especially Amsterdam legend Junkie XL's "World On Fire" and the (80's-esque driving beat of "Vox," mixed by Tom Middleton. Ironically, some of the best and brightest moments on Bloom occur when the strong cast of DJs and producers create compositions significantly different from McLachlan's masterful originals. The talent of Sly & Robbie, Talvin Singh, DMC, and Thievery Corporation alone make this album well worth acquiring. —Denise Sheppard
Sarah McLachlan An album like this could cement Sarah McLachlan as a middle-of-the-road crooner ready for the Andy Williams Christmas Show, but there's more beneath the surface of Wintersong than just Christmas chestnuts, over-roasting on an open fire. Longtime McLachlan producer Pierre Marchand blurs the borders with ambient sound effects, distorted guitars, and subtle echoes. He adds a Mark Isham-esque muted trumpet solo emerging out of reverse echoes on "I'll Be Home for Christmas" as if viewing the song through a distorted mirror. Violins that sound like they're being blown through a Leslie speaker combine unpredictably with a banjo on "O Little Town of Bethlehem." And on the seventh song, McLachlan finally kicks the album into another gear, turning "The First Noël" into a storming entreaty backed by tribal drums and surging low strings. Her voice is like the serene angel amidst the raging storm. I wish McLachlan had taken more chances like this, instead of the subtle framing she employs around melodies that remain true to form. Surprisingly, the more contemporary songs by John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot are the least inventive. Her reading of Mitchell's incandescently wistful "River" is overly faithful to the original, and Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" sounds like karaoke, right down to the Spector-esque production and children's choir. But given that Lennon's prayer for peace still remains unanswered, that fidelity could be intentional. Regardless, this is familiar Christmas fare delivered in an intimate and ethereal fashion that will satisfy those who believe in the nostalgic spirit of the season. —John Diliberto

More from Sarah McLachlan

Mirrorball: The Complete Concert


Fumbling Towards Ecstasy


VH1 Storytellers: Sarah McLachlan (DVD)

Savage Garden
Savage Garden As these two boys from Brisbane, Australia, know, it doesn't hurt to be endorsed by Rosie O'Donnell. When the Queen of Nice sang the words to "I Want You" and the praises of the duo behind it, the song catapulted up the charts. Largely ignored by the serious music press, Savage Garden have cultivated a vast fan base on the strength of their music—and airplay—alone. As formulaic as it may appear, the ballad "Truly Madly Deeply" was lodged at No. 1 for week after week for a reason—it's damn catchy and a welcome reprieve from overdone rock ballads. Lead singer Darren Hayes lends the same yearning vocal style to the third—and best—single from the album, "To the Moon & Back," a slice of synth-pop genius that culminates in a dramatic crescendo of strings, courtesy of coleader Daniel Jones. —Rebecca Wallwork
Thunder Mountain: The Best of Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald
White Stones
Secret Garden Two factors account for the broad-based popularity of Secret Garden (the duo of Norwegian keyboardist Rolf Lovland and Irish violinist Fionnuala Sherry). One: the twosome's attractive, smartly conceived mix of compatible elements including light classical, urbane New Age, and well-mannered contemporary Celtic. Two: the pair's ability to persuasively present this formula with poise and (crucially) fetching good looks in a concert film, which in 1999 enjoyed broad exposure on American public television. (The performance, A Night with Secret Garden, is available on DVD.) White Stones is Lovland and Sherry's second collaboration, and, despite a few side trips into weighty sentimentality (e.g., the heart-clutching earnestness of "First Day of Spring"), it nicely conveys the pair's simple yet endearing children-of-the-cosmos spirit. Highlights here include the disc's energized, Celtic-influenced tunes ("Steps," "Moving," "Escape") and an infectious, regal charmer ("Celebration") Lovland composed in honor of the Queen of Norway's 60th birthday. Accompanied on nearly every piece by a small orchestra or Celtic instrumentalists, Sherry's violin sometimes evokes moods of melancholy that seem better suited for a two-hanky, movie-of-the-week film score. Yet a piece such as "Hymn to Hope" shows she can also elegantly trigger deeper feelings of longing and anticipation that can linger for hours. Overall, a worthwhile listen. —Terry Wood
20 Greatests Hits
Sha Na Na
Laundry Service
Shakira No Description Available
No Track Information Available
Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 11/13/2001
Fijacion Oral vol. 1
Shakira It's thrilling—in any language—to hear new music from Colombian superstar Shakira. And it's been a long time coming. Shakira's English crossover opus, Laundry Service, was released in 2001. The Spanish Donde Estan Los Ladrones came three years before that. Fijacion Oral, Volumen 1 is the first of two new discs; an English counterpart is due in November. Shakira's bleating, biting voice is in fine form, and it gives the material an electric urgency. She's girlish and innocent during the glittering "Dia de Enero" and sensual and seductive amid the thundering beats of "Lo Imprescindible." A talented stable of producers, including former Soda Stereo vocalist Gustavo Cerati, has swathed Shakira in rhythm-based arrangements. But the album's best moments come when Shakira channels her inner—and innate—rock goddess. "La Tortura" is a hurts-so-good break-up duet with Alejandro Sanz, and "Escondite Ingles" rides a beach-party guitar groove. —Joey Guerra
Oral Fixation Vol. 2
Shakira The English-language Oral Fixation Vol. 2 finds Shakira reclaiming some of the bite she showcased on 1998's smashing Donde Estan Los Ladrones? The Colombian rock goddess is making up for lost time: this is her second disc of new material in 2005. It's quite a feat, considering the four-year gap since Laundry Service, her scattershot, English-language debut album. Oral Fixation Vol. 2 is more mature and better focused than the spin-cycle pop of that 2001 disc. Kick-off track "How Do You Do" starts with a haunting reading of "The Lord's Prayer" before launching into a risky questioning of faith and religion. Shakira touches on the highs and lows of celebrity on a trio of tracks—the bittersweet "Your Embrace," the guitar-driven "Costume Makes the Clown," and the disco-fied, politically charged "Timor." Selfish men and failed relationships—two oft-mentioned topics of interest—anchor much of Oral Fixation Vol. 2. First single "Don't Bother" is a bitter ode to strength, jealousy, and survival; "Dreams for Plans" is a wistful collage of relationship memories; and Carlos Santana slides a sexy guitar riff under soulful standout track "Illegal." The purple haze of Prince hangs over "Animal City," one of the disc's most inventive moments. It's a free-wheeling melange of rock riffs, electronic accents, mariachi horns and confident vocals. Two songs from Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 make appearances—the somber "Something" and "The Day and the Time," which improves greatly upon its Spanish counterpart. Vol. 1, while at times enjoyable, was a portrait of a gifted artist struggling to keep her footing and retain her confidence. Oral Fixation Vol. 2 finds Shakira embracing the eclectic beauty within. It's a wonderful sound. —Joey Guerra
