David Gray's new CD delivers on the great promise of his debut with a compelling collection of new songs.


Jameson Clark - Workin' On A Groove (Capitol): Mix the rock riffs of Aerosmith, the blues feel of ZZ Top, the humor of Toby Keith, and the drawl of Dwight Yoakam, and what do you get? A fun debut CD from Jameson Clark. Its eight songs lend various takes on the Nashville club scene, where Clark has worked over much of the past 10 years. His humor notably surfaces in the single "You Da Man," a bluesy slap at male bravado. He also joyously pokes fun at men who can't commit in "I Like Blondes." But Clark is at his best when he rocks out in "I'm Gonna Burn For This," and "I Want It All." Both guitar-driven songs scream to be played loud. - Vic Roberts

Alison Krauss & Union Station Live - (Rounder): The words beautiful and bluegrass seldom appear in the same sentence. Usually bluegrass is described as high-octane or down home. But beautiful is hardly sufficient to describe this stunning collection of "sophisticountry" music, recorded live last spring in Louisville, Ky. The diminutive Krauss, a 13-time Grammy winner, is a champion fiddler and possesses a voice of uncommon purity. Throughout these 25 tracks, she demonstrates breathtaking range and vocal dynamics. Whether she's radically reinterpreting the semiobscure '60s hit "Baby, Now That I've Found You" or purring last year's haunting single "New Favorite," she stands alone as the voice of contemporary bluegrass music. - John Kehe


The Art of Cecilia Bartoli (Decca): The string of superlatives that trails Cecilia Bartoli's name is hard to match, but it's equally hard to fault. She has a voice that makes the word exquisite seem almost inadequate. This new compilation offers her at her most versatile, trilling, and liquid. It's a collection of music by her favorite composers from the melancholy (Vivaldi's "Farnace") to the lighthearted (Mozart's "Die Zauberflote"). The effortless ribbons of sounds she winds through the music make one want to hit the repeat button and let her sing until the CD wears away. It's sumptuous velvet that wraps thought in soul-filled sound. - Susan Llewelyn Leach


Boston - Corporate America (Artemis): Let's face it, Boston should be renamed the Tom Scholz Project. The driving force behind this classic rock group has produced five albums over the past 26 years, combining high-pitched vocals and a unique guitar sound to sell more than 30 million records. In Boston's latest incarnation, Scholz uses three lead singers, one of them a woman, Kimberley Dahme. (Perhaps the band's male lead singers need help hitting the high notes?) Her voice sparkles on the mostly acoustic track "With You." Yet the best song is the title track, with lyrics aimed at those who profit at the expense of the earth and its inhabitants. The rest of this CD has that Boston guitar sound, but lacks much of the excitement Scholz bottled in Boston's early years. - Vic Roberts

David Gray - A New Day at Midnight (RCA): London-based David Gray's "White Ladders" CD was one of the great surprises of 1999/2000. It spawned the international hit in "Babylon," and introduced the world to a unique talent. Now, two years later, the unassuming songwriter has delivered on the great promise of his debut with this fine and even more mature collection of new songs. Like its predecessor, it has a warm, homey feel, with enough electronic touches and instrumental flourishes to make it feel contemporary. But the real standout instrument on this CD is Gray's unique voice. Sounding somewhere between early Bob Dylan and latter-day Van Morrison, it infuses his songs with sincerity, strength, and dignity. Standout tracks like "The Other Side" and "Real Love" define David Gray's touch: sad songs that make you feel good. - John Kehe

U2 - The Best Of 1990-2000 (Island): In 1990, Bono started wearing wraparound shades - even at night. The Edge started wearing woolen skull caps - even in summer. Musically, U2 discovered humor, irony, dance music, and the thrill of experimentation. It heralded the decade when the band truly became interesting. If one song on this compilation sums up U2's new elasticity, it's "Gone"; here's the sound of a band jousting at sonic barriers at full gallop. Alas, the focus of this CD is on hit singles, so many similarly fine moments from recent records have been omitted. Still, it's mostly groovy, even if two new songs, "Electrical Storm" and "The Hands That Built America," are adequate rather than revelatory. The real treat is a second disc of B-Sides, a treasure chest that includes "Your Blue Room" and "Salomé," two of Bono's finest vocals. - Stephen Humphries


Shaggy - Lucky Day (MCA Records):

Orville "Shaggy" Burrell's fifth album is not ambitious, but it is full of catchy hooks and body-shaking grooves. "Lucky Day" sounds a lot more like reggae dance hall than his previous album, "Hot Shot," which was more pop reggae. Many songs on this album celebrate women, such as "Full Control," which features Barrington Levy. "Strength of a Woman" goes even further by asking if God is a woman. There are a few collaborations, including the famous Chaka Khan, who adds a soulful/RB flavor on top of Shaggy's deep husky voice. Some tracks sound alike, but overall the album is exuberant. - Lilian Akwisombe


Morelenbaum 2/Sakamoto: Casa (Sony Classical) It was a marriage made in ... Brazil. In the early '60s, a bossa nova-crazy Japanese teen was mesmerized by the soulful compositions of Antonio Carlos Jobim, made popular by jazz sax legend Stan Getz and singer Astrud Gilberto's smash hit "The Girl from Ipanema." Meanwhile, half a world away, a young Brazilian cello prodigy was studying the classics but secretly sawing away to the same irresistible sambas. Cut to a house 40 years later in Rio de Janeiro, where those two boys, now world-renowned musicians, meet to record previously unrecorded songs by their idol. Sound like a dream come true? So does the music. Jazz/fusion pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto and cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, along with his wife, singer Paula Morelenbaum, have produced a soulful recording. Mrs. Morelenbaum's angelic, bell-tone vocals float above swaying rhythms. A fitting legacy for a master composer. - John Kehe

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