An occasional update of music releases
Frank Sinatra - Sinatra 80th: All the Best
Frank Sinatra - Sinatra 80th: Live in Concert (Capitol): The Chairman of the Board's label continues its spate of birthday salutes. The first is a two-disc collection of 40 songs, recorded between 1953 and 1960 (unquestionably the singer's glory years). It includes a song from his very first recording session (''I'm Walking Behind You''), as well as a newly remixed duet with Nat King Cole on ''The Christmas Song.'' The ''Live in Concert'' is a collection of Sinatra standards recorded at various performances since 1987. Included are his trademark introductions; the highlight is a duet with Luciano Pavarotti on ''My Way.''
- Frank Scheck
Simply Red - Life (EastWest Records): ''Life'' is quintessential Simply Red: pop/soul music, full of catchy melodies, trite lyrics, and Mick Hucknall's strong vocals. The first single ''Fairground'' uses a sample from ''Give It Up'' by the Good Men and ''Hillside Avenue'' is an attempt at reggae, which unfortunately sounds more like bad UB40 than good Simply Red. You get the feeling they should stick to what they do best and this is apparent on songs such as ''So Beautiful,'' a quietly bitter look at superficiality, and the closing ''We're in This Together.''
- Alison Boyles
Zhang Guangtian - ''Shanghai Triad'' (Virgin): The music for filmmaker Zhang Yimou's critically praised drama reflects the story's setting in gangster-infested Shanghai of the 1930s, where a young boy grows up fast while working for a godfather-type crime boss and his girlfriend, a glitzy cabaret singer. The score by composer Zhang spirals back to its main theme frequently enough to wear it out long before the disc is over. The tunes have a pleasantly nostalgic ring, though, and four songs performed by the radiant actress Gong Li lend variety and a touch of whimsy to the package.
- David Sterritt