John Adams - Chamber Symphony and Grand Pianola Music (Elektra): A critic once said John Adams's music lacked breeding, so he gave the title ''Mongrel Airs'' to the first movement of his recent Chamber Symphony. The work was inspired by Arnold Schonberg's spiky Op. 9 and also the 1950s movie-cartoon music his son was listening to while he studied the Schonberg score. The extravagant ''Grand Pianola Music'' sounds tamer here than in the past, but remains mischievously true to its origins in a dream Adams had about two limousines that mutate into the world's longest pianos. Adams conducts the London Sinfonietta, with John Alley and Shelagh Sutherland as pianists.
- David Sterritt
Geoff Smith - 15 Wild Decembers (Sony Music): After critical success with his debut album, ''Gas, Food, Lodging,'' Geoff Smith returns with a glorious tribute to great poets. Here, the words of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emily Bronte, and Elizabeth Siddall find new meaning when set to music. Moved by the tragic lives of these British poets, all who died before age 30, Smith finds the right music for these ''lyrics.'' All the songs together lack diversity, but separately, each song is smashing. Sung gloriously by Smith's wife, Nicola Walker Smith, the record blends the sounds of Smith's keyboard and computer with a haunting chant of the poems.
- Ian Zander
Rod Stewart - A Spanner in the Works (Warner Bros.): This classic pop singer returns with his first studio album in four years, an eclectic effort that ranges from the hard-rocking ''Lady Luck'' to the moody ''Windy Town.'' When Stewart has great material, like Tom Petty's ''Leave Virginia Alone'' or Bob Dylan's ''Sweetheart Like You,'' the results are electric. When he doesn't (the sappy tribute to ''Muddy, Sam and Otis''), it can make you cringe. Still, the voice, as always, compels.
- Frank Scheck