Jukebox Sparrows
Shannon McNally The southern aura of Shannon McNally's full-length debut belies more than her own geographic origins on Long Island's South Shore. Indeed, McNally seems to have absorbed a generation or three of classic American blues, folk, and country influences with nary an ounce of self-consciousness or strained irony. Coupled with "Now That I Know"'s easy, emblematic pop sense and her natural phrasing, McNally's viewpoints range from cynically clear-eyed modern romanticism ("Down and Dirty," "Bolder Than Paradise") to the chilling rape-themed narrative "It Could've Been Me" to the surprising, jazzy impressionism of "Colorado." Comparisons to Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt come naturally, but McNally's musical ambitions are distinctly broader, especially for a singer so early in her career. If the album's midtempo groove occasionally simmers too long, the spare sheen of Ron Aniello's production and stellar session work from the likes of Jim Keltner, James Gadson, Benmont Tench, and Greg Leisz impart a mature, accomplished sensibility. And just when you might think you've got McNally pegged, along comes her most promising delight, a playfully experimental title track rife with ambient samples, a rap-blues inflected telephone-voice narrative, murky rhythms, and bop-inspired instrumental flourishes. A VH1-ready visage has gained her some press, but don't let that distract you. Just trust your ears. —Jerry McCulley
Shannon McNally Geronimo, the follow-up to Shannon McNally's intoxicating 2002 debut, Jukebox Sparrows, follows the same rootsy pop/R&B/folk/alt-country path, yet goes the distance to prove that the transplanted New Yorker, now living in New Orleans and soaking up the bayou blues, is more than just a Sheryl Crow/Bonnie Raitt clone. Her songwriting—deft, atmospheric, and loaded with memorable lines ("Listening for the sound of my last hope hitting the ground")—settles mainly on the searing emotional pain of romantic dissolution, yet always offers enough irony and universal touchstones (e.g., running into an old lover by chance) to win over even the most casual listener. She hits her stride on the title cut, which uses the sad, shameful defeat of the Native Americans as the subtheme to a well-fought battle of love. As on her debut, McNally rarely veers out of a mid-tempo groove, and producer Charlie Sexton, who keeps things spare but interesting (like steel drum accents on "Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes"), is right to encourage only the one overt rocker, "The Hard Way," and to simply let the artist be herself. McNally is so irresistibly winsome, sexy, seductive, and vulnerable that, chances are, you'll be ready to move in by the end of the opening track. —Alanna Nash
A Few Small Repairs
Shawn Colvin
She Wants Revenge
She Wants Revenge If the comics on Saturday Night Live ever wanted to spoof the current line of mascara-painted '80s revivalists such as the Killers and Bravery, it's unlikely their efforts would be nearly as successful as She Wants Revenge. It's not that the Los Angeles duo made up of party DJ Adam Bravin and former De La Soul copycat Justin Warfield means for its self-titled debut to be funny. But the group's one-note impression of dark new wave acts like Joy Division, The Cure and Bauhaus is just so blatant—from the ominous bass-lines and fawning band name (Peter Hook's New Order side project was called Revenge) to song titles such as "Tear You Apart" (Ian Curtis fans would be right to notice the similarities to their beloved "Love Will Tear Us Apart") and Goth 101 lyrics ("Take your hand, and smack me in the mouth, my love") — it's hard not to laugh. —Aidin Vaziri
Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow Skeptics who attributed the success of Sheryl Crow's 1994 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, to a combination of Crow's seductive good looks and a shrewd choice of collaborators have been effectively silenced by the range and depth of songs and performances on her self-produced, pointedly self-titled sequel. Playing guitars and keyboards, and building a triumphant, layered vocal style, Crow is tough as nails and drolly soulful on the deft "Change," as noteworthy for Crow's crafty lyrics ("Hello, it's me, I'm not at home/ If you'd like to reach me, leave me alone...") as for its solid, midtempo groove. "Maybe Angels," "If It Makes You Happy," and "Everyday Is a Winding Road" are only the most familiar highlights in a varied and absorbing set that argues Crow is no one's invention but her own. —Sam Sutherland
Sibelius: Complete Symphonies
Sick Symphoniez - Sickside Stories
Sick Symphonies In the mid-'90s Jacken, Duke and B-Real of Cypress Hill united to form the well-respected group Psycho Realm, and delivered a staggering blow in the name of West Coast hardcore hip-hop with their self-titled debut album, released in 1997 on Ruffhouse/Columbia. Raw, cutting-edge and uncompromising, the record was embraced by the streets and the critics alike for its winning combination of rock-solid beats, reality-based themes and authoritative voices. Around this time, Duke and Jacken introduced Cynic to Crow and the two clicked, forming Street Platoon. With B-Real unable to devote more time to Psycho Realm because of his commitments to Cypress Hill, Duke and Jacken with Street Platoon formed Sick Symphonies in 1998, an independent label devoted exclusively to the Psycho Realm/Street Platoon team. Unfortunately, just as winter follows summer, their world was turned upside down in 1999 when Duke was shot during a random incident at a fast-food restaurant, leaving! him paralyzed from the neck down. Crippled but defiant, the squad continued on, releasing Street Platoon's debut album Steel Storm in 2001, and two more Psycho Realm albums: A War Story, Book 1 in 2000, and A War Story, Book 2 in 2003.
Real Life
Simple Minds Import only reissue of 1991 album. 12 tracks including 'Real Life', 'See The Lights' & 'Let There Be Love'.
Universal Mother
Sinéad O'Connor
Sister Machine Gun
Skinny Puppy
Remix Dys Temper
Skinny Puppy Vancouver, Canada's Skinny Puppy get the makeover by an eclectic group of acts who pay homage to the defunct trio's decade of horrific industrial dance. The opening track, a fairly uninspiring take on "Rodent" by former Puppy engineer Ken Marshall, belies the gems of innovation woven amid the techno airbrushing that is the disc's main theme. Autechre warps "The Killing Game" into an unrecognizable freeform, San Francisco's Riz Maslen (a.k.a. Neotropic) reconstructs the spooky "Love in Vein" with appropriate bite, and Rhys Fulber (late of Front Line Assembly) transforms "Worlock" into a nightmarish epic. Even more left-field are the contributions from the Deftones (pumping up the aggression but little else) and Guru (contrasting Ogre's anguished howls with bright, funky grooves). Although ReMix Dys Temper serves as reminder that Skinny Puppy are responsible for 1990s synth-rock acts such as God Lives Underwater (whose "Testure" mix is predictable), it also reveals that beneath the layers of signature audio terror were songs that stand up well after the fact and that influenced a generation of electronic experimenters. —Liisa Ladouceur
The Greater Wrong of the Right
Skinny Puppy The anxiety and long wait are over at last: Skinny Puppy have kept their promise, returning with vengeance with The Greater Wrong Of The Right, a comeback that could hardly have turned out more consistent or more convincing!

