CD Reviews

R&B

Blu Cantrell - So Blu (Arista): What does singer Blu Cantrell do when she discovers her boyfriend's infidelity? The witty lyrics of her current chart topper, "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)," describe how she and her friends take his credit card on a shopping spree through Neiman Marcus. Like this song, the music on her debut album is mostly up-tempo, with a pleasing infusion of jazz and swing. Rhode Island-native Cantrell still has a way to go to differentiate herself from other R&B singers, but many women will relate to her emotive love songs like "Till I'm Gone" and "When I Needed You." By Lilian Akwisombe

The Isley Brothers - Eternal (Dreamworks): "Eternal" is an apt title for a group that, with this release, has now recorded and performed its unique brand of soul music in six decades. Going all the way back to "Shout" (1959); to their first big hit, "Twist & Shout," in 1962 (which inspired The Beatles' note-for-note copy); and their 2001 chart-topper "Contagious," the Isleys have managed to remain contemporary without sacrificing their unique sound. Current R&B superstars Jill Scott and R. Kelly guest star on these 14 romantic (read: suggestive) tracks about love and the ladies. Over the years, their tempos may have slowed, but nothing else about the Isleys even remotely has. By John Kehe

Pop/Rock

Björk - Vespertine (Elektra): You have to admire Björk's gumption. The Icelandic singer was widely ridiculed for the outfit she wore to this year's Oscars. But instead of mothballing the dress, a creation resembling a swan, it appears on her new album cover. Björk's eccentricity is the source of her musical vision: Here she blends sounds of fax machines and cell phones into ethereal songs already brimming with celestial choirs, trilling harps, and clavichord. It's avant-garde all right, but Björk's unique vocals add sublime choruses on tracks like "Hidden Place," "Aurora," and "It's Not Up to You." By Stephen Humphries

Jack Bruce - Shadows in the Air (Sanctuary): Eric Clapton may have gotten all the attention after the demise of '60s supergroup Cream, but it is bassist Jack Bruce who has explored the more interesting musical avenues since then. Clapton drops by to add air-guitar-worthy licks to respectable - if inessential - remakes of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room." But the real cream of the crop are songs like "Directions Home," "Milonga," and "Dark Heart." Bruce digs deep to voice his unpretentious meditations on love, and musicians like Dr. John, Gary Moore, and Vernon Reid supplement Bruce's tasteful bass and minimalist piano to produce a richly varied record. - S.H.

Prince - The Very Best Of (Warner Bros.): This Prince compilation is a guilty pleasure. Pop it into the CD player, and you'll find it difficult to resist singing along to "1999," "Little Red Corvette," and "I Wanna Be Your Lover." But listen to 17 Prince songs in a row, and you quickly remember that this is an artist who wants to be everybody's lover. Sexuality permeates many of these songs, which also showcase the royal one's ability to write pop that stands out from the sugary pack. The first 11 tracks are among his best, including "I Would Die for U" and "When Doves Cry" from "Purple Rain" era. By Kim Campbell

JAZZ

John Coltrane - Best of the Bethlehem Sessions (Avenue): The year 1957 was pivotal for tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. He was a star member of the Miles Davis Quintet, and was working with Thelonious Monk. That year he also kicked a heroin habit. These eight tunes reflect Coltrane's early way of executing rapid-fire passages in what was to become his easily recognizable style - as exemplified on his own composition "Pristine." Coltrane also had a definite affinity for blues, and on "Tippin,' " Coltrane takes flight over the easy-loping rhythms generated by drummer Art Blakey. This release can either serve as an introduction to Coltrane or further justification for devotion to this jazz revolutionary. By Dick Bogle

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