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Product: Audio CD
Title: Everything Must Go
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Steely Dan
Rating: 2/5
Customer rating - 2 out of 5
Definitely not their best work


Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Steely Dan and of Becker and Fagen individually. I have all their albums, and recently picked this one up. The album is not bad, but clearly not up to their previous efforts. I heard nothing on this album that made me want to listen to it again, unlike Two Against Nature, which played nonstop in my CD player at work for hours the day I got it. It's almost like someone else making a poor copy of a Steely Dan album, or perhaps a collection of Steely Dan studio rejects from previous recording sessions. "Slang of Ages" clearly shows why Fagen should handle the vocals. "Green Book" has a quirky, repetitious groove that is the best track on the album. Otherwise, the lyrics make for better poetry than music. Definitely at the bottom of my Steely Dan collection.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Brian Setzer Collection: 1981-1988
Label: Capitol
Artist: Brian Setzer
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Struts His Stuff


This collection follows Brian Setzer from the old Stray Cats days through his solo, pre-BSO, career. It doesn't matter if Setzer was playing with Lee Rocker and Jim Phantom to form the Stray Cats, or whether he was out on his own, the guy is incredible. This album covers his maturing years, focusing mostly on the time between the Stray Cats and BSO. These are the songs that helped propel him into super-stardom.
Great music is what this album is about. From the popular Stray Cats cuts "(She's) Sexy + 17" and "Rock This Town" to his own powerful solo work "The Knife Feels Like Justice" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" it proves Setzer's great talent as a musician and song-writer. His guitar playing and singing are often overlooked, but he is incredible at both. Listen to his voice croon on "The Knife Feels Like Justice" and you just know there was no doubt Setzer would make it. An excellent cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" appears here too. His guitar work is framed with "Echo Park" and "Thing About You". Setzer can rock it out, sing an emotional love song, or just get in a pickin' mood.
Collections like this are great in showing how a musician has evolved during their career, and this album shows how a good musician evolved into a great one. The music is wide and varied, but all of it is classic Setzer. This album is even better because it contains six previously unreleased tracks, making it a necessity for any Setzer fan's collection.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Number Ones
Label: Sony
Artist: Michael Jackson
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
A Superb Collection From The No.1 King Of Pop!


As the first few weeks of 2004 are upon us, and I'm sure Michael Jackson will be hoping that this year will bring him better luck than 2003 did. Despite dominating the tabloids with his appearance, the baby-dangling incident and THAT Martin Bashir interview, Michael Jackson still remains the King of Pop. There's some people who are famous. There are some people who are superstars. There are some people who are icons - and then there's Michael Jackson. Arguably the most famous entertainer alive, Jackson's 30 years reign on the charts is unchallenged.
So that's precisely why Michael's latest release, "Number Ones," is essential for all fans of brilliant music. Since the early 1980's Jackson has captivated the world with his music. We've had fun dancing to his music and cried to his emotional ballads, and that's why he's the greatest male performer ever. His talent is undeniable, and even though he's gone a bit off the rails in recent years, the world and his die-hard fans have never forgotten the music which is what matters the most.
First off, Number Ones is a title that tricks the buyer somewhat. There are eighteen songs on this album, and Jackson has had no where near eighteen US No.1 hits. He's had a total of 13 US No.1 singles, and his last was in 1995. Michael has had 7 UK No.1 hit singles, and his last was in 1997. His first UK No.1 hit was in May 1981 with "One Day In Your Life," which isn't included on here strangely enough. Michael's sixth US No.1 "Say Say Say" is also not included, and I have the UK version which includes "Human Nature" instead of "Man In The Mirror." Silly different regions and record companies! What is the point? Why not just have a complete tracklisting?! Also, "Ben," Michael's first ever US No.1, is included on the US version, but not on the UK version. Instead the UK gets "Blood On The Dancefloor," Michael's last UK No.1 single.
Apart from these minor hiccups, all of Michael's biggest and most popular hits are included here. The album opens with "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You." Both songs are from Michael's debut album Off The Wall and both hit the US top spot. "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Thriller" are up next and all from Thriller, Michael's signature album. 50 million copies shifted worldwide, and nothing's going to take over it any time soon! Up next, we have six songs from the follow up to Thriller. Bad was Michael's third album, released in 1987 and sold 25 million copies as well. The songs from Bad on here are "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "Smooth Criminal," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man In The Mirror" and "Dirty Diana." All these songs were huge hits and all were US No.1's, apart from Smooth Criminal.
After this we get "Black Or White," which was a huge US and UK No.1 hit. It's the only song on this compilation album from Michael's fourth album - 1991's Dangerous. "You Are Not Alone" was one of Michael's biggest hits ever, and is next on here, followed by Michael's biggest selling UK single, "Earth Song." No.1 for six weeks and shifting more than 1 million copies this masterpiece is a perfect world peace anthem. Michael's 2001 comeback single "You Rock My World" follows. It wasn't a No.1, so by rights it shouldn't be included here, but it's a great track, so why not? "Break Of Dawn" wasn't even released as a single, so it's got no excuse to be here! It's from Michael's trans-atlantic chart topping Invincible album from 2001. "One More Chance" is Michael's latest single, and will not top the charts by my 'expert' predictions. "Ben" closes the album, which goes back to the very beginning of his career.
OVERALL GRADE: 8/10
I think it was a wise move for Michael Jackson to release Number Ones. It provides new fans in their teens a chance to get to know Michael's best music, for those who were too young to be digging it when 1995's "HIStory" was released, because let's face it, even people in their early teens love Michael's music! I think some minor adjustments could have been made to the tracklisting to improve this album, but it's still not a bad collection and definitely worth the money. Upon its release this album didn't even crack the US Top 10 - Britney stormed to No.1 that week, but in the UK, Number Ones did just that, and went straight to the top of the charts! All in all a brilliant record to add to any Michael Jackson collection.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Reprise [2003]
Label: Decca
Artist:
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Check it out, you'll be hooked


The CD kicks off with "Santa Lucia", which features the Voice in all its glory. And moves into his unique voice on "Immenso Sogno" and "Tutto se per me". He reaches his emotional highs with his thrilling voice on "Core `ngrato" and cranks up his tenor voice for more Neapolitan classics. You cannot help but escape from his tender rendering of "The Living Years". Other standouts are "All or Nothing" and "La danza".
The CD would be worth it on the strength of all of the aforementioned songs but the most colossal find here is his staggering rendition of "The Pearl Fishers' Duet". This song is Classic Watson - versatile, passionate and strong -- all delivered in a grand yet ferocious, full-throated sound. Something is truly wrong with you if your not spellbound.
If due to illness, insanity or destitution, you find that you are only able to purchase one (1) Russell Watson CD in your lifetime, make it "Reprise". Import Reprise is even better