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Product: Audio CD
Title: Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino
Label: RCA
Artist: John Bucchino
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Bucchino is one talented writer

This CD is one of the freshest, most beautiful to come along recently. I have always been a fan of Bucchino's, since he worked with Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near. Among the best songs on this album: "Grateful" by Michael Feinstein, "That Smile" by Liza Minelli and Billy Stritch, and "This Moment" by Kristin Chenowith. But almost every song has it's great moments, although some are not that great ("A Powerful Man"). In short, there are enough songs that are excellent to buy this CD.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Tanto Tempo
Label: Six Degrees
Artist: Bebel Gilberto
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Perfect background

I agree with what many previous writers have alluded to: put on Bebel Gilberto's "Tanto Tempo" as the background at any gathering and - before the CD is through - everyone will have asked you what you're playing. The music is infectious and Bebel's voice is lilting, silky and sensuous, a feeling that comes across in either Portuguese or English (the sounds are a mixture of each - sometimes dividing choruses between the two like in the wonderful "August Day Song"). In fact, you'll probably get hooked by the most approachable songs, like the English language "So Nice (Summer Samba)" but then learn to love the Portuguese-penned tunes as well.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Rock 'n' Roll [Bonus Tracks]
Label: Capitol
Artist: John Lennon
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5
OK Lennon Album!

John Lennon tried to do an album of 50s and early 60s tunes, but the result wasn't as good as it should have been. Just like all the material Phil Spector touches, it turns bad. Spector only produced four of the songs on this album, but they are pretty weak. The ones Lennon does are better, but not sung with the same fever of his earlier Beatle days. It's almost as if he is imitating Buddy Holly rather than using his own more dominant voice. The high points: "Stand By Me", "Rip It Up", "Slippin' 'n' Slidin'", and "Ain't That A Shame." Another good song is Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me", however, Lennon's voice is smothered by overproduction that it makes the track less enjoyable.

In short, my criticism of this album is in the way it was overproduced and also by the way Lennon took a laid back approach to his vocals. It's certainly not a bad album, but you will not hear songs from the same howling rock 'n' roll guy that brought you "Revolution", "Twist and Shout", "Everybody's Got Something TO Hide Except Me and My Monkey", "Remember", "Money", "You Can't Do That" and "I'm So Tired." This is a less enthusiastic vocalist who is more interested in imitating his heroes Buddy Holly and Little Richard than realizing the great potential of his own voice.

Only own this if you are a John Lennon fan, but don't expect it to be great because it isn't.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Measure of a Man
Label: Rca
Artist: Clay Aiken
Rating: 1/5
Customer rating - 1 out of 5
You will agree

This is going to be a long review, but Clay deserves it. I'll just go track by track and then give you my thoughts at the end, mmkay? (Songs with an asterisk are ones that you should feel free to include on your next mix CD.)
*1. Invisible: solid, solid track with a very catchy chorus--the kind that gets stuck in your head for two hours and you don't mind at all. It makes great use of Clay's voice in reverbs and stylistic background additions (can there ever be too much of his voice?). This is one of the best tracks; I'm glad it's first.
2. I Will Carry You: another contagious chorus. This song was so hyped in articles on the Internet, though, that I kind of expected more from it. It contains "stock" lyrics (meaning you could buy them anywhere) but I like "when the stars go blind," haven't heard that before. The song grows on your after about three listens.
3. The Way: "There's somethin' 'bout the way you look tonight"--and then you can't resist continuing with "never seen you shine so bright..." which is a BAD thing. But the song has a lovely chorus which contains good use of harmonies. And--what the heck? Enrique Iglesias gets a writing credit? You just never know these days... I can see them trying to make this his next single (although I recommend track 12).
4. When You Say You Love Me: this song is country-flavored, which is a nice change and Clay is, after all, a country boy. However, it's still down there on my list of favorites. Religious lyrics: "if you wanna make God laugh, all you gotta do is tell him your plans"--it's a great line.
5. No More Sad Songs: a song with better lyrics overall than the previous four, especially lines like "you are formally rejected." "No more sad song" (which is actually supposed to be the title) imitates a spontaneous emotion, which is cool. This song's a little more edgy, I suppose, but Clay only really digs into it once or twice. This should be more memorable, but it's not.
6. Run To Me: not one of my favorites, and although there are more stock lyrics, I do like the story they tell. His voice sounds strained when he sings up high for some reason, and that really takes the song down a notch for me. Definitely one of the "power ballads" that critics were waiting to pounce on.
*7. Shine: one of the way better ones. Another religious lyric refers to "the sinner and the saint" who fight the battle within; I really enjoy the "church" chord that plays after he says that; little things like that make a song better. It sounds more like a contemporary pop song than most on this CD, which he CAN do whether or not he believes it. This is one of the few songs where his singing is understated.
8. I Survived You: again, much better lyrics in this song, especially in the chorus. But wait--Clay says "I'll be damned"!! What the--!
9. This is the Night: yup, we've said all we can say about this one.
10. Perfect Day: it's an ambitious song, trying to set a style with a heavy piano hook right in the middle of the chorus. But when he sings "it's gonna be a perfect day," he really nails it, and gives the song some extra spike.
11. Measure of a Man: again, his voice is a bit strained in the chorus, and I just can't fathom why. And again, low on that list. (I know, I know, he really wanted it on the CD, and that's cool and all...)
*12. Touch: the best song on the album; they saved a great surprise for last. NEEDS TO BE his next single. I know a lot of his fans don't like contemporary pop, but this song--with a great hook and extra-cool beats--needs to be the blueprint for his next album. Clay just totally pulls this song off, and I always suspected he could do this! David Eriksson, the song's producer, is a genuis, and I'm so glad he believed in Clay enough to do this. The chorus is again contagious, and reminiscent of Enrique Iglesias' "Rhythm Divine," only this song is not nearly as grandiose, which is great. When Clay fades away with "girl, 'cause your touch is so right," he really feels it and it doesn't sound strange at ALL. I know I'm going on and on, but this track is as near as it gets to groundbreaking.
So--on with the "not so good" stuff: there are too many songs showing off his upper range and not enough time spent making his great low range fuller and more resonant. The choruses are more memorable than the verses in almost all the songs, and it doesn't have to be that way--see Kelly Clarkson's "Low," Pink's "Just Like a Pill," Alanis's "Ironic."
The "good" stuff: Clay's voice alone makes it worth playing the whole CD through every time. He CAN do contemporary pop, as evidenced by "Invisible," "Shine," and "Touch" (see a pattern?). In terms of overall, it's as neatly put together and consistent as another great album, Daniel Bedingfield's "If You're Not the One." I really want the best for Clay, and I'm so glad that he's proven to me (if not the critics who yearn sexy cookies) that he can do more than we thought. Except rap. Never rap, Clay.
His next album: so, I already said that songs in the vein of "Touch" need greater play time next time around. I'm thinking--5 songs like "Touch" and "Invisible", 4 beautiful ballads, and 2 or 3 that experiment, like have him only accompanied by a guitar on one, and have him sing another song entirely a capella (that would just blow me away). Clay, the future can really "shine" if you let it.