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Product: Audio CD
Title: Patience [UK]
Label: Sony Int'l
Artist: George Michael
Rating: 1/5
Customer rating - 1 out of 5
Dull dull dull - he's lost his edge

George is the epitome of musical perfection -- his impeccable vocals, flawless production and brilliant songwriting are the stuff others can only dream of. And having been one of the biggest fans ever since the days of "Young Guns," I've come to love every single nuance.
This only adds to my mystifying reaction to "Patience." This is a really, really good CD -- but it's not as good as I've come to expect from George. Is it fair to hold George to a higher standard? I think so, because I know he's capable of it.
We all know George has had his personal tragedies and my sympathies are with him -- but I also know he claims this is his most radio-friendly record ever. And I just don't hear it.
There are some really fun tracks on here -- "Amazing" is just good pop radio... "Flawless (Go To The City)" is a driving club anthem destined to make the boys sweat this summer... "Cars And Trains" approaches the kind of funky sound we know George is capable of.
The ballads here are complex and deep, in the vein of "Older." "Through" is absolutely moving and showcases his breathtaking vocal prowess... "My Mother Had A Brother" is another chance for his pipes to shine.
But in between, we are left with songs that would shine on any other artist's disc, but in the context of George, they tend to fall flat. Songs like "Precious Box" are overtly lengthy and obtuse -- what is he trying to say and why is he taking so long to say it? Others, like "John And Elvis Are Dead" are just plodding along.
Knowing what George and his gifts can do, I just I just hate to see him do anything less than his best. And listening to this disc makes me feel as if he is resigning himself to just 'treading water,' as someone said in another review.
At first listen, the disc isn't commerically appealing, and I am afraid that on U.S. release, it won't do well at all. But after repeated listening, it makes the fans smile and all is well. But that doesn't mean that we don't remember what George can do -- and hopefully will again.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Monsters, Inc.
Label: Disney
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Monsterously Good!

Once again Randy Newman and PIXAR team up for another entertaining film soundtrack! The best cues from Monsters, Inc. are the six or so with jazz influences ('Monsters, Inc.' and 'Walk to Work' being my favorites). They give the film a distinctive sound and style that's immediately identifiable. I can imagine people listening to these cues more than most film scores since they're jazzy and don't have that 'film score' sound. The rest of the soundtrack is very good but not nearly as distinctive. If you enjoyed the Toy Story and A Bug's Life scores though, you're sure to enjoy this one too.
Also included are two versions of the closing credits song 'If I Didn't Have You'. The first version is the one heard in the film, featuring John Goodman (Sully) and Billy Crystal (Mike) singing. It's a big, over the top and funny song which tries to be to this film what 'You've Got A Friend In Me' was for Toy Story 2. In fact, this song better suits the Toy Story films (espicially the first one), as being pals through thick and thin isn't really what Monsters, Inc. is all about. I enjoy the second version (Randy Newman singing with piano accompaniment) better as it's quiet, basic approach seems to convey the message much more honestly. I just it were a message that related more to the story of Monsters, Inc.
If you hurry, you can purchase a numbered (up to 17,000) limited edition of the soundtrack at Disney stores and theme parks. There aren't any bonus tracks, but the CD comes in a fancy metal tin.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Josh Groban
Label: Warner Brothers
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5
A rare talent in questionable commercial hands.

I am part of that sector (you know who you are) who checks out vocal albums because we are vocalists ourselves, and as a result is simultaneously more allied with and more critical of what we hear. I'm stating my biases up front because I've noticed that people on this site tend to resent mixed or negative reviews, as though they are only reading them to feel better about the purchase they've already decided to make. Apparently people don't like to write such reviews either, as they are 90% fan raves. But I always look for a music fan who appears to have similar tastes to my own. I think everyone should be in love with their music, so if you already know you will love this album, don't let me steal your thunder, but I'm afraid I must insist that I do exist, soul and all.
That said, I think Gobran's is truly one of the sweetest voices I've heard. He also looks sweet; I'm not being superficial, I mean that he looks like a musician, like his senses would be more refined than some of the shoddy lyrics and eighties back-up they've got him singing to. I believe that they are, and that he is walking the tricky walk of marketing, which I don't begrudge him and yet makes me nervous for him. It is one of the adventures that keeps the attention of his peers, as it does for Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. These latter two have some brilliant producers. They aren't idols of technique, but they make what they can do work wonderfully well: when Bocelli decides to put out some sacred arias, he puts out some damn addictive ones, and when Brightman decides to sing Dust in the Wind, the arrangement is impeccable. I must admit I was hoping for as much from this album, since that kind of combination with his voice would have shot it into my personal charts. I still have great hopes for him, but the album failed me; I just know too well how many great songs there are out there to accept so few. I hope that now that he has his foot in the door he can start branching out into more risky--and artistically rewarding--repertoire.

Product: Audio CD
Title: 11-17-70
Label: Island
Artist: Elton John
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Just a good night of music

When I was growing up, this album was on my father's turntable frequently, and I always thought I was a huge Elton John fan. The raw energy of this powerful trio, and the simple arrangements of great rock and roll songs was what music was (and is) all about to me. "Todays Elton" simply is not my cup of tea (with all due respect Mr. John...)
This is an album I recommend to anyone who is NOT an Elton John fan. It truly rocks.