Reviews of recent CDs


R.E.M. - Reveal (WEA/Warner Bros.). Too bad R.E.M. already has an album named "Monster." The band's new release, "Reveal," could easily wear that title. With pristine clarity and Wall of Sound swells, R.E.M. created a disc that shares the atmospheric beauty of their masterpiece, "Automatic for the People." Once again, Michael Stipe skips the serious political statement in favor of personal ruminations or oblique observations, conveying both peace and restlessness, longing and acceptance. The many fine, never-overpowering musical embellishments include Stipe's impeccable Brian Wilson-ish vocals on "Summer Turns to High." The Brian Eno-like "Saturn Return" is lyrically weak and rather aimless, but "Imitation of Life" is "Man on the Moon" catchy, and "I'll Take the Rain" compares with "Everybody Hurts" or "Nightswimming" for sheer gorgeousness. By Lynne Margolis

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Live from New York City (Sony/Columbia). What a happy day it was when Bruce Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band. More than a reunion tour, Springsteen leads the band into a new phase. Familiar songs from a long career are subtly or drastically reworked: A solo acoustic "Born in the USA" communicates its message more clearly than the original, "The River" is haunting, and Nils Lofgren's guitar solo on "Youngstown" is a standout. The two new songs on the CD are standouts: "Land of Hope and Dreams," a train song in the Woody Guthrie tradition, and "American Skin (41 Shots)," a powerful statement on race relations in America, based on the Amadou Diallo shooting. The album leaves you believing in the power of community and BRUUUUCE! By Melanie Stetson Freeman


Tim McGraw - Set This Circus Down (Wea/Atlantic). When you open country-crossover singer Tim McGraw's latest CD, you are greeted by a quote from ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: "There is nothing permanent except change." But McGraw apparently won't change to please critics who say his music has gotten too far away from a true country sound. While half of his latest CD's 14 tunes are country ballads, the other half are heavily orchestrated anthems and rock tunes. The catchiest cuts are "Angel Boy" (complete with heavy metal guitar leads), "Let Me Love You" (flamenco guitars add spice), and the weepy "Grown Men Don't Cry." By Vic Roberts

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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