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Noteworthy CDs

April 14, 2006



The Beautiful Girls - We're Already Gone (MGM): Let's start with the facts - these are not beautiful girls. Or even girls at all, for that matter. They're a quartet of Aussie mates (r.) with a penchant for breezy lyrics and loosey-goosey reggae beats. (Think Roxanne-era Police meet the White Stripes.) Over deep-dish bass and crackling drums, frontman Mat McHugh unspools memorable guitar riffs while lazily crooning about the usual themes: wanting girls, breaking up with girls, missing girls. What makes it all work is the live-in-the-studio feel, a groove-tight rhythm section honed by constant touring, and McHugh's charismatic vocals. Now about that name.... Grade: B+
- John Kehe

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Donald Fagen - Morph the Cat (Reprise): The album title is mystifying. But Fagen, one half of Steely Dan, helpfully explains each song in the CD booklet and reveals that the title track is about an airborne feline swooping over Manhattan. Okaaaay, then. The inscrutable lyrics, splattered like a Jackson Pollock flourish over a canvas of jazz-rock, somehow make sense in context and, besides, these melodies are more memorable than recent Steely Dan albums. A few of them even boast straightforward narratives: "Security Joan" is a romantic comedy about an airline passenger who falls for a lady at TSA. (Someone call Nora Ephron.) Grade: B+
- Stephen Humphries

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Choir - Vaughan Williams: Mass in G Minor and Other A Cappella Works (Telarc): It's not often that an orchestra chorus is allowed to take center stage without its symphonic brethren. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus, founded by legendary choral director Robert Shaw in 1967 and led now by Norman Mackenzie, succeeds gloriously in this recording of largely 20th-century sacred Christian works. The divine meets the human ear in Olivier Messiaen's "O Sacrum Convivium!" while Sir John Tavener's moving "Song for Athene" will forever be associated with the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The serenity of Vaughan Williams's "Mass in G Minor" is interspersed with heart-gripping moments. Sacred choral music just doesn't get any better. Grade: A
- Gregory M. Lamb

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