The Greater Wrong Of The Right is a breathtaking continuation down the path that Skinny Puppy had embarked with1996's The Process. The experiments of the past few years have not been forgotten or faded out: in their condensed, highly energetic form they influence an album that impresses first and foremost with its energy, power and stringency.

Although all the elements of the Skinny Puppy history have been integrated into the ten new tracks, their complexity and divergence develop little by little, in typical Skinny Puppy style: Demanding up-tempo tracks like I'mmortal or Pro-test with its brilliant rap elements face spread-out, intricate little masterpieces like Ghostman, which continue to put the band's imitators in their place.

Still, The Greater Wrong Of The Right is an album that fortunately lacks any kind of anachronism or supposed nostalgic flair: with the support of a new generation of musicians, like Tool's Danny Carey (acoustic drum on Use Less) or Wayne Static of Static-X (vocals on Use Less) it is, with all its dark brilliance, already one of the most outstanding albums of the year - and another milestone in the history of an exceptional band.

There can be no doubt that Skinny Puppy with their complex soundscapes, which have influenced whole generations of bands, count among the spearheading representatives of the so-called `electronic body music' movement of the mid-Eighties.

The Greater Wrong Of The Right proves that Skinny Puppy remain one of the most innovative new electro act of this or any decade!
Astro Lounge
Smash Mouth Expounding on the theme from their hit "Walking on the Sun" (from the multiplatinum Fush Yu Mang), the verbose songs on Astro Lounge are filled with examinations of societal ills, personal woes, and other disappointments entailed in this thing known as Humanity. Yes, the album would seem heavy-handed were not the overriding sentiments filtered through Smash Mouth's "Hey, dude, let's party!" brand of musical optimism. Ranging from reggae to lounge to psychedelia to surfer rock to a sort of punk-a-go-go, Smash Mouth's influences have little in common with one another save for one important exception—they all evoke images of personal freedom and defiance of oppression, reminding us that, gee, fighting the Man can actually be raucous good fun! It's been a long time since a band with this much commercial potential could say something thought-provoking and get the party going. On "All Star," Steve Harwell sings, "Only shooting stars break the mold." A fitting prophecy for this outstanding alterna-pop album. —Beth Massa
Siamese Dream
Smashing Pumpkins An introductory drum roll drops out and is replaced by a single suspended electric guitar, which is then paralleled by a snare, filled in with the bass, and—crash!—"Cherub Rock," the opening track, is enveloped in an explosion of metal guitar. So the journey begins. This album is pre-experimentation vintage Pumpkins. Produced by Butch Vig (Garbage, Sonic Youth, Nirvana's Nevermind), Siamese Dream is first about guitars. Lots and lots of guitars. A very close second is Jimmy Chamberlain's unquestionably excellent power drumming. Throughout each song, Billy Corgan delivers angsty lyrics in his signature breathy whine. "Disarm" is a nice intermission halfway though the album. As the title of the song suggests, it throws the listener into a different mood with its full string arrangements and radiant orchestral chimes. But then it is back to the aural masochism—a pain that rarely sounds so sweet. —Beth Bessmer
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Smashing Pumpkins This poster is 12 inches by 12 inches. It is in mint condition.
The Smiths When you listen to this collection of nearly all the noteworthy singles by the Smiths, you might marvel over the fact that Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr collaborated and cowrite so many astonishing tunes only to break up a mere four years into their creative burst. The first half of Singles is a relentless parade of top-notch emotional Morrissey punches. Then just when you think you're going to catch your breath, "Bigmouth Strikes Again" breaks out and the poignancy and wit of that charming man really hits home. From the shimmering "Ask" to the dark crooner "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" to the closing hit "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," the collection leaves one feeling wistful, for these tracks will never be matched. —Lorry Fleming
So Vo So
So Vo So
So Vo So
So Vo So
Stay Awhile
Steve Cole
A Wild and Crazy Guy
Steve Martin No Description Available
No Track Information Available
Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 07/18/1989
The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Sting From one spin of The Dream of the Blue Turtles, Sting's first solo release, it's obvious that for him there would be life beyond the Police. Teamed with a band of top jazz players, he presents his musical visions that had gone unrealized while he was still constrained by his former ensemble. In style and subject matter, it's a decidedly diverse collection of songs and the playing is excellent throughout. The love songs are mostly focused on endings or escapes, and it's quite possible to interpret much of the imagery in reference to the bitter breakup of the Police. Sting's concern with history and politics is in evidence: he makes a father's plea for sanity and restraint in the nuclear age, takes up for the U.K.'s much-abused coal miners, and relates the savage stupidity of World War I to the destructive effects of adolescent heroin addiction. Songs that seem elaborately constructed and recorded contrast with others that are presented as one-take jams. Seen as a whole, The Dream of the Blue Turtles is eclectic, ambitious—sometimes pretentious—but altogether worth owning. —Al Massa
The Soul Cages
Sting The somber, personal Soul Cages is a testament to Sting's strength as a storyteller. Each song creates its own dark, lonely world with recurring themes of sea, ships, and filial love. The album opens with the wistful, virtually mist-drenched "Island of Souls," a tale of a shipbuilder's son orphaned by an accident who dreams of the open sea. Later, that sea becomes a prison for a lovelorn sailor in "Why Should I Cry for You?" Throughout, Sting dispenses with the conventions of pop lyrical structure. Saxophones, oboe, and Northumbrian pipes reinforce the folksy feel of the instrumentation. Arguably the best song on the album, "Mad About You" is a mystical ballad about a king who has everything except the woman he loves. Grand, elegiac, and allegorical, Soul Cages stands as one of Sting's most downcast recordings, and one of his most compelling. —Courtney Kemp
Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994
Sting A good overview of Sting's radio hits and popular album tracks with only one major omission ("Mad About You"), Fields of Gold also offers three previously-unreleased songs. "This Cowboy Song" and "When We Dance" appear on no other album, while "We'll Be Together" is an alternate version. The import version of this collection offers a substantially different (and expanded) track listing, dropping "Fortress Around Your Heart," "Be Still My Beating Heart," and "Why Should I Cry for You"; and adding "Mad About You," "Nothing 'Bout Me," "Seven Days," "It's Probably Me," "Love is the Seventh Wave," and "Demolition Man." —Gavin McNett
Tank Girl: Original Soundtrack from the United Artists Film
Stomp, Bjork, Devo, Matnificent Bastards, Belly, Veruca Salt, Ice-T, Portishead, Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg, Hole A dreadful "Let's Do It" by Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg is the only lame moment on the soundtrack of a flick that's destined to become the Rocky Horror of the '90s. The contemporary A list—Björk, Portishead, Belly, Veruca Salt, Hole and L7—all weigh in with new tracks; Björk's "Army of Me" and Portishead's "Roads" are standouts. "Season with Mockingbird Girl" by a Stone Temples Pilots spinoff called The Mad Bastards adds to the film's considerable hip quotient. —Jeff Bateman
Steal This Record
The Suicide Machines
Still on the Journey
Sweet Honey in the Rock Sweet Honey in the Rock celebrated their musical, political, and personal triumphs in style and in public with this benchmark 1993 album. Still on the Journey offers a banquet of songs that center on love and living, struggle and death. After 20 years and many lineup shifts, the all-women African American a cappella group continues to demonstrate what a beautiful instrument the human voice can be. A mildly self-indulgent rap self-tribute is offset by the mournful "Spiritual." "Come By Here" illustrates the group's unique capacity to layer vocal lines into a loose net of improvised rhythms and melodies without losing the thread of the song. Here also Sweet Honey dabbles for the first time in vocal percussion. Reflections on Africa come into crisp focus in "Wodabe Nights," while "Wanting Memories" makes it clear that, though the journey has been long and hard, Sweet Honey has no plans to rest. —Sally Weinbach
Bread and Jam for Frances
Switchblade Symphony
Switchblade Symphony: Sinister Nostalgia
Switchblade Symphony With band on hiatus and no new studio record in the works, this phenomenal 15 song, state of the art remix record is sure to find it's starving public. 14 tracks. 2001 release.
Sweet Little Witches
Switchblade Symphony The first live album ever from one of the most influential icons of modern gothic/darkwave music. Recorded at various concerts in 1997 - 1999 and includes performances of 'Clown', 'Witches', 'Doll House', 'Invisible' and other fan favorites. Includes bonus live video of 'Dirty Dog'. Slipcase. 2003.Cleopatra.
System of a Down System of a Down's sophomore effort is a musically and lyrically ambitious 14-song collection that's even more left-of-center and powerful than their 1998 self-titled debut. Here the Los Angeles-bred foursome tackle everything from government ("Prison Song") to cocaine-crazed groupies ("Psycho") in a more pointed and aggressive manner than Rage Against the Machine. Serj Tankian's hardcore vocals and occasional Middle Eastern flourishes ("Science") contribute to the unique, ultra-intense, and quirky qualities of System circa 2001. Unexpected time changes and death-metal-like intensity give way to mellower moments, all of which make for demanding but irresistible listening. Toxicity is a masterful, unusual, and forceful opus. This release includes a bonus CD-ROM that includes behind-the-scenes footage, band commentary, and concert clips. —Katherine Turman
Dangerous and Moving
t.A.T.u. Who said 80s pop music never parted the Iron Curtain? T.A.T.U., the photogenic duo of Russian divas previously best known in the west for their supposed lesbianism and a risqué video for their hit "All The Things She Said," prove that the lessons of early-80s MTV weren't lost on the children of the former Soviet empire with "Dangerous and Moving." A comeback album of sorts in which the duo—Lena Katrina and Julia Volkova—has dropped the lesbian pretense (though not the coyly ambiguous lyrics), "Dangerous and Moving" is choc full of keyboard hooks that Flock of Seagulls would have been proud to claim, albeit with updated production values that place them closer to Avril Lavigne than to Tiffany. Grabbing some crunchy guitar riffs from Nirvana ("Loves Me Not"), some trippy flourishes a la Massive Attack ("Sacrifice") and a variety pack of punchy drum loops, the girls (or their production team anyway, which includes Trevor Horn and Dave Stewart on a track each) bid for Western pop superstardom yet again with what amounts to a sonic pastiche of the last 20 or so years of Top 40 radio. Much of this turns out to be a surprisingly guilt-free pleasure though, due mostly to the fact that the duo can generally sing better than most of their Western teen pop contemporaries, which helps songs like "Craving (I Only Want What I Can't Have)" and "All About Us" lodge themselves in your head and stay there after only one listen. —Ezra Gale
Tal Bachman
Tal Bachman Those who found a lot to like in the New Radicals' update of '70s and '80s pop-rock for '90s ears may find Tal Bachman's debut similarly appealing. Seemingly inspired as much by the widescreen fantasias of Queen and ELO as by the Beatles, the son of former Bachman-Turner Overdrive head Randy offers a series of well-crafted tunes helmed by himself and superstar producer Bob Rock. Craftsmanship, however, is about the limit of Bachman's vision; his songs rarely rise above clichéd declarations of (and complaints about) love, with pro forma considerations of maturity ("I Wonder") and generational concerns ("Looks Like Rain") failing to lend much weight. With TV producers (Dawson's Creek, Melrose Place) clamoring to use his melodramas on their soundtracks, Bachman may find commercial—if not artistic—success. —Rickey Wright
Stop Making Sense
Talking Heads The soundtrack to the Jonathan Demme documentary, Stop Making Sense captures the Talking Heads live in 1984 on what would turn out to be their last major tour. This collection, and the film, is a true gift to the band's fans, a testament to their extraordinary talent, both in the studio and especially onstage. Frontman David Byrne infuses each song with a jolt of energy and drama that could only have come from a late-'70s New York art-school student. Now-classic tracks such as "Psycho Killer," "Girlfriend Is Better," "Once in a Lifetime," "Take Me to the River," and "Burning Down the House" have never sounded better. —Lorry Fleming
Shake the Sheets
Ted Leo + the Pharmacists Ted Leo And The Pharmacists' latest album "Shake The Sheets" is a triumph on nearly every level. Produced by Chris Shaw (Dashboard Confessional, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy) in New York City during the spring of 2004, it is informed by almost every political and cultural conversation happening in our world today, but presents the conversation with a message of hope and humility.

Ted is a special artist whose most recent full length, 2003's Hearts Of Oak, dominated critics' lists for the year, garnering glowing features and positve reviews in SPIN (9 out of 10), Rolling Stone (3 Stars), Alternative Press (5 out of 5), The New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly as well as tremendous support from the punk press and online music sites. His nearly incessant touring over the last three years has won him legions of fans around the world that are hotly anticipating his newest album. At College Radio, "Hearts Of Oak" peaked at # 7 on CMJ Top 200; # 8 on CMJ Core and was #2 most added. Oak also enjoyed 7 weeks of impressive commercial specialty radio play including specialty chart peaks of #1 on the FMQB Magazine Chart, #3 on the R&R Magazine Chart. The video for "Where Have All The Rudeboys Gone?" got numerous plays on MTV2 and Fuse and Ted Leo hosted an episode of MTV2's Subterranean. Ted Leo And The Pharmacists even performed on a 2003 episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien.

