Noteworthy CDs

Kate Bush - Aerial (Columbia): It's been 12 years since Kate Bush last released an album, but the British art rocker's influence has since been heard in the unusual sonic architecture of Björk and the confessional piano ballads of Sarah McLachlan. Even Outkast's Big Boi cites her as his favorite artist. On "Aerial," a double album in which songs plunge through the looking glass into an ethereal dimension, Bush has lost none of her power to entrance. Her beautiful siren's voice, a whirling dervish of octaves one minute, a whispered coo the next, is the principal instrument on a record where baroque viol sits comfortably alongside Pink Floyd-like guitar. Bush is still able to delve into emotional recesses of the heart like few others can. On "The Coral Room," a song eulogizing her mother, the singer quietly evokes imagery of a mourner leaning over a boat and trailing her hand in the sea. The song's impact, like the album as a whole, is devastating. Grade: A-
- Stephen Humphries

Kenny Chesney - The Road and the Radio (BNA Records): Don't look to this CD for answers to why Kenny Chesney's brief marriage to Renée Zellweger failed or why he never seems to appear in public without a hat. Instead, you get more of the same formula that makes Chesney a country superstar: Smooth vocals + catchy rock/pop arrangements + simple lyrics about what makes life fun or meaningful = platinum record success. Whether he's reflecting on life in a small town, remembering friends who have died far too young, or simply relaxing on a beach south of the border, Chesney's tunes will leave his fans humming. Grade: B
- Vic Roberts

Neil Diamond - 12 Songs (Columbia): It seems odd pairing the words Neil Diamond and intriguing, but no odder than pairing the "Sweet Caroline" bard with Beastie Boys producer Rick Rubin. Traces of Mr. Rubin's dynamic work with Johnny Cash are evident in somber, spare songs ("Oh Mary"), but so, too, are Diamond's grandiose leanings (Billy Preston leads, yes, a revival on "Man of God"). This CD packs heartbreakers ("What's It Gonna Be") and Heartbreakers (Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell from Tom Petty's band each help out). Spend the extra $3 and get the enhanced version, which includes a dizzying duet with Brian Wilson ("Delirious Love") that lives up to its name. Grade: B
- Erik Spanberg

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