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Audio Reviews

December 8, 1997

``Constant Emotion″ (Waterbug) _ Kate MacLeod

Kate MacLeod’s second album shows her to be one of the leading lights of the contemporary folk scene, even if most of that scene doesn’t realize it yet.

MacLeod has a direct way with a song, forgoing literary pretensions for clarity and simple truths. And while her songs often reveal an optimistic view of life, she’s quite capable of a heartbreaking ballad, as ``My Forsaken Love″ proves. Interesting instrumentation, such as tablas and bouzouki, add to the attraction of this sparkling album, which is easily one of the top folk releases of the year.

_ By Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``Mayday″ (A&M) _ Matthew Ryan

``Mayday,″ Matthew Ryan’s debut, shows this young rock ‘n’ roller poised for greatness, if not quite yet there. With a raspy voice, apparently perpetually broken heart and a gift for lyrics that only occasionally prove a tad too precious, Ryan makes music that owes a big tip of the cap to early Bruce Springsteen, but stands on its own just fine. He’s enjoyable now, and definitely one to watch.

_ By Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``Those Were the Days″ (Polydor Chronicles) _ Cream

Together just two years, Cream still managed to have a huge effect on rock ‘n’ roll, paving the way for a lot of blues-rock and psychedelic groups in the 1960s and ’70s.

With Eric Clapton’s blues-influenced guitar, Jack Bruce’s jazzy bass and Ginger Baker’s jazz-influenced drumming, the trio made music that explored the blues, psychedelia and power-chord rock while also striving to break out of the mold and improvise like jazz musicians. This collection of virtually everything Cream ever recorded is unlikely to make new fans, but should appeal to completists yearning to blast out ``White Room″ one more time.

_ by Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``Messiah″ (Archiv) _ Dorothea Roeschmann, Susan Gritton, Bernarda Fink, Charles Daniels, Neal Davies; the Gabrieli Consort and Players, directed by Paul McCreesh

``Messiah″ (BBC) _ Lynda Russell, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Thomas Randle, David Wilson-Johnson; the Huddersfield Choral Society and BBC Philharmonic, directed by Harry Christophers

Paul McCreesh notes that ``Messiah″ was more often performed in theaters instead of churches during George Frideric Handel’s life, and that idea informs and distinguishes his new recording.

Bernarda Fink’s sometimes angry performance of ``He was despised″ is one of the dramatic peaks, with McCreesh drawing effective raw sounds from the violins beneath the words ``He gave his back to the smiters.″ The heavy orchestra accent on ``plucked″ is just another of the telling details of this 12-minute drama, which ends almost with a sob.

Soprano Susan Gritton, who has some of the best moments in the recording, contributes a swooping, furious rendition of ``For he is like a refiner’s fire,″ which stands as the first declaration of McCreesh’s theatrical intentions.

Harry Christophers uses Mozart’s version of ``Messiah″ for his recording with the 160-voice Huddersfield Choral Society. It’s in the grand Victorian tradition of massive choruses, now very much out of fashion.

Mozart updated Handel’s score by adding flutes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trombones for a private performance in Vienna in 1789.

Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who commissioned other Handel orchestrations from Mozart, was delighted with the result.

To those who are quite happy with Handel’s score, Mozart’s additions produce the disconcerting effect of a stray radio signal intruding on the performance. So although the recording is being given away with the December and January issues of the BBC Music Magazine, it may not be much of a bargain (especially since the two issues will cost a total of $19.90 in the United States and Canada).

The BBC version is in the new CD Extra format, playable either in a conventional CD machine or on a PC as a CD-ROM. It requires a recent PC with Windows 95.

_ By Robert Barr, Associated Press Writer

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``Fit to be Tied: Great Hits by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts″ (Blackheart)

Sure, give those 10-year-old girls copies of the Spice Girls records. Those a couple of years older who want to experience a little more out of life would get a real kick out of this Joan Jett collection.

Jett was a leather-clad tough girl when being so was a real risk, not just a fashionable pose. Her love for the sheer energy of rock ‘n’ roll would be palpable even if her best-known song wasn’t titled ``I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.″ Like most tough girls, she wanted to be loved, too; her music shares that sense of approachability.

This collection is one of those contractually hamstrung releases _ unfortunately, there’s nothing from her more experimental recent work _ but it makes its point very well.

_By David Bauder, Associated Press Writer.

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``Exile on Coldharbour Lane″ (Geffen) _ A3

Acid house country and western sounds like a disaster, right? But in the capable hands of the Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love, First Minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (UK), it’s warped enough to be wonderful.

There’s something to be said for pedal steel guitar with the ominous sounds of burbling electronics in the background. The song, ``Converted,″ is terrific, as is the funny ``You Don’t Dans 2 Tekno Anymore″ (Hey _ was Prince a member of this church, too?).

Brits attempting country can never fully escape from self-consciousness, but ``Exile on Coldharbour Lane″ is a confident and striking album.

_ By David Bauder, Associated Press Writer.

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``Sweet 75″ (DGC) _ Sweet 75

Teaming up with singer-guitarist Yva Las Vegas, former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic gets his collaborative chemistry going again with Sweet 75.

Unlike the straightforward power pop of Foo Fighters, Sweet 75 slithers and slinks in ``Red Dress″ and ``Fetch.″ Herb Alpert is guest soloist on ``La Vida.″

Las Vegas, a former busker, fronts Sweet 75 with blase confidence and, when called for, aggressive intensity, like in ``Poor Kitty.″ Novoselic’s shared love of her Venezuelan folk roots and other Latin sounds color the album in ``Cantos de Pilon″ (guest mandolin by R.E.M.’s Pete Buck), ``Six Years″ and ``Oral Health.″

Although ``Take Another Stab″ steps into the roiling Crazy Horse/Pearl Jam guitar nexus, and ``Nothing″ sounds like a blip from ``In Utero″ sessions, Novoselic spreads his considerable wingspan to avoid repetition and Sweet 75 spins a promising platter of diverse elements and emotion.

_ By J.W. Lim, Associated Press Writer.

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