With a fantastic producer and great studio (James Iha's Stratosphere in Manhattan), Ted was finally able to achieve the cleanest, biggest sound he has ever had. "Shake The Sheets" is his greatest work to date and surely the album to push him through to even bigger success.
This Business of Art
Tegan & Sara Canadian folksingers Tegan and Sara's debut album debut album on fellow Canuck Neil Young's Vapor Records is a formidable first effort betraying a startling maturity for two 19-year-olds. There is enough depth in the lyrics of "Come On" or "Frozen" to bear repeated listenings, while the mainly acoustic-based instrumentation provides a spare yet rhythmically interesting backdrop for the sisters' musings on life and love. There is also a defiance in some of the lyrics (witness "Proud": "Freedom and blood/ I make my mark and fight for tomorrow"). While there is still evidence of room to grow as each sister betrays a distinct influence (Tracy Chapman for one and Ani DiFranco the other), this decidedly fresh debut is a step toward a very bright future indeed. Apparently they are utterly captivating live as well so expect this duo to stick around for quite some time. —Ike Bolton
If It Was You
Tegan and Sara
The Con
Tegan and Sara It's hard to follow up the record that made you famous. For many artists, that's their first album, and the disappointing results are termed the "sophomore slump." Luckily, Tegan and Sara's star-making Juno-nominated album, So Jealous, was their fourth—and their fifth album, The Con, not only avoids any kind of slump but sets a new bar of quality quite high. While both a darker and quirkier album than the near-perfect heartbreak pop of So Jealous, The Con skillfully packs its instant hooks in so tight, virtually every line becomes the one you want to sing along to—and the twins' lyrics aren't your typical pop pabulum. Layer upon layer of tasty ear candy coat considered sentiments like "Nobody likes to but I really like to cry," "I felt you in my legs before I ever met you," and "Maybe I would have been something you'd be good at"—lyrics that feel honest and add an emotional urgency and depth rarely heard on the radio. However, the biggest leap Tegan and Sara made on this record was not the lyrical content, but how the album itself was created. The switch to coproducing with indie superstar Christopher Walla (Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie) is apparent, and part of what gives this record its distinctive and innovative touch. From the odd structure of "I Was Married" to the thumping electronica of "Are You Ten Years Ago," The Con reverberates with unabashed creativity, and it's a rare pleasure to hear it done so well. I would be surprised if another band this year made a better record—it's really that good. A special bonus for fans: don't shy away from the deluxe edition of this album—it includes a DVD with a feature-length intimate documentary on the making of the album, offering a lot of insight into their creative process. —Alan Wiley
So Jealous
Tegan and Sara, Tegan & Sara Three albums into Tegan & Sara's career, it's still somehow necessary to get a couple of facts about them out of the way before diving into their latest offering. They are, yes, identical twin lesbians, and they do occupy the space—more like a vacuum, really—between the riot-grrl menace of Sleater-Kinney and the un-fun folk of Indigo Girls. That out of the way, So Jealous is the duo's best disc yet, meriting more than the mainstream notice that has so far evaded it. All the components are in place: a beyond synthy, full-throttle band, including John Collins and David Carswell of New Pornographers, and songwriting so honest as to make a person—any person—check to make sure no one has been snooping in her diary ("I won't mistake you for problems with me/I won't let my moods ruin this you'll see," from "I Won't Be Left"). The vibe is early-80s pop-punky (Tegan & Sara's singing can sound like Missing Persons' minus the squeals) spiked with a rock'n'roll edge—if the title track were noisier, it might sound at home on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs disc. Destined for hugeness, if only in indie circles for now, Tegan & Sara provide something crucial for pop princesses to be So Jealous of, and that's genuine talent. —Tammy La Gorce
El Sexto Sentido
Thalía Special Edition of the Mexican Diva's Album features 15 Tracks and a Bonus Dvd (Pal/Rc-2) of Six Videos. The First Single Lifted from the Album is "Amar Sin Ser Amada".
The White Beyond
The Artist in the Ambulance
Thrice Third album and major label debut for Californian emocore band follows 2002's The Illusion Of Safety. Incorporating a punchy, strongly melodic pop sensibility, galloping metal rhythms and fiercely intelligent lyrics into their muscular sound, they are being hotly tipped for greatness. Includes the single 'Under a Killing Moon' which appeared on a split 7" with their labelmates Thursday.
Native Soul
Tony Lasley
Little Earthquakes
Tori Amos Emotionally and musically intense, Little Earthquakes shows that the piano is as much a rock & roll instrument as the guitar. Tori Amos's debut (if one disregards Y Kant Tori Read, as one would be well advised to do) is at once listenable and challenging; she takes on every topic, from sex to gender to religion, in an uncompromising manner. Her music appears gentle at first, but this appearance is deceiving, as one quickly learns upon listening to the wrenching "Crucify" or the almost violent "Precious Things." By the time the album gets around to "Me and a Gun," sung hauntingly by Amos without accompaniment from her piano, the juxtaposition of Amos' sweet voice and the emotional complexity of her lyrics is both familiar and shocking. Sandman fans should listen for a reference to author Neil Gaiman in "Tear in Your Hand." —Genevieve Williams
Boys for Pele
Tori Amos Boys for Pele, the title of Tori Amos's epic third album, is as awkward and confusing as the music inside. Though it sounds like a recruitment slogan for Little League soccer, the name actually refers to the lost temples of feminine divinity. Pele, you see, is the Hawaiian volcano goddess; the boys, well, they're the sacrifices that quell the rumbling lady's rage. Attempting to regain fires stolen long ago, Pele rewrites the crucifixion to star a girl Jesus and in doing so conjures a forgotten matriarchal mythology. While Amos's characters—Jupiter, Muhammad, Lucifer—are male by name, the aural landscape into which they're thrown is as symbolically and expressionistically female as Georgia O'Keeffe's skull-and-roses paintings. Pele is a complex and formless—and often impenetrable—work of gothic-pop chamber music, both beautiful and ghostly in its nearly complete reliance on Amos's rolling Bosendorfer grand piano, chilling harpsichord (which she bangs like a courtly punk rocker), and acrobatic voice (as earthy as Joni Mitchell's and as otherworldly as Bjork's). Unfortunately, she takes us only halfway: her songs engage and challenge us to understand, but the imagery offers few clues to help us crack their frustrating opacity. Pele ends up as much a pretentious and self-indulgent trip as it is a synthesis of talent, imagination, and skewed vision. Still, there's reason to celebrate that an album as formalistically and thematically alien to pop audiences as Pele would win such quick success upon its original release. —Roni Sarig
To Venus and Back
Tori Amos For many pop-music cynics, excess can be neatly summed up in three things: live albums, double-CD's, and Tori Amos records. Damned if To Venus and Back doesn't hit the trifecta. But perhaps Amos is just trying to prove what we've always suspected: that her muse possesses a sly, ironic wit and has been frantically trying to give us a wink while Tori whipped up her heady cocktail of quiet Sturm, desperate Drang, and angst in the panties. There's teasing moments on this double-dose of Tori's love affair with her own melodic and mystical dramaturgy to support that notion, even in the disc of powerful new studio recordings that inaugurates this set. Dubbing a song "Glory of the 80's" is burlesque enough, but yearning to have oneself cloned as Kim Carnes at its climax is simply inspired. Amos is to Kate Bush's distaff mysticism what Mark McGwire was to Roger Maris; she hasn't so much broken the mold as willfully hammered it into her own image. After Bush hit the snooze-bar on her career in the late `80s, Amos boldly stepped into the fray, building a body of work that demanded to be taken seriously, even while the thrift-store chic set were laughing up their tattered sleeves at her ambitious chutzpah. They're not laughing now; in fact, many may find Venus to be a deliciously guilty pleasure. Amos supporters have long maintained that the key to understanding her intrigue lies in her live performances. Disc two boldly states their case as Amos coos, whoops, and warbles through a hit-sprinkled set, her shrewd, sorely undervalued band hanging with every nuance and turn of phrase. Cynics are from Mars; Tori is from Venus—that's just the way her galaxy crumbles. Jerry McCulley
From the Choirgirl Hotel
Tori Amos For Tori Amos, sex can be a weapon, a spiritual offering, or an act of protest. It's certainly been the singer-pianist's big subject since her 1989 debut Little Earthquakes. But while her earliest compositions tried to punch every emotional hot button at once and came off sounding turgid and overblown, her new album packs a greater punch by toning down mock-symphonic excess in favor of stark, haunting tracks that contain veiled mysteries. Love cuts both ways on Choirgirl. Songs such as "She's Your Cocaine" and "Cruel" view relationships as vicious power plays, while the protagonists in "Playboy Mommy" and "Northern Lad" desperately seek salvation via emotional connection. Hypnotic, affecting, and frequently gorgeous, From the Choirgirl Hotel is Amos's most accomplished album to date. —Marc Weingarten
Strange Little Girls
Tori Amos Tori Amos's idea for Strange Little Girls was to present covers of men's songs from a female perspective. The concept is fairly unique—although Liz Phair had a similar idea with 1993's Exile in Guyville. But while Phair fashioned original lyrics in response to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, Amos sticks with the script when reciting lyrics from acts as diverse as the Velvet Underground, Depeche Mode, Neil Young, Tom Waits, and Slayer. She transforms the material, though, by singing in a pained tone, weighing the lyrics with heavy emotion and stripping most of the songs down to their simplest elements—often just a string section, a drum machine or a piano, leaving the original music almost unrecognizable. The most poignant of these tracks is definitely her cover of Eminem's "97' Bonnie and Clyde." The first-person story of a man dumping his lover's dead body takes on an ugly sickness and brutality with Amos's almost-whispered narration. As with most of these songs, Amos removes the pop façade and leaves the listener with a stark picture of the message behind the lyrics—whether that message concerns violence or male identity—in a statement both subtly political and stunningly beautiful. —Jennifer Maerz
Scarlet's Walk
Tori Amos From the confusion and chaos that marked one of the most harrowing episodes in American history comes Tori Amos's masterwork. Scarlet's Walk, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed covers LP, Strange Little Girls, was written on a cross-country road trip shortly after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Over the course of 3,000 miles and 18 tracks, the crimson-haired singer encounters rogue lovers ("A Sorta Fairytale"), reformed porn stars ("Amber Waves"), and an entire cast of characters who embody the spirit of a country suddenly searching for an identity. The album serves as both an ambitious travelogue and as a graceful rejoinder to the bitterness and frustration that inspired it, with Amos wading through swells of sadness ("I Can't See New York"), anger ("Don't Make Me Come to Vegas"), and insecurity ("Your Cloud") with velvety grace. —Aidin Vaziri
The Beekeeper
Tori Amos After Scarlet's Walk, Tori Amos' 2002 ambitious sonic travelogue that took her to all 50 states, penning love letters to America along the way, the fiery earth-sprite has fashioned another high-minded concept album, tying her 19 songs—and one not-so-hidden track—into a garden motif that's part a retelling of Alice In Wonderland, another A Little Shop of Horrors. The Beekeeper chronicles her rather autobiographical protagonist's journey through what seems to be an overgrown labyrinth of the subconscious as she experiences a series of life-altering events and emotions. In addition, living in Cornwall for the past decade has certainly had an effect on Amos, she even takes inspiration from Daphne Du Maurier's classic novel Jamaica Inn, which takes place on that rugged seacoast, but the greatest change is the grit in her voice; on a song like "Hoochie Woman," she sounds like she's channeling Chrissie Hynde—a welcome change from some of the preciousness of her earlier work. She also surprises with the steely, eloquent resolve on a song like "Goodbye Pisces" one of the better break-up songs in recent memory. The Beekeeper returns the quirky singer to the same whimsical terrain of 1992's Little Earthquakes, but with much stronger storylines, and a much more assured and nuanced voice. Her best yet. —Jaan Uhelszki

