Pat Boone's Greatest Hits
I know that the rise of the compact disc has meant the rerelease of plenty of older material, but does everything have to be rereleased? I mean, are there really thousands of Pat Boone fans out there who have been counting the days until his eighteen biggest smashes (including his thoroughly bleached version of Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" and the racist, utterly unfunny "Speedy Gonzales") were available in this format? Have they really been demanding a package that included loads of dorky photos of Pat in his white bucks and a lengthy, respectful biographical essay dominated by anecdotes about how as a youngster he used to sing for Kiwanis luncheons and deliver the Fort Worth Star-Telegram? Do they really have fond memories of this stuff--stuff that's less entertaining to listen to than a garbage compactor filled with broken glass? Haven't the passage of time and the subsequent success of Debbie "I was singing `You Light Up My Life' to God" Boone helped them see the error of their ways? And given the size of most record-company archives, shouldn't we be drawing the line somewhere? Shouldn't we be telling music-biz executives that no, there's no reason to issue a Paul Anka boxed set, or a Captain and Tenille tribute, or a Lobo retrospective, or a collection devoted to the wit and wisdom of Joey Scarbury? Shouldn't we?--Michael Roberts
What makes James something other than a U2 clone? Not its sound: On Laid, vocalist Tim Booth yodels where Bono might have distorted, but the guitars and melodies are straight off the branches of The Joshua Tree. The lyrics, however, tell a different story. Most of the songs here are in the same melancholy vein as the paranoid opener "Out to Get You," but "Dream Thrum" and "Say Something" twist into other social and sexual insecurities. The two most entertaining cuts come toward the end: "Low Low Low" and "Laid," which apparently inspired the cross-dressing cover art. With lyrics such as "My therapist said not to see you no more/She says you're like a disease without any cure," the title track, as well as the rest of the disc, sports a kind of humorous angst you won't find on Zoo TV.--Susan Dunlap
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Donald Fagen produced Mannequin, the debut album by this Canadian-born vocalist and composer, in 1977--so long ago, in fact, that most people don't remember that the recording earned Jordan a Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) as the most promising vocalist of that year. In the years since then, Jordan has concentrated on film scoring, but Reckless Valentine finds him coming into his late-bloomer prime. The compositions, written by Jordan in collaboration with co-producers Steve MacKinnon and John Capek, are first-rate, as is the guest appearance by harmonica wizard Toots Thielemans. But what makes the album really stand out are Jordan's vocal presentations. He mixes the textures of Randy Newman, the suave of Harry Connick Jr., the faux dignity of Don Henley and the soul of Ray Charles to make this the finest offering from a balladeer that I've heard in a very long time.--Linda Gruno
Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements
Nothing whips music writers into a frenzy quite like a band of freshly scrubbed collegiate types with a love for avant-garde music. Such is the case with this British sextet of artsy shoe-gazers, the mention of whose name seems to provoke critics to wet themselves uncontrollably. This reaction can be attributed at least in part to the group's extensive list of ultrahip influences, including Can, Brian Eno and the Velvet Underground. The Velvets, especially, seem to permeate the ten tracks that make up Transient Random-Noise Bursts, thanks to the stark, dissonant guitar chords provided by Lab frontman Tim Gane and the sultry, Nico-like stylings of vocalist Laetitia Sadier. The real appeal of this group, however, lies in its keen sense of dynamics. Armed with an arsenal of Moogs, guitars and assorted percussion devices, the members of Stereolab have no trouble taking songs like "Our Trinitone Blast" and "Pause" from a slight murmur to a healthy electronic clatter in a matter of seconds. Now if you'll excuse me, my other pants are in the car.--Brad Jones