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$25 GUIDE

Check 'em Out: From Elvis To L.l. Cool J

July 26, 1987|ROBERT HILBURN

This is catch-up month for Calendar's guide on how to keep up with choice new record releases on a budget of $25 a month. Because the guide hasn't run since March, today's recommendations cover the last four months. Although discounts are plentiful, the assumption is a price of $8 for albums, $6 for EPs, $4 for 12-inch singles and $2 for seven-inch singles.

To bring things up to date, here were the selections for the first three months of the year: January--the Neville Brothers' "Treacherous" (Rhino), Big Joe Turner's "Rhythm & Blues Years" (Atlantic) and the Golden Palominos' "Blast of Silence" (Celluloid). February--Los Lobos' "By the Light of the Moon" (Slash), Concrete Blonde's "Concrete Blonde" (I.R.S.) and Ennio Morricone's "The Mission" sound track (Virgin). March--U2's "The Joshua Tree" (Island), K.D. Lang's "Angel With a Lariat" (Sire) and the Bhundu Boys' "Shabini" (Discafrique import).

APRIL

Firehose's "Ragin', Full-on" (SST)--U2's triumph in meeting the enormous expectations surrounding "The Joshua Tree" (the year's best LP so far) was an arena-rock leadership triumph. Similarly, Firehose faced the challenge of carrying on the spirit of the Minutemen without simply exploiting the memory of the late D. Boon, and its achievement was as inspiring in its post-punk, underground way. CD available Aug. 15.

Lyle Lovett's "Lyle Lovett" (MCA/Curb)--Like Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury, Lovett writes emotional, intelligent country songs that can be enjoyed by sensitive pop-rock fans as well as good ol' boys down in Luckenbach. The wry "God Will" hasalready been a country hit, but it's the bittersweet "Farther on Down the Line" that has the ring of a classic. CD available.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)" (MCA)--"Jammin' Me," a slap at media overkill co-written by Bob Dylan, has been getting most of the air play, but it's tunes like the melancholy "Runaway Trains" and the probing "My Life/Your World" that reaffirm Petty's position as one of rock's most prized singer-songwriters. CD available.

MAY

L.L. Cool J's "Bigger and Deffer" (Def Jam)--If you enjoyed either Run-D.M.C.'s "Raising Hell" or the Beastie Boys' "Licensed to Ill" LPs last year, this is definitely worth investigation. Far more varied than L.L.'s 1986 debut, "Bigger and Deffer" combines the rap flair of Run-D.M.C. with the more aggressive, street-minded bravado and rebellion of the Beasties. CD available.

The Replacements' "Pleased to Meet Me" (Sire)--You know that album-oriented-rock radio is dead when music like this can't get anything more than token air play.