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Product: Audio CD
Title: The Second Decade 1993-2003
Label: Reunion
Artist: Michael W. Smith
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
I wish he had called me to help him pick the selection

I realize every MWS fan has his own favorite CD, songs, memory, etc., but I think the producers of this CD could have done a little better. As I said on the "I'll Lead You Home" CD review, nothing MWS produces is bad. Its just degrees of good. Since I didn't care as much for that CD as I have for his others, and since many of those songs made their way on here -- at the expense of better ones -- I have to ding this just a little. But keep in mind that I have everything MWS has ever produced (except maybe one VHS video).
First, the good stuff. As he did for the 1993 First Decade CD, MWS adds a couple of new studio tracks, plus a new arrangement of Friends, that are first rate. Since MWS hasn't produced an originally written and produced vocal CD since 1999, these songs were refreshing and possibly a hint as to what's up next. My small problem with this compilation is the other stuff put on it. From 1992 through 1998, MWS produced only 1 CD -- I'll Lead You Home. Since then, in the same time frame, he's done 6 projects before this. Perhaps due to it being that long ago, he puts 4 of the Lead You Home tracks (one remixed) on here. That's fine, but considering his best work (or at least one of his two best) "This is Your Time" only has one entry -- the title cut, I think two from Lead You Home and three from Time would have been better. In addition, while "Cry For Love" is a great song, the rest from the Lead you Home CD aren't even the best ones on there.
OK, enough complaining. For those of you getting started with Christian music, this is a great place to start. There's no indication that MWS is anything but what his image projects: a man that stands behind the message he sings about. For 20 years, this guy has produced some incredible music (including for others) and while other artists that came before and after have drifted away for one reason or another, MWS still produces and sells. I'm not a big fan of where so-called contemporary Christian music has gone. I'm not buying much new of this music, but I'll never pass up a MWS CD.

Product: Audio CD
Title: The Buddha Of Suburbia (1993 Television Mini-Series)
Label: Alex
Artist: David Bowie
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
a diverse, mature, highly enjoyable set

For a guy who favors David Bowie's glam-rock period the most, it's kinda funny that THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA turns out to be one of my favorite Bowie albums. The music never gets too heavy; still, it's very adventurous without being self-conscious. Most songs are loaded with subtle electronic atmosphere and jazzy textures, yet there's a wide range of styles on this album.

Bowie once again proves himself to be more than just a great singer as he skillfully navigates keyboard, sax and guitar passages. His main music partner and coproducer on BUDDHA Erdal Kizilcay deserves much props as well.

This is certainly one of Bowie's best albums of the 90's, but perhaps it's not too surprizing that it wasn't released in America - it's not terribly commercial for one thing. It does seem to be aimed more toward British sensibilities and I suppose it's quentessentially Brittish in some ways as well. Even so, this American (me) has found a lot to love about it.

The Breakdown:

"The Buddha of Suburbia" - a great "state of my mind" song in which the singer perseveres with an optimistic outlook in the face of a modern world mired in insanity. The music conveys a tentative sort of hope and then swells with anguish courtesy of Bowie's sax. ****1/2

"Sex and the Church" - an odd, quirky rumination on the title subject which Bowie delivers through heavily distorted vocals. It moves along steadily with a roaming but grounded bass line, electronic percussion and various sounds including great jazzy sax from Bowie. *****

"South Horizon" - My favorite track, this one is essentially free-form jazz with hip-hop and techno elements mixed in. For me, it's a revelation and I'd love to hear a whole album like this. Guest pianist Mike Garson tickles the keys to thrilling effect. *****

"The Mysteries" - A deep, murky ambient track, like staring out across the ocean on a foggy morning. On the cusp of something intangibly brilliant. *****

"Bleed Like a Craze, Dad" - A bad-a** bass line, ripping electric guitars, unnerving background noises and more jazz inflections all make for an ominous, infectious and dancable cut. The title is kinda disturbing, yet fitting. Listen carefully and you can hear a dog barking to the beat! *****

"Strangers When We Meet" - Has a dreamy, Roxy Music quality. The song was stuck on the end of OUTSIDE, rather uncomfortably I might add despite its lyrical relevance to that album. It's much more at home here. ***1/2

"Dead Against It" - sounds like a bubbling, runaway electronic excursion through modern life. In contrast, Bowie's singing is subdued and the subject matter (a woman who is dead again, dead against . . . something) remains intriguing yet inscrutable to me. ****

"Untitled No. 1" - is another Roxy Music influenced tune (Roxy Music in turn were no doubt influenced by early Bowie). This track is an extremely sensuous wonderland, perfect for dancing cheek to cheek or a romantic candlelit evening. The lack of a proper title is unfortunate but inconsequential. ****1/2

"Ian Fish, U.K. Heir" - another ambient piece with echos seemingly from a Buddhist Monestary on a distant mountaintop. Features gentle acoustic guitar, among other elements. White noise from a needle on vinyl fills out the background to interesting effect. ****1/2

"Buddha of Suburbia" - one could say this almost identical take on the opening track is pointless and lazy, but I like the way the song provides bookends for the album and brings its theme full circle. This second version also ups the ante with a passionate guitar courtesy of Lenny Kravitz. ****1/2

Product: Audio CD
Title: Right from My Heart
Label: Lucky
Artist: Bruce Conte
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Great Guitar Work !

If you recall the classic guitar style of Tower of Power ... This is the guy ! Bruce has put out his own CD - It's great ! The classic TOP guitar sound. Well worth listening to !

Product: Audio CD
Title: American Life
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Madonna
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
near excellent

madonna's newest collection "american life" contains some of the most poignant and honest songs the woman has ever crafted. having said that, the title track is not one of them. that single and her new "patty hearst" look does not fit this album at all. it's too in-your-face and flashy for the mostly folk infused set.
fans of the madonna of old, with brassy anthems and bold statements will find little to admire here, what we have instead is an album of songs that speak very bluntly of love, affection, and ultimately personal discovery, most of which are nestled in beds of acoustic guitars and minimal beats.
the glorious "nothing fails" and the fragile "x-static process" are highlights to an album that comes so close to touching the madgesty of "like a prayer" and "ray of light" it falls just shy due to the bookending lemons "die another day" and the aforementioned "american life".
a must buy for true fans (obviously) and for those who were impressed by the best of her last 2 albums.
...very good. near excellent.