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Product: Audio CD
Title: Live the Life
Label: Reunion
Artist: Michael W. Smith
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Smitty keeps getting better!

There are only a few CDs where every song is great - this is one of them. I love Michael W. Smith's voice and those baby blue eyes... :-) He has definitely topped my list! "Live the Life" gets my vote for album of the year.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Finally We Are No One
Label: Fat Cat [Caroline]
Artist: Múm
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
interesting, to say the least

Having only heard one song by Mum before (Green Grass of Tunnel) I wasn't really sure what I'd be in for when I bought this CD. I was buying it with the same justification I have for most of my CD purchases; even if the rest of the songs on it are bad, at least there'll be one good one.
But anyway, to my review. This CD was a bit of a surprise when I listened to it for the first time; none of the songs in any way resemble Green Grass of Tunnel (in my eye) but that's not to say they're bad. The unfortunate thing is a lot of the songs seem to be filler; the first song, Sleep/Swim, is only 50 seconds long and is basically a prelude to Green Grass. Behind Two Hills is a happy, bubbly little song, but there's not much body in it, and outside of it's novelty value it's not exactly a musical masterpiece; Faraway Swimmingpool is an echo of Behind Two Hills, minus the champagne bubbles. We Have a Map of the Piano interesting song, but definitely not the highlight of the CD and the trumpets get a tad annoying after a while. K/Half Noise and Now There's That Fear Again are quite similar in tone (rather depressing)...and Finally We are No One is just strange.
What does that leave, then? The single, Green Grass of Tunnel, is probably my favourite track. I grew up a bit of a strange child, but my early years are some of my happiest memories; this song seems to capture the essence of those years, and mostly the essence of one of my best childhood friends. It's a bit of a dinky song, but very beautiful in a childish way.
Track 9, I Can't Feel My Hand.., despite the odd title, is another great song. It's very different from all the previous songs in that it's slower and calmer, but builds up to a beautiful, tense crescendo of orchestral instruments. It ends very strangely though, like a book that an authour hasn't finished writing. Not entirely a bad thing, though.
The last track, The Land between Solar Systems, is similar to track 9 in that it heats up slowly; a very cold, brittle song that really echoes it's name. Very nicely mixed, the whole song has a feeling of isolation or exile, and the deep, watery introduction leads into a dark but beautiful song which builds up to a feverish, almost paranoid climax which still manages to be graceful. As to what you would call this song, I'm not sure...I've never heard anything quite like it, and it seems to express an emotion all of its own.
All in all, one of the stranger CDs I own, but definitely not the worst. Despite the fact I only really like 3 of the songs, these 3 songs really are good enough to make up for the lack of body in the others; which is why I've given it 4 stars instead of 3. The whole CD has about it a feeling of childish innocence, (with the exception of the last song) and is a lovely CD for reminiscing to. Ssomething you would listen to by yourself at night, possibly with a favourite book.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Thankful
Label: RCA
Artist: Kelly Clarkson
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Not Too Bad! I LIKE it!

In the American Idol 1 competition, Kelly won because she was so versatile and never had an "off" day. She can sing just about anything, putting everything she has into it.
If you were a record executive looking to sell Kelly albums, you might take an eclectic approach. Give her a very mixed bag of songs to sing, let her put what she has into each of them, and hope that large numbers of people would find at least one or two songs that they really like on the album.
And that seems to be what has happened with "Thankful". What amazes me about this album is that people vary so much in the songs that they like from it. There are songs on it that I don't especially care for, but others love them - and there are songs that I love, but which others find boring or over the top (take your pick). I've had this album for several months now, and there are only two or three songs that I listen to regularly - but those songs make all the difference for me. There are some that I listened to only once, and there are a couple that I've never been able to get through - yet those very songs are ones that some other people have on infinite repeat.
So you might want to give this album a try, to see if you too will find those special songs that will make it worth the purchase price many times over. If not, try her next album. Sooner or later, you will find one (or more) of her songs to love - and that could make a difference for you.
In her next album, I would like to see some classic songs mixed in with new ones. In the competition, she showed that she could sing many of those songs better than the originals. I would never have listened all the way through the original version of "Stuff Like That There", but she transformed it into gold. I would like to see her magic touch on more of such songs.

Product: Audio CD
Title: In The Zone
Label: Jive
Artist: Britney Spears
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Amazing from Start to Finish!!

It's about time Britney grew up! On her fourth album Britney finally makes a definable leap to adult singer. That's not to say she's left behind her pop roots, but the tracks are more melodic, the sappy ballads are gone and the content is sexy and sensual without being immature. Britney's voice, while never powerful, finally sounds good with the material she's singing. It's easy to loose her in all the background vocals and noise sometimes but it sounds less like a cover-up this time and more like music. Seriously, with the exception of a few take-them-or-leave-them tracks this album is a joy to listen to all the way through! One of my favorite tracks is "Breathe On Me" which is very exemplary of grown-up Britney's style. It's a dance track very reminiscent of Kylie Minogue with breathy vocals and a pulsing beat. It is highly danceable and I hope it gets released as a single. "Toxic" is another of my favorite tracks. It's fun, infectious and similar to her past hits, but it isn't as immature as "Oops..." or "Boys." "Outrageous" is another good track with a middle-eastern flair. I don't like that it was written by possible child-molester R. Kelly but he hasn't been convicted yet so I guess I can't complain. "Everytime," the only stand-out ballad, is sweet and beautifully sung. Normally Britney's ballads are over-wrought and too saccharine. This time she keeps the schmaltz to a minimal and allows her voice to convey emotion. "(I Got That) Boom Boom" and "Showdown" are both good but not spectacular in any regard. Despite being a Moby collaboration "Early Mornin'" doesn't really have Moby's touch to it. It's kind of forgettable amongst the other tunes. What makes this album work, for me, is that Britney is actually believable. She is an adult now verse her previous albums where she tried to be adult and comes off as highly insincere. She takes some calculate risks with this album and it really pays off. It's not a huge departure from pop, but it isn't pure bubblegum either. It sounds fresh, a quality her last album lacked. If she keeps on this path I think she'll be poised to have the Madonna-like career she's obviously gunning for.