Valid XHTML 1.0!

Valid CSS!

Product: Audio CD
Title: John Hiatt - Greatest Hits: The A&M Years '87-'94
Label: Polygram International
Artist: John Hiatt
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Coincides with Hiatt's best period

John Hiatt has always been a maddeningly inconsistent songwriter. He was once tagged with the "Next Dylan" label and had a disappointing career until his "Bring the Family" album in 1987. Starting with that record, he released a run of laid back country-rock albums including "Slow Turning," "Stolen Moments" and "Perfectly Good Guitar" that marked the high point of his career both commercially and artistically. The "A&M Years" collects the best songs from this period all on one disc. The best of the best include "Slow Turning," "Thing Called Love" (later covered by Bonnie Raitt) "Real Fine Love," "Drive South" and "Child of the Wild Blue Yonder." Hiatt is a good singer, a decent songwriter and a fair storyteller. His style is reminiscent of a more country-ish and less arrogant (fellow Hoosier) John Cougar Mellencamp. This collection is the perfect set of his songs for the casual fan.

Product: Audio CD
Title: American Life
Label: Warner Brothers
Artist: Madonna
Rating: 1/5
Customer rating - 1 out of 5
A fart sounds better than madonna

Her nose looks like a bird's beak, and she has a lantern jaw, and on top of that she's wrinkly and pruned faced. Oh, yeah, American Life smells really really baaaad!

Product: Audio CD
Title: Thankful
Label: RCA
Artist: Kelly Clarkson
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Surpassed my expectations! -- an honest and accurate review

Speaking from the view of someone who hadn't watched the first American Idol season, I was expecting this album to flop. I gave it a listen, and was I ever surprised!
Kelly Clarkson has one of the best and most unique voices in today's pop music. She has a remarkable range, she has the strength and power of a professional, and her vibrato is rich without being excessive.
One of the strengths of this album is that it crosses so many genres -- from flat-out pop ("Miss Independent") to alternative ("Beautiful Disaster") to blues ("The Trouble With Love Is").
Clarkson shows her talents in the power ballads "Anytime" and the smash hit "A Moment Like This", easily two of the best songs on the album. Other good songs are the girl-power dance hit "Miss Independent", the midtempo "Low" and the wistful "Just Missed the Train".
The lowest point is probably the track "You Thought Wrong", featuring Tamyra Gray of the first season. It was supposed to echo the Grammy-winning Brandy and Monica duet "The Boy Is Mine" but lacks the clear and unique lyrics and is too fast to enjoy. Also, Clarkson's and Gray's voices are too similar to make it a memorable song.
Overall, I give Kelly Clarkson praise for putting out an album that mixes musical talent with clever songs to showcase her in the best way. Whether you're an Idol fan or not, buy this album. You won't be disappointed.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Devils & Dust
Label: Sony
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Rating: 2/5
Customer rating - 2 out of 5
"Human Touch" Revisited.

Its time we stop giving Springsteen a 4-star pass on any new product. Both Stephen Thomas Erlwine and Edna Gunderson lavish it with praise, which I suspect is more for Springsteen and his exalted status than for the lasting merits of this record.

It is not sacrilege to be critical of The Boss; the fact is, some of his records are classics, and some are not. Devils and Dust, decidedly, is not. Others have noted that what has long connected Springsteen to his fans are his tales of the American working man; of small towns, cars, romance. Which is not to corner him and claim that he must rewrite his older numbers, only that another record (see Tom Joad) on the plight of immigrants and the vastness of the West is, well, probably one more than any of us will play with any regularity.

The tendency is to call it Part 3 of some Nebraska/Tom Joad trilogy; while it does recall Tom Joad, it also reads as a companion to Human Touch and Lucky Town, and that is by no means a compliment.

Is the record bad? No. It is fine; decent. But to give it 4 stars? Darkness is a 4 star album (on a 5 star scale) , and this record is leagues away from that. It has a few decent numbers, and the falsetto is a novelty. But there is arguably not a single classic in the whole lot, nor any that are even particularly memorable.

Lets face it- the heavy rotation albums from Springsteen are everything from 75-87 and The Rising. All completists will buy Devils and Dust, of course, but after a few obligatory spins it will assume a spot next to Human Touch, Lucky Town, and Tom Joad.

I do not begrudge Springsteen for making the albums that he wants to make - he builds his canon, not us. But we listen, and have every right to critique it. Devils and Dust ranks 10th or 11th out of his 13 albums, and it is far removed from his best work. Anyone who argues otherwise strictly on the merits of the recording artist isn't really listening.