Recommended Tori-phernalia

Tori Amos: Piece by Piece
Tori Amos - Welcome to Sunny Florida
Little Earthquakes
Under the Pink
Tales of a Librarian
Scarlet's Walk
Muscler's Guide to Videonics
Tracy + the Plastics
Culture for Pigeon
Tracy + the Plastics
Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman One of the most striking debut albums ever released, this disc instantly established Chapman as a musical force, and with good reason. Immediacy, integrity of purpose, and unqualified artistry are apparent in nearly every song. And while "Fast Cars" remains Chapman's best-known work, "Talkin' Bout a Revolution" is that rarest breed: a song which is both topical and timeless. Any exploration into Chapman's work should begin with this at times stunning effort; it's a disc of remarkable uniformity and clarity that Chapman has yet to improve on. —Wayne Pernu
New Beginning
Tracy Chapman
Telling Stories
Tracy Chapman With Telling Stories, her first album since 1995's New Beginnings, Tracy Chapman returns to the spare, unsentimental feel of her early work. In doing so, she recaptures some of the urgency and simple melodiousness that made her debut a soulful folk-rock classic. There's maturity here, exemplified by recurring spiritual metaphors. On "Unsung Psalm" she imagines her funeral, singing, "I'd have a halo and flowing white robes / If I live right." "Wedding Song" offers the plainspoken, devotional line, "I reach out for your hand / For you I'd don a veil." The musical arrangements, too, are pared-down, with ghostly banjo, silvery fiddle, and guitar woven into subtle drum loops. Though not as immediately captivating as her debut, Telling Stories is a focused return to form for Chapman. —Lucy O'Brien
Train While easily comparable to R.E.M., Train travel a little farther south, stopping in Allman Brothers country. Ballads like "If You Leave" and "Homesick" could be mistaken for early demos by Athens's most beloved sons, but when the guitar solos kick in, it's classic Southern goodness. Luckily, Train don't derail themselves by sticking solely to greasy jams and high-wire guitar acrobatics. The San Francisco-based five-piece keep their slice-of-life sound simple and lean, never overdoing what doesn't need to be overdone. Frontman Patrick Monahan has a voice that was made for this material. Bearing an uncanny vocal resemblance to Blues Traveler's John Popper, he slip-slides from one drunken heartbreak to another, but always gets up, brushes the dirt off his jeans, and keeps on living. —Jason Josephes
Drops of Jupiter
Train In 1999, Train came out of nowhere with the single "Meet Virginia" and soon after found themselves the proverbial overnight success. The San Francisco band with a penchant for the Southern jam could very easily be one of those acts that fade from memory after a lone hit. But the follow-up Drops of Jupiter makes that misfortune highly unlikely. The band employs tools of the roots-rock trade—mandolin, harmonica, bongos, and crisp acoustic guitar—to evoke that sort of "everything's gonna be all right" sentiment common in so many great pop rock songs. But this isn't a band that relies solely on its precursors for inspiration. These accomplished musicians never overplay, and understand the value of a well-placed synthesized accent or guitar effect. On tracks like "I Wish You Would," they command a plugged-in assertion that lends an inspiring jolt to their acoustic instrumentation. The title track is the album's epicenter. With swelling strings and chorded piano melody, the song sounds as if it were lifted from some lost tapes of Elton John's Madman Across the Water. It sweeps you up in an irresistible top-of-the-lungs sing-along and becomes the reference point for the rest of the album. Radio-friendly rock bands these days tend to be virtually indistinguishable from one another, but Train breaks from the crowd, charging full steam ahead. —Beth Massa
Songbook: A Collection of Hits
Trisha Yearwood Trisha Yearwood ended up in the middle of one of 1997's music-industry storms when her version of the big ballad "How Do I Live" aced out teenage sensation LeAnn Rimes' on the soundtrack of Con Air, an action flick everyone immediately forgot about. Also somewhat lost in the commotion was Yearwood's own honorable half-decade-plus of hits, so many that some of her best (like a masterful version of Melissa Etheridge's "You Can Sleep While I Drive") didn't make it to this roundup of singles. That's OK; there'll be another. And for now, Songbook honorably recapitulates the career so far of one of current country's most-reliables. —Byline
The Attraction to All Things Uncertain
tweaker The Attraction to All Things Uncertain is the first solo effort from tweaker, a.k.a. Chris Vrenna, former member of Nine Inch Nails. Featuring vocals by David Sylvian, Will Oldham and Shudder to Think's Craig Wedren, tweaker's Six Degrees debut is an incendiary and haunting collision of rock and otherworldly electronics.
2 A.M. Wakeup Call
tweaker The second full-length from Nine Inch Nails survivor Chris Vrenna under his tweaker alias finds him exploring the dark alleys between sleep and reason; his sole instruction for his impressive list of guests—including David Sylvian, the Cure's Robert Smith, and ex-Smiths guitar whiz Johnny Marr—was they draw inspiration from topics pertaining to nightmares and dreams, insomnia, and slumber. Not surprisingly, the results often unfurl according to a hard-to-decipher yet gripping dream logic, as on "Ruby," where crackling ambience and the weathered voice of Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) are interrupted by unexpected explosions of buzzsaw guitar. Between vocal cuts, Vrenna and studio partner Clint Walsh (Jack Off Jill) craft moody instrumentals more organic in character than on tweaker's 2001 debut; Sleepwalking Away even features creepy glockenspiel. Custom made for late-nights, right down to a menacing Tones on Tail cover ("Movement of Fear"), this disc is definitely no snooze. —Kurt B. Reighley
The Joshua Tree
Rattle And Hum
Achtung Baby
U2 "I'm ready / Ready for what's next," Bono announces at the outset of Achtung Baby, the album that proved the so-called "band of the '80s" was capable of blazing into the '90s by replacing its flag-waving arena-rock stance with screaming synths, clubby rhythms, and industrial skronk. The group advances its sound without losing accessibility on "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," "Even Better Than the Real Thing," and "Mysterious Ways," while pushing the envelope a bit more on "The Fly," "Zoo Station," and "Acrobat." The moody ballad "One" is arguably the finest song the band has produced, full of sorrow, compassion, and hope all at the same time. —Daniel Durchholz
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
U2 The album that carries U2 into its 25th year—and likely the mixed blessings of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—is one of its most frank and focused since the days of October and War. But its gestation was anything but simple, in part salvaged from '03 sessions the band deemed subpar. Enter Steve Lillywhite, the band's original producer and sometime collaborator in the decades since, who helped retool the track "Native Son" (originally an antigun screed) into the aggressive iPod anthem "Vertigo" and leaves his distinctive stamp on the muscular "All Because of You." Perhaps weary of ceaseless, fashion-driven reinvention in the wake of monumental success, U2 seem only too happy here to re-embrace their original sonic trademarks in service of more daring, pop-melodic hooks than they've collected in one place in decades. The Eno/Lanois produced "Love and Peace or Else" may shimmer with the duo's electro-production conceits, but it's Edge's lugubrious, postmodern John Lee Hooker guitar swagger that drives it. Elsewhere, Bono's trademark dramaturgy is spotlighted on "City of Blinding Lights," the unabashed romance of "A Man and a Woman," and the confessional "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own." It may come wrapped in a conundrum—is it nostalgic retrenchment or a sum of the band's endless musical catharsis?—It's also the album where, Fly and MacPhisto be damned, U2 boldly claims its arena titan mantle with apologies to no one. —Jerry McCulley

