Counting Crows - Recovering the Satellites (Geffen): The band's first hits, "Round Here" and "Mr. Jones," are hard acts to follow. Although this second disc isn't as strong as their first, it's a solid effort. Singer-songwriter Adam Duritz is best when the songs are slow and melodic. The burden of fame weighs heavily in several songs: "All anybody really wants to know is when are you gonna come down," he sings in "Recovering the Satellites." In "Another Horsedreamer's Blues," it shows Duritz's songwriting range, which should continue to serve the band well.
- Liz Brown
John Adams - El Dorado, Berceuse lgiaque, The Black Gondola (Nonesuch): There's little hard-core minimalism left in John Adams's increasingly eclectic style, but the composer of "Nixon in China" still has a penchant for thoughtful pieces with socially relevant themes. He describes "El Dorado" as a work about "friction" between humans and the natural world, starting with images of "corruption" that are optimistically resolved by "re-creation and renewal." Sharing the disc are artful orchestrations of melancholy pieces by Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni, less ambitious than "El Dorado" but revealing different sides of Adams's own sensibility.
- David Sterritt
The Three Sopranos (Atlantic): The highest grossing single concert of 1996? Not Kiss or the Smashing Pumpkins, but rather the Three Tenors. It was inevitable that an attempt would be made to strike gold again. Kathlee Cassello, Kallen Esperian, and Cynthia Lawrence are three young American sopranos who have made their name in recent years in opera houses and recital halls throughout the world. Their debut disc features powerful operatic arias, all recorded live. This is, perhaps, more of a marketing than a musical achievement, but the beauty of the trio's singing is undeniable.
- Frank Scheck