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Product: Audio CD
Title: Two Blocks from the Edge
Label: Grp Records
Artist: Michael Brecker
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Awesome playing by an awesome band!

If you ask me, Mr.Brecker is the best of the Coltrane disciples. He is the one that, without sounding like a clone, best captures the fire of the Master. Here, we have a nice little album that showcases his masterful improvising. His sound is a delight for the ears - pensive and lyrical on the ballads, and edgy, urgent on the faster tracks. On "El Nino", the sole Latin piece, he really lets loose. When the rythm section cranks it up, Brecker soars admirably. Now, I must point out that, although Calderazzo, Genus and Watts are very capable musicians, and they offer very solid support, on a few spots here and there they are not on par with Brecker. For example, on the tune mentioned, when it's Calderazzo's turn to blow, and the rythm cranks up, he doesn't quite rise up to the occasion. Compare that to the brilliant, incendiary solos of pianists such as Michel Camilo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, or Chucho Valdes, and you will see my point. Obviously, Calderazzo has almost no Latin chops whatsoever, so that when the groove is red hot Latin, his soloing sort of remains in the straight-ahead vein, and that just doesn't work. This drags the music down in terms of intensity. I won't get into the technical/stylistic specifics of that, but just listen to those pianists I mentioned and you will hear what I mean. Now, aside from that, this album is a solid representation of Brecker's astounding abilities - his passionate tone, his restless drive, his brilliant phrasing, etc. The last track, "Delta City Blues" is the highpoint of this album. Brecker's sax sounds almost like a human voice - crying in despair, yet with hope. Not Brecker's best, I am sure, but still a very good album for any Jazz fan to have in his/her collection.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Before the Storm
Label: Strictly Rhythm
Artist: Darude
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
The Title Speaks Volumes

Everyone has heard Sandstorm; to be honest, that song is the reason I bought the album. However, once I got it, I was amazed at the other tracks. Never before have I listened to an album whose title fit the mood of the songs perfectly. Tracks four through six all build and the overall mood is in fact a calm before the storm. Track seven has the most excellent "reverse bass" sound (where they sampled a bass beat, then played it backwards). Better yet, the album is as dance floor friendly (as seen by the club play Sandstorm and Feel the Beat have seen) as it is down-tempo-ear-drum-friendly listening. Definitely a good buy.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Encore [Decca]
Label: Decca
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
An English Treasure!

Watson sings with such richness and poignancy. I can never do justice to this English treasure known as the people's tenor. I saw him perform in concert at Atlantic City. His opening song was O sole mio and my husband, who is a fan but not as devout as me, fell in love with this song, the 5th cut on this CD, with good reason. Trust me and rush out and buy this Watson classic. Songs that stand out for me are Va, pensiero and You Are So Beautiful. But really, I enjoy them all so much. That's what makes this CD yet another classic by this wonderful singer. There's not one song you'd want to skip over.

Product: Audio CD
Title: American Life
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Madonna
Rating: 2/5
Customer rating - 2 out of 5
Not for those who liked the Ray of Light

Although I readily admit that some of Madonna's work has taken time to grow on me, as exemplified by incredible "Erotica", which was grossly overlooked by both critics and fans mostly because it was released in junction with a provocative book and surrounded by the usual publicity blitz. However, I can say with certainty that this is Madonna's weakest effort to date and there is very little chance of this perception changing.
Why is this release so disappointment to me? Let me count the ways... Instead of an "extension" of the work started with "Ray of Light" and "Music", "American Life" feels derivative and truly without focus. Furthermore, Madonna's voice (with the exception of two cuts) has never sounded more off key and the arrangements are repetitive and lack harmony.
I give this release 2 stars, instead of 1, only because of "Die Another Day", which is surprisingly strong and at least shows a semblance of life. Also, the song "American Life" is not great, but it has a catchy chorus that does not sound like the didactic diatribe that is "American Life".
Lastly, although I generally don't bother in focusing anything but the music, could Madonna have approved such a boring and empty cover and inadequate insert? Also, the title of the album seems highly inappropriate as this is almost like a personal diary with all the right words one would use to try and impress an Enlgish high school teacher and is not a reflection of an "American Life". I know, that this is kind of irrelevant, but I really expect much more from Madonna, especially when she has it in her to do much better than this.
Instead of buying this release, which is so weak, grab ANY of her other CDs in your collection and you'll be much more happy than if you invest in this.