VARIOUS ARTISTSSuperstars of Christmas
EVERY YEAR, RECORD companies have to come up with a new way to package Christmas songs. This one has something for everybody, from John & Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" to Ella Fitzgerald singing "The First Noel." A personal favorite is "Adeste Fideles" ("O Come All Ye Faithful") sung by the man who possessed the voice of an angel, Nat King Cole. Also featured are Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Jon Secada and Richard Marx. To paraphrase the virgin Mandy in Life of Brian, don't worry so much about bringing Richard Marx next time. Overall, good to have on hand when the family gathers around the tree to exchange gifts.
BILL MILLERRaven In The Snow
THE TITLE REFERS to the sense of apartness--or "contrast," if you will--Miller and presumably any Native person feels in regards to mainstream society. All the more appropriate, then, that this uncompromising rock 'n' roll album should finally deliver his career to the front doorstep. In addition to being a skilled lyrical gatekeeper and owning a distinctive warbly upper register, his arrangements are high octane.
"The Final Word," with its wah-wah guitar and electronic trumpet loops, sounds like Pearl Jam and a disembodied Miles Davis. "Eagle Must Fly Free" is an ad hoc acoustic delta blooze spotlighting Miller's National Steel and harmonica skills. And "River Of Time" chimes its way into your soul like some classic outtake from Springsteen's The River or Petty's Damn The Torpedos.
The Rolling StonesStripped
Virgin Records America
FROM THE BIG-jangle opening of "Street Fighting Man" to the twist-and-shout closing of "Little Baby," this live-from-Japan acoustic set finds the Stones in top form. We've heard just about every sonic trick many times before, but Mick, Keith and company have resisted the temptation to string together a greatest-hits package, à la Rod Stewart's Unplugged set, and they've brought out stalwarts that never did get much air play in "I'm Free," "Sweet Virginia," a rollicking "Let It Bleed," and the lovely Exile on Main Street gospel thumper "Shine a Light." You'll have to forgive them a couple of misfires, especially the always-forgettable "Angie" and a curiously listless, if faithful, version of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," a song that the dreaded John Mellencamp has lately been dusting off to better advantage in live shows. Still, nothing is by the numbers here. Gussied up with sops to multimedia heads--the album includes a scattering of CD-ROM videos and the software to play them with--Stripped shows that these rock-and-roll Methuselahs can still play up a storm when the spirit moves.
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