Recommended U2 Discography

The Joshua Tree
Achtung Baby
All That You Can't Leave Behind
The Best of 1990-2000
The Best of 1980-1990
The Telling Takes Me Home
Utah Phillips
Moscow Hold
Utah Phillips Vagabond, raconteur, sometime Ani DiFranco fellow traveler, and unrepentant political lefty, Utah Phillips happily admits, as he interrupts his performance of "Railroading on the Great Divide," that no one plays much real folk music anymore because, when you get down to it, folk music is boring. Phillips may well have a point, but then again, Phillips isn't so much a folksinger as a storyteller in the folk tradition. And his stories, whether sung or spoken, are anything but boring. More often than not, they are absurdly funny. With a warm, craggy tone that sounds as familiar as a grandpa's voice, Phillips strings together a crazy-quilt collection of slightly surreal tall tales that cover everything from IWW union drives to big-time wrestling competitions to the fecal fantasies of ants. In many ways a best-of collection (the 13 cuts on this CD were gathered from over 20 years of live recordings), Phillips' stories have a way of ending unexpectedly. And where they end up is a very good place, indeed. —Percy Keegan
Past Didn't Go Anywhere
Utah Phillips & Ani DiFranco
Loafer's Glory
Utah Phillips & Mark Ross
Utah Saints
Utah Saints Straddling the gap stylistically and historically between the cut-and-paste acid house of Bomb the Bass and the big-beat explosion, this U.K. DJ duo fashioned recognizable samples from established classics into equally exciting contemporary dance singles. "What Can You Do for Me" mates Gwen Guthrie with the Eurythmics, while "Something Good" lifts a hook from Kate Bush's "Cloudbusting" (the first time she approved such a usage). Both those club hits appear on the Saints' sole full-length to date, rounded out by notable tracks including a shockingly traditional rendition of Simple Minds' "New Gold Dream" and "Trance Atlantic Glide" (designed to be spun at either 33 or 45 rpm). FFRR. 2005.
Peace Through Vandalism/When In Rome Do as the Vandals
The Vandals
Live at the Village Vanguard
Juno's Mix CD
Various Music includes: 1. Meet The MacGuffs (Mateo Messina), 2. Once I Loved (Astrud Gilberto), 3. Loring Bathroom (Mateo Messina), 4. My Wandering Days Are Over (Belle & Sebastian), 5. Meet The Lorings (Mateo Messina)
Pump Up The Volume: Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Various Artists
The Narada Wilderness Collection
Various Artists
Edward Scissorhands: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Various Artists
Fright Night: Music that Goes Bump in the Night
Various Artists
Global Celebration: Dancing with the Gods
Various Artists
Global Celebration: Earth Spirit
Various Artists
Global Celebration: Passages
Various Artists
The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Various Artists Based on the hit comic book about a man who returns from the dead to avenge his killers, the film adaptation of The Crow suffered a cruel irony when star Brandon Lee (son of martial arts superstar Bruce Lee) died during production after a bizarre onset accident. That event only deepened the film's aura of death and gothic unease, moods that are brilliantly underscored by this well-chosen collection of stark alt rock, dark metal, and industrial dirges.

