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Product: Audio CD
Title: Two Against Nature
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Steely Dan
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5
It Grows On You


Steely Dan has never been for the casual listener. With the exception of perhaps "Can't Buy a Thrill" or "Aja", most main-stream listeners are slightly put-off. This is perhaps their most avant-garde offering yet, so unless you count yourself as a real S.D. fan you may not like more than a few cuts. I'm all for change, and don't mind that the music only sometimes reveals the Steely Dan of the past, but a few of the cuts are downright weird-- "Gaslighting Abbie" for example. We've come to know and love S.D.'s strange lyrics by now, but I prefer my music a little more mainstream than a few of the cuts on this album. (The sax solo at the end of "West of Hollywood" is especially tiresome.) In general, the music has a funkier edge than past S.D. offerings-- as has been the case with Donald and Walter's recent solo albums. A lot of the lead guitar is now played by Walter. While I enjoy his playing too, I miss the famous layerings-- by Larry Carlton and other studio aces-- found in a lot of their earlier work. In past I found S.D. albums took a while to grow on me, but later became all-time favorites that I never tired of hearing. This one might take a while longer, but there are a few instantly-likeable cuts (i.e. "Jack of Speed") to keep me interested in the meantime.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Ken Burns JAZZ Collection: John Coltrane
Label: Polygram Records
Artist: John Coltrane
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
A good introduction to a jazz giant


I recall that I took a jazz appreciation course a number of years ago in which the instructor used John Coltrane's music as an example of how modern jazz artists had hatred in their heart and contempt for their listeners. That shallow assessment was completely at odds with everything I had heard--and read--about Trane, whose music seemed to come from a deeply spiritual place, albeit one capable of being both serene and turbulent (sometimes in the same performance).
A single-disc collection such as this can only hope to give the novice listener a peak at Coltrane's brief but prolific career, but it does so probably as well as possible. There is the fluid complexity of GIANT STEPS, the melodically-rich soul of NAIMA (I sure don't hear any hatred here!), the modal serenity of MY FAVORITE THINGS, the non-verbal political protest of ALABAMA, and a heart-felt ability to revive such classic ballads as IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD. Perhaps some listeners will be floored by JUPITER, a free-form sax-drums duet recorded shortly before Trane's untimely death in 1967. Yet even here what is in evidence is a musician relentlessly pushing his own boundaries for aesthetic purposes, rather than a bitter attempt to alienate anybody within earshot.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Stardust... The Great American Songbook, Vol. III
Label: J-Records
Artist: Rod Stewart
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Well, I loved it!


Apparently due to other reviews, this CD is not for everyone. But for me, I love hearing a familiar voice of my generation signing songs from my grandparents' generation that I learned to love as a child. I've listened to it nearly every day now since Christmas.

I just think this is a fun CD.



Product: Audio CD
Title: The Hits--Chapter One
Label: Jive
Artist: Backstreet Boys
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5
Honest listening.


If nothing else, the Backstreet Boys and all other members of the teen pop phenomenon deserve some sort of credit for their skill at manipulating the masses. Like them or hate them, the way they (and their managers) position themselves to sweep in hysteria millions of teenaged girls is deserving of some vague respect. Megalomaniacs, at least, should take note of that particular skill. Musically, I personally find at least some of the Backstreet Boys songs stomachable. Perhaps it's my inward romanticist, but as far as sappy love songs go, the Backstreet Boys are masters. I Want It That Way, As Long As You Love Me, Show Me The Meaning, I'll Never Break Your Heart, Shape of My Heart and Drowning are all appealing to the listener with an appreciation for simple melody, rhythm and romance, albeit manufactured. While those tracks are listenable, however, anytime the Backstreet Boys attempt to break their pansy-boy image and be 'edgy', the results are completely laughable. Songs such as Everybody, Larger Than Life and The Call will either have listeners laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, or chuckling in derision. To the listener who will honestly give some of the music a chance, however, Chapter One contains a few nice little songs to enjoy.