CD REVIEWS

* POPULAR

The Envelope Please -- Academy Award Winning Songs (1934-1993) (Rhino): This mammoth, new five-CD box set features all 60 songs that have won the Academy Award for best song, from the first, in 1934 (''The Continental'' from ''The Gay Divorcee'') to the most recent (''Streets of Philadelphia'' from ''Philadelphia''). Most, if not all, are the original versions, although difficulties with licensing rights means that you'll hear Richie Havens instead of Bruce Springsteen on the latter song, and Shirley Bassey instead of Barbra Streisand on ''The Way We Were.'' Still, this is a treasury of great music and great performers, encompassing everything from Judy Garland (''Over the Rainbow'') and Bing Crosby (''White Christmas'') to Isaac Hayes (''Theme from Shaft''), and Donna Summer (''Last Dance''). A must for movie lovers.

-- Frank Scheck

* WORLD BEAT

Varttina -- Aitara (Xenophile Records): Imagine a Scandinavian folk group so innovative that it bumped the tango off the Finnish top 40. In the case of Varttina, that folk supergroup from Helsinki, the attention of fellow Finns seems to have been drawn by a mix of lilting voices and bizarre harmonies, accompanied by a tight acoustic ensemble of violins, accordions, and mandolins. Varttina's zeal for smashing medieval rules of what notes should and should not go together brought the group international acclaim, but on its third and latest album, Aitara, the emphasis has shifted from harmony to hip-hop. The lyrics still delve into the themes of love, flirtation, and loss, but Varttina's vocals seem lost in the thump, thump, thump of commercialism. Here's to more inspiration on their fourth album.

Scott Baldauf

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