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Fast reviews of recent releases

John Abercrombie, The Third Quartet (ECM). Abercrombie gets introspective on this gorgeous collection, which comprises mostly ballads, but steps it up on "Banshee" and Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip." Backed once again by Marc Johnson, Mark Feldman and Joey Baron, Abercrombie sounds more relaxed than ever. — Jon SolomonRoni Ben-Hur, Keepin' It Open (Motéma). On his fifth album as a leader, Ben-Hur demonstrates his versatility as a jazz guitarist, whether he's playing a bossa, a ballad or a burner dedicated to his mentor, Barry Harris. While it's evident that he honed his chops listening to Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery, Ben-Hur leaves his stamp on the disc without sounding too much like either one. — Solomon

Nick Lowe, At My Age (Yep Roc). Rather than the tedious meditation on mortality portended by its title, Lowe's latest is an amiably low-key meander through country and soul trappings that juxtaposes clear-eyed sincerity with deadpan snarkiness. Highlight: "I Trained Her to Love Me," in which a malicious heartbreaker claims he's "only paying back womankind for all the grief I've got." That's a Lowe blow. — RobertsO'Death, Head Home (Ernest Jenning Record Co.). This New York state band's spicy stew of Appalachian stomp and punky shenanigans, served up with the equivalent of a mad grin, is sure to divide listeners. Are these guys celebrating the music? Satirizing it? Trying to destroy it? Hard to tell, but one thing's certain: The disc is wilder than a hyperactive woodsman soused on white lightning. — RobertsPoison, Poison'd! (EMI). What does a band do when its last few albums of originals have blown goat? Easy: Record a disc of covers. The performances here aren't spectacular, but at least they're eclectic, with Poison paying homage to a diverse array of artists from Jim Croce to Alice Cooper. Brandon Daviet

Stormtroopers of Death, Rise of the Infidels (Megaforce). Purely a shrill attempt to make loot, Rise contains four halfhearted new songs packaged with live renditions from the classic Speak English or Die. The album's saving grace is Billy Milano's trash talking and the fact that S.O.D.'s songs forever bridged the gap between hardcore, metal and standup comedy. — Daviet

 
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