The opener, the Cure's typically angst-ridden "Burn," is about as sentimental as this album gets, bookended by Jane Siberry's wistful "It Can't Rain All the Time." Sandwiched in between is a virtual primer on powerful mid-1990s alt and industrial rock, from Nine Inch Nails hammering Joy Division's "Dead Souls" into its own image to the blistering snarl of Helmet, Pantera, and the Rollins Band. So-called pop-song scores often have a cheap afterthought feel to them; this one, a refreshingly integral part of the film itself, stands as a great album in its own right. —Jerry McCulley
50 Years of Jazz Guitar
Various Artists
Dr. Demento: 25th Anniversary Collection
Various Artists
Putumayo Presents: Women of the World - Celtic
Various Artists This 1995 assemblage of Celtic (which is to say, Irish and Scottish) female artists, mostly sopranos of the more ethereal sort, is drawn from the pick of the crop. Some sing in Irish, others in English, and the selections move from contemporary singer-songwriters to hard-core trad mavens to airy New Age goddesses complete with wavery tin flutes and tsunamis of synth wash. A newcomer to Celtic music will find the selections enjoyable and the liner notes by Fiona Ritchie and Caitlin Ni Bheagain speak knowledgeably about where it all came from and why it matters. However, compilations of music by women have become too ubiquitous over the past few years, milking a tiresome marketing concept for all it's worth. To be fair, this was an early entry and the producers very likely meant well. But these brilliant artists deserve better than to be lumped together by gender. —Christina Roden
Phenomenon: Music From The Motion Picture
Various Artists Phenomenon is about the blossoming of human potential, as is Scientology. Star John Travolta is a noted practitioner of the latter; draw your own conclusions about the film's potential for proselytizing. Not surprisingly, its soundtrack doles out one track to scorer Thomas Newman and the rest to "uplifting" modern pop perfectly characterized by Eric Clapton's ubiquitous "Change the World" and Peter Gabriel's once charming "I Have the Touch." If this is human potential, God help us. —Jerry McCulley
Women's Work
Various Artists In 1996 the interest in singer-songwriters was cresting and women were a big part of the emerging trend. The songs they wrote were not about fanciful dream images; they came from real life and were insightful, bitter, funny, and often painfully intimate. While a vanguard of younger artists were just finding their way, established performers were also being rediscovered, and the two groups gave each other considerable inspiration and support. These 13 songs are an amazingly accurate time capsule of a period when the vogue finally shifted to include singers who used small forces to sort out big problems and overwhelming emotions. Romances go sour, philosophy brings cold comfort, and reality is sometimes too much to stomach, but the women keep going as best they can despite craziness, opposition on various fronts, and their own frailty. With Ani DiFranco, Janis Ian, Vonda Shepard, and Toni Childs. —Christina Roden
House of Blues: Essential Women in Blues
Various Artists
Red Hot + Latin: Silencio = Muerte
Various Artists
Songs From Ally McBeal Featuring Vonda Shepard
Various Artists Like most "overnight sensations," Vonda Shepard had been slogging away for quite a spell—more than a decade's worth of touring, and three previous albums, to be precise—before getting to grab the brass ring via the hit TV show Ally McBeal. This disc reprises most of the cover songs Shepard performed during the series' first year, from the ubiquitous "Hooked on a Feeling" to a lovely reading of the '60s nugget "Walk Away Renee." But to Shepard's credit, the smattering of originals don't suffer too much in comparison: in fact, her "Searchin' My Soul" is one of the album's strongest moments. —David Sprague
Various Artists The soundtrack to the cyberthriller Pi stands on its own as a fine compilation, and fans of the artists featured on this soundtrack will be delighted to hear solid offerings from the likes of Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, Spacetime Continuum, David Holmes, Orbital, and a mix of Roni Size's "Watching Windows" by Ed Rush and Optical. Those who have seen the film but are unfamiliar with the artists will be happily exposed to great music and should enjoy this incredibly cohesive, thematic piece. Even artists like Gus Gus and Banco De Gaia fit perfectly into this mix. The music is as complicatedly paranoid as the film's protagonist, Max Cohen, and as rhythmic and precise as the film's antagonist—the numeric system. Cohen's dialogue is interspersed through the soundtrack for a nice touch. —Aaron Tassano
Practical Magic: Music From The Motion Picture
Various Artists How do you put together a soundtrack for a comedy about witches—'90s style? Well, if she's young and her name is Sabrina, you compile an album of relentless teen pop and R&B hits. But if your witches are a little more mature (and, perhaps, suburban), as in Practical Magic, you use a different formula. And the brew found here is actually a good mix: Faith Hill gets as much play (one track) as Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. Mitchell's "A Case of You" is simply great, and Bran Van 3000's "Everywhere" fits the folk-pop mold nicely, as does upstart Michelle Lewis's "Nowhere and Everywhere." The guys are the oddities here: Elvis Presley's "Always on My Mind" and Harry Nilsson's "Coconut" give this disc some fun quirks. —Jim Young
Virgin Voices Vol. 1: A Tribute To Madonna
Various Artists 1999 tribute to the most popular female artist of all time. Features performances by Heaven 17, Dead Or Alive, Berlin, Front Line Assembly, KMFDM, Information Society, Gene Loves Jezebel, Annabella Lwin (Bow Wow Wow), , Spahn Ranch and more. 14 tracks. 1999 release.
Lilith Fair: A Celebration Of Women In Music, Volume 3
Various Artists A document of the 1998 tour, Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music, Vol. 3 is thus far the most lively and affecting recording of Sarah McLachlan's summer festival. From the percussive chop-socky blues of Emmylou Harris's "Deeper Well" to Holly Cole's richly intoned "Onion Girl" to Sixpence None the Richer's quirky take on the pop hit "Kiss Me" to Rebekah's sparsely searing "Little Black Girl," the women presented here are fierce, fiery, and fabulously fruitful. Included also are Suzanne Vega's late-'80s signature song, "Luka," the Indigo Girls' banjo porch rocker "Get Out the Map," and N'dea Davenport's sultry-smooth "Underneath a Red Moon." While some notable '98 participants lack representation here (where are Paula Cole, Missy Elliot, and Lucinda Williams?), this volume is a proud achievement of fine production and optimal sequencing, and the performances are of greater diversity than offered previously. —Paige La Grone
Classical Guitar Masterpieces
Various Artists
Dr. Demento 30th Anniversary Collection: Dementia 2000
Various Artists When your life's work is collecting the most absurd and goofy tunes ever recorded, the phrase "life's work" takes on an entirely less menacing tone. For Dr. Demento, "work" entails rounding up Daffy Duck's finest-ever performance, a Monty Python ditty, a few Weird Al Yankovic tunes, and a number of other nutty classics in an uninhibited tribute to absurdity. While most of the material here is parody or novelty tunes, some of the set's funniest moments are the straight comedy pieces: George Carlin on food abandoned in the fridge, Cheech & Chong at the beach, and the hilariously absurd Vestibules doing "Bulbous Bouffant." While certainly not something designed for repeated listening, you never know when you'll have the unbearable urge to hear "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." —S. Duda
'Til We Outnumber 'Em: Woody Guthrie
Various Artists More than 30 years ago, shortly after the death of Woody Guthrie in the fall of 1967, a number of folk heavies like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger assembled in Carnegie Hall to pay tribute to the folk patriarch. That Tribute to Woody Guthrie serves as something of a precursor to this 2000 record spearheaded by Ani DiFranco, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Guthrie Archives. It is a testimony to the incredible staying power of Guthrie's songs and his legacy that successive generations of musicians continue to be touched by what DiFranco calls his "rail-riding, rambling, story-gathering, political, acoustic-balladeer model." Like the first tribute, this one includes readings of Guthrie's prose along with interpretations of his music, but it also adds personal reflections from Fred Hellerman and Arlo Guthrie, among others. Highlights from this 1996 gathering include a pair of Bruce Springsteen performances (the playful "Riding in My Car" and the solemn "Deportee"), David Pirner's urgent "Pretty Boy Floyd," and "Ramblin' Round," invested with the right amount of weariness by the Indigo Girls with DiFranco. Also of note is DiFranco's dramatic reworking of "Do Re Mi," which highlights the song's often overlooked dark theme, and Billy Bragg's "Against the Law," which reappears on Mermaid Avenue Volume II, a second set of Guthrie lyrics set to Bragg's music. It's telling that Arlo Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, two participants from the first tribute, return here, and it's more than likely that many of these artists will appear on the future Guthrie celebrations that surely are to come. —Marc Greilsamer
The Best of Gilbert & Sullivan
Various Artists
State of Grace
Various Artists Producer and composer Paul Schwartz thanks many people on State of Grace, but there is one notable exclusion: the 12th-century nun Hildegard von Bingen. Although these aren't her compositions, echoes of her ecstatic hymns and sequences resound throughout Schwartz's latest electronica-classical opus. He composes his own 21st-century gothic chants, which are sung by the impassioned soprano Lisbeth Scott. Scott is a powerful singer who brings a more emotional, perhaps even lustful, tone to these electro-Gregorian evocations, gliding over synthesizer ministrations and violin from the durable Gavyn Wright. Paul Schwartz was also responsible for the Aria CDs, on which he updated operatic arias with dance beats. State of Grace benefits from the less oppressive rhythmic regimentation, letting these soaring melodies ring out. When Schwartz deviates from his gothic inspirations, State of Grace flags, notably on a predictable rendition of "Amazing Grace," a misguided Celtic take on the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts," and a trio of instrumentals. —John Diliberto
Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska
Various Artists Interesting and eclectic collection of artists on this tribute to Springsteen's 6th album, Nebraska. Like the original the tracks are recorded on four track at Bruce's request. Artists include, Chrissie Hynde & Adam Seymour, Hank Williams the third, Los Lobos & Son Volt. And 3 bonus tracks recorded during the Nebraska sessions by, Johnny Cash, Raul Mal o if the Mavericks and Damien Jurado with Rose Thomas. 2000 release. Standard jewel case.
Dr. Demento: The Very Best of Dr. Demento
Various Artists
Tomb Raider
Various Artists Everything about crypt crawler Lara Croft is fake: her boobs, her archaeological background, her identity. The ass-kickin' chick is a game boy's dream come to life, so it's fitting that the video hottie should get an equally synthetic soundtrack in time for her big-screen debut. U2 reel out the album's strongest track, a glossy remix of "Elevation" that skids all over glam-rock terrain and is just sexy enough to make it work as a single (as well as a scene-stealing video featuring Tomb Raider star Angelina Jolie). Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor works himself into a fit on the grinding "Deep," but his tirade sounds outdated with its dumb lyrics and clunky, hookless programming. Speaking of computer blues, Groove Armada's wordless snoozer "Edge Hill" is about as far from shakin' that ass as a dance act can get. Thankfully, club reliables like the Chemical Brothers and Moby can still get it done; the former brings out the funk with a writhing dance tune that's as tireless as the film's heroine, while the latter's fuzzed-out big beats explode into a giddy freak-out that helps tighten up the album's blah midsection. Oddly, the only ladies in the house, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot and young 'un Nelly Furtado, are the ones who get Lara Croft's modus operandi right; no matter how perfect she may be, she still needs to get her freak on. —Kristy Martin
