Perry Farrell's Satellite Party Ultra Payloaded (Columbia)
It's been ages since Farrell's best work with Jane's Addiction. Today, he's more of a scenester and raconteur than a musician interested in pushing anything other than product, and he proves it on Ultra Payloaded, an exercise in alleged cool that's as slack as anything in the Haggar warehouse. "Wish Upon a Dog Star" recycles some of Farrell's better ideas in notably underwhelming fashion, while "Hard Life Easy" (which place-checks Colorado) and "Kinky" are celebrations of excess by someone who's forgotten how to do anything other than cruise. -- Michael Roberts
Various artists Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash (Dualtone)
By definition, multi-artist tribute discs are inconsistent. Fortunately, June Carter Cash is a deserving subject -- a worthy performer who was consistently overshadowed by her hubby -- and her son, John Carter Cash, who produced the CD, has assembled a cast that (mostly) salutes her in style. The Sheryl Crow-Willie Nelson rendition of "If I Were a Carpenter" is nothing special, and Elvis Costello's "Ring of Fire" sputters like a candle with a damp wick. Yet June's daughter Carlene Carter contributes a spirited, sassy take on "Jackson," a duet with Ronnie Dunn; stepdaughter Rosanne Cash turns in a touching "Wings of Angels"; aging bad boy Billy Joe Shaver does right by "Kneeling Drunkard's Plea"; Ralph Stanley crackles with authenticity throughout "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"; and Emmylou Harris' "Song to John," a naked pledge of loyalty, is touchingly spare. -- Roberts
A Band of Bees Octopus (Astralwerks)
The Bees recognize that psychedelia is about more than endless guitar solos that phase from one speaker to the other. Octopus is a beguilingly scattershot effort that stretches the genre in every direction. Take "Left Foot Stepdown," which contains echoey group vocals, brassy accompaniment, pop-oriented verses and a middle section that nods to dub, or "The Ocularist," a jaunty air replete with a music-hall melody and the occasional boinging of a jaw harp. The disc is weird, goofy and thoroughly charming. -- Roberts
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Dolores O'Riordan Are You Listening? (Sanctuary)
The Cranberries were overrated in their day, as was O'Riordan, whose vocal affectations were capable of causing non-believers (among them: yours truly) to grind their teeth down to the gum line. As such, Are You Listening? is bound to divide listeners. There are a few attempts to sound contemporary, such as the electro drum pattern that underpins "In the Garden." For the most part, though, producers O'Riordan and Dan Brodbeck give Cranberries fans what they want: sweeping, dramatic tracks cheesier than a Wisconsin dairy. Bailed at: song seven, "Apple of My Eye," which repeatedly employs the word "surrender." Good idea. -- Roberts
Jaco Pastorius The Essential Jaco Pastorius (Epic Legacy)
Because the late Pastorius was a much better performer than composer, he tends to be undervalued as time goes on. Still, his thrillingly elastic bass playing, which shoved an instrument that's normally relegated to the background into the spotlight, consistently enlivens Essential, a collection every bit as eclectic as Pastorius was. Disc one juxtaposes early solo work such as the funky-soul celebration "Come On, Come Over" and the sinuous "Opus Pocus" with a sampling from his stint with Weather Report. As for disc two, it's all over several maps thanks to "Dry Cleaner From Des Moines," a cut from Joni Mitchell's intriguing but forced-sounding Mingus project, assorted live tunes and the pretentious multi-part closer, "John and Mary." Many of these cuts are less than stellar, but Pastorius sounds great on all of them. -- Roberts