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Product: Audio CD
Title: Alive in America
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Steely Dan
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Good Intentions, Average Results


The duo of jazz-rock fusionists Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, both of whom can best be described as "musical malcontents," put a hault to all live shows during their original run after only a few years of touring, and bound their creations strictly to the studio. After their original 1972-80 stint, the two parted ways but fortunately were working together again on each other's solo projects by the time the 90s rolled around. This live album (a surprising release from a band that was notorious for their studio-sterile sound) was perhaps the best that Becker & Fagen could do to satisfy their fanbase, seeing as how they wouldn't release a new studio album until 2000.The thought-provoking cover of "Alive In America" conveys the duo's sardonic sense of humor, and the track selection, though somewhat unimpressive, shows all the elements of their musical contempt. Postcards from the wasteland like 'Kid Charlemagne' are matched with the more sunnier hits that helped place them into the embrace of success like 'Reeling In the Years' and 'Josie.' But it has to be said that many of their better moments are missing, and the choice of songs and predictable arrangements can often induce yawns. The album doesn't sound very "live" at all, but that's not surprising considering the band's studio preferences.But aside from that, "Alive In America" was a healthy dose for fans until the Grammy-winning "Two Against Nature" appeared five years later. But it also showed that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were interested in reviving their past creations together and not just limited to each other's solo outings.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Making a Good Thing Better
Label: Festival Records
Artist: Olivia Newton-John
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5
If you're not a devotee, it isn't for your collection.


When I first saw this CD, I was surprised that there was anything of Olivia's catalog left. Since MCA foolishly pulled most of her original albums from print, there's hardly anything left. The first time I heard the album I was disappointed, in fact I had to listen to the album in sections. "Making A Good Thing Better" is a good song, but not nearly as enjoyable as "If You Love Me", or "Let Me Be There". Her versions of "Ring Of Fire", and "Sad Songs" are well performed. I also find "You Won't See Me Cry", and "It's So Easy To Begin", with their breathy arrangements are enjoyable. "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" is a masterpiece. Olivia's vocals are fantastic, the orchestration is powerful, and the song is majestic. Unfortunately, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" is one of the few worth while songs on the record. "Slow Dancing" takes some getting used to, but it is alright after being played a few times. "Cooling Down" is awful. For one thing it's too slow, and drags down an already slow album. With better arrangements, and a more uptempo melody it could work, but as is it doesn't belong here. "It's So Easy To Begin" could also be a bit faster, but is a better piece. "I Think I'll Say Good-bye" pales in comparison to songs like "Jolene", "Country Girl", and even "Ring Of Fire", though an uptempo song is a nice break. "Don't Ask A Friend" is a good song, written by Olivia but it is too far down the sequence on an album like this to get a fair listening. The same thing for "If Love Is Real". MAKING A GOOD THING BETTER is too dull and formulatic to rank among Olivia Newton-John's top albums. "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina", "Ring Of Fire", "You Won't See Me Cry", and the title track make the album worth having. Still, I would much rather own HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN MELLOW, IF YOU LOVE ME, or LET ME BE THERE.



Product: Audio CD
Title: I'm Breathless
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Madonna
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
I'm Breathless


Sorry, I'm such a clutz! I appear to have submitted an I'm Bratehless Review twice. Obviously I'm trying to emphasize how wonderful this CD is! Please see my review of this album below. ( 3rd March 2004)



Product: Audio CD
Title: Everything Must Go
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Steely Dan
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Steely Dan lets go!


It's hard to believe Steely Dan actually got this album out so (relatively) quickly. However, it doesn't sound as meticulously labored as previous albums. It has a very 'live' feel to it, making Steely Dan in the studio sound like a real band for the first time since their first two albums. The songs themselves take off in style and structure from where Donald and Walter left off with Two Against Nature, but they are far more casually executed. Still, like Two Agains Nature, this album takes several listens to fully absorb. Immediate highlights for me were "The Things I Miss The Most," "Godwhacker," "Slang of Ages" (Walter on vocals!) and the title track, which is by far the best song on the album. It opens with a very "free jazz" feel, and segues into a classic Steely Dan groove. It will certainly be a treat to hear the Dan perform these tunes live on stage this summer.