We're A Happy Family - A Tribute To The Ramones
Various Artists It was inevitable that a glut of Ramones tribute albums would follow the passing of Joey and Dee Dee Ramone. The 17-song-strong We're a Happy Family thankfully escapes the dubious tribute-album ghetto. It's no surprise that Ramones descendents like Green Day, Rancid, and the Offspring stick close to the tired and true, while headbanger James Hetfield makes "53rd & 3rd" sound like a Metallica song. But the standouts on the disc are the efforts where artists go off the rails. Pete Yorn turns in a yearning version of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," while Tom Waits goes the ghoulish route on "The Return of Jackie and Judy." Kiss get the best-in-show nod for their anthemic "Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio," which is odd given that the Ramones were formed ostensibly as a reaction against arena rockers like Kiss. Don't miss the final hidden track, a scary gem by the Chili Peppers' John Frusciante. —Jaan Uhelszki
Matrix Reloaded: The Album
Various Artists Matrix Reloaded boasts one of the most anticipated soundtrack albums in years. Its predecessor, the soundtrack to 1999's blockbuster The Matrix was Grammy nominated, platinum and Top 10, remaining on the pop chart for more than a year. Now Matrix Reloaded-The Album, featuring all new recordings from Rob Zombie, Deftones, Rob Dougan, and Marilyn Manson, as well as today's heaviest acts, including Linkin Park, P.O.D., electronica superstar Paul Oakenfold, and rock favorite Dave Matthews Band. 19 tracks plus enhanced material including previews from The Matrix Reloaded. Maverick. 2003.
A Tribute to Nine Inch Nails
Various Artists
Putumayo Presents: Women of Latin America
Various Artists Latin America has produced dozens of brilliant female singers and composers, including trail-blazers like Violetta Parra, Elis Regina, Soledad Bravo and Mecedes Sosa, to mention only a few. The present generation is also shaping up nicely. There are more women bandleaders than ever before, firmly in charge of their own talent, free to choose their material and back-up players without interference. As they so often do, Putumayo has supplied a short-list of emerging stars; the voices heard on this album are uniformly splendid and worthy of deeper exploration. But there are a few stand-outs: Brazilian Mônica Salmaso's creamy dark voice makes a strong impression, as does Chilean chanteuse Jacqueline Fuentes's plaintive, fado-like mezzo and Lhasa's limpidly nostalgic Mexican ranchera. Some may cavil at yet another gender-based compilation. But they should consider that male-dominated equivalents have existed since the dawn of the recorded era; they were just not labeled as such. —Christina Roden
A Gothic Acoustic Tribute to NIN
Various Artists
2005 Warped Tour Compilation
Various Artists This double CD and 8th installment of this highly successful comp series features over 50 tracks from the biggest names in rock such as The Offspring, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphy's, Zao, Bleeding Through, Plain White T's, No Use For A Name, Millencolin, Bedouin Soundclash, Gatsby's American Dream, Strung Out, and many, many more.
100 All-Time Classical Favorites
Various Artists
Love After Dark
Various Artists
Nightcap Jazz
Various Artists
Sensual Jazz
Various Artists
Beat the Retreat: Songs by Richard Thompson
Various Artists Import reissue of this 1994 tribute to Folk/Rock singer/songwriter Richard Thompson. Features faithful covers and reinterpretations by X, R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Graham Parker, June Tabor, Los Lobos, David Byrne, Maddy Prior & Martin Carthy, Bonnie Raitt and more. EMI.
2007 Grammy Nominees
Various Artists
Putumayo Presents: A New Groove
Various Artists For their latest excursion into the arch, increasingly mainstream land of multi-kulti groove-meister pastiches, Putumayo has chosen a more forward-leaning direction — or have they? As time goes on, music of this genre, with its tendency toward faux-ironic, retro-glam-showbiz quotes and neo-hipster attitude, far from being on the cutting edge, is beginning to seem downright cozy and nostalgic. For example the singer on Bitterweet's "Dirty Laundry," wreathed in chirpy girl-group references, refers to herself as a "bad girl." What can that possibly mean in the industrial West, at the dawn of the present millennium, when pretty much anything goes? Did she wear fur, patronize an unfashionable tatooist, forget to recycle? K-Os, from Canada, again looks over its shoulder, this time to The Last Poets and Ray Charles' "Hit The Road Jack" — not boring but hardly newsworthy or thought-provoking. Many of these bands seem to be playing at being shady characters to impress their friends and audiences. The tunes are elegant, studied and even sporadically barbed. But truly dangerous artistic statements tend to be created by obsessed, passionate loose cannons, not anal retentive poseurs indulging in self-conscious theatrics. —Christina Roden
Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange
Various Artists, Ludwig van Beethoven, Edward Elgar, Terry Tucker, Erika Eigen, Nacio Herb Brown, Gene Kelly Stanley Kubrick's demanding perfectionism in all aspects of the filmmaking process has led to some of the most memorable soundtracks of the modern era. Kubrick's taste for the classics led to his scrapping Alex North's original score for 2001: A Space Odyssey in lieu of the "temporary" tracks he had used for editing, turning Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra into an unlikely 20th-century pop icon. For his 1971 adaptation of Anthony Burgess's cautionary future-shocker, Kubrick once again turned to the classics. Malcolm McDowell's protagonist Droog Alex's taste for Beethoven is given a nice tweaking by Moog pioneer Walter (now Wendy) Carlos's synthesized take on the glorious Ninth Symphony. Some have complained that the now-primitive electronics involved give it a dated feel. Disturbingly—and effectively—other-worldly is more like it. Kubrick also imbues repertory standards by Rossini and Elgar with dark, frequently hilarious irony, and makes Gene Kelly's sunny reading of "Singin' In The Rain" the underscore to an all-too-accurate prediction of societal nightmares to come. —Jerry McCulley
The Tarantino Connection
Various Artists, Original Soundtrack This will be a natural born killer of a catalog item at retail. Pulp maestro Quentin Tarantino's done a masterful job in blending music into the on-screen mayhem, and these 16 songs are the original soundtrack cream from seven films he either directed or produced. Acts include The Blasters, Urge Overkill, Combustible Edison, Leonard Cohen, Cowboy Junkies, and Dick Dale. —Jeff Bateman
Ultimate New Wave Party 1998
Various Eighties New Wave Artists, Modern English, David Bowie, A Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, Fine Young Cannibals, Thompson Twins, Eurythmics, Berlin featuring Terri Nunn
Highly Evolved
The Vines Hailed by a growing number as "the future of rock," the Vines are more a conglomeration of the best of the past. The Sydney, Australia, quartet sounds alternately like Nirvana, the Beatles, T. Rex, and even the Beach Boys (and, at times, all of those blended together). On Highly Evolved they present 12 flawlessly crafted songs, each one living up to the title of the album and first song. The wistful yearning of "Homesick," the breakneck force of "Get Free," and the gritty party of "Sunshinin" are proof alone of their deserved success. Sonically more complex than their stripped-down contemporaries White Stripes and the Strokes, the Vines write songs worthy of orchestration. But unlike White Blood Cells or Is This It, this album lacks cohesion. Each song is a world to itself, never quite uniting with the others. But such a critique, normally reserved for more established bands, shows the extent of the Vines' accomplishments—getting compared to the greats your first time out isn't too bad. —Laura Etling
Praise the Fallen
VNV Nation
Matter + Form
VNV Nation
Wagner: Overtures & Preludes
Wagner This is a dazzling collection of nonvocal excerpts from Wagner's operas, from the peace and loveliness of Rafael Kubelik's Siegfried Idyll to the passionate, disturbed Prelude to the first act of Tristan, led by Karl Bohm, and the wild Ride of the Valkyries, with Herbert von Karajan in a particularly rambunctious mood. Other highlights in the two and a half hours of music are transcendent readings of two Parsifal excerpts by Eugen Jochum and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and a Flying Dutchman set. But couldn't DG have tried to include some information about anything in their teeny paper insert? —Robert Levine
Genius: Best of Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon On the evidence of this 22-track career overview, it's tempting to call Warren Zevon's oeuvre a monument of pop-music dichotomy. But that assessment would sorely shortchange Zevon's vast catalog of contradictions: the sentimental songwriter ("Hasten Down the Wind") with a nihilistic heart of darkness who makes the likes of Jello Biafra seem more like Raffi by comparison; the shrewd, successful tunesmith nonetheless laboring in service of vintage psycho-whack like "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," "Excitable Boy," and "Werewolves of London"; a man who consorted with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and R.E.M. ("Boom Boom Mancini") and yet who still cheated the devil of his soul; a satirist with the keen eye of a marksman—or Randy Newman, for that matter—who somehow let his own demise get the jump on him, despite having written prescient jollities like "Mr. Bad Example" and Life'll Kill Ya. In short, Zevon walked it like he talked it, peril be damned. If he felt like turning in a straight-up take of the R&B chestnut "A Certain Girl," or lumbering inexplicably through Prince's "Raspberry Beret," only then to turn on a dime and indulge his classical pretenses on "Mutineer" and "Genius," so be it. Zevon just couldn't help himself from living up to this album's modest title. —Jerry McCulley
Heavy Weather
Weather Report Weather Report's biggest-selling album is that ideal thing, a popular and artistic success and for the same reasons. Released just as the jazz-rock movement began to run out of steam, this landmark album proved that there was plenty of creative life left in the idiom. This powerhouse supergroup, comprised of Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuna and Manolo Badrena, delivered their only certified-Platinum release with this killer cut. This vinyl release is 180 gram.
Unusual Way
Strangers Almanac
Whiskeytown Strangers Almanac first grabs you because it sounds so great. It's filled with dynamic performances that smolder moodily, then flare quickly into firestorms of twangy and soulful guitar rock that fuse Uncle Tupelo with the Stones, the Replacements, with Gram Parsons. But what makes this album essential are the songs of frontman Ryan Adams. Take "Houses On The Hill," about a man merely going through a box of old letters: in just two verses, and to a melody that's the definition of bittersweet, Adams relates a drama more rich in detail than most novels. One of '97's best albums. —David Cantwell
Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin The idea here was to put two masters together—one classical cellist, one improvisational singer/sound-effects performer—and voilà! instant amazing, unique, hip—and, hopefully, hit—record. The intriguing setup was to see what would happen when each led the other through the unfamiliar territory of his own specialty. The success of this recording lies not so much in the music or even in the overall performances, but in the fascinating and fun opportunity to sit in on the musicians' good-natured, respectful give-and-take, to witness an uncommon form of artistic chemistry that allows each performer to expand his vision and even his technique. On one hand we get Bobby McFerrin's impressionistic, improvisatory jazz/pop; on the other we enjoy Yo-Yo Ma's highly refined, formalized musicianship. Originally planned as a disc for children, Hush goes far beyond its initial premise, with each of the 13 tracks demonstrating these musicians' unique gifts and showing that, whether it's Vivaldi or jazz, it's all music and it's all a lot of fun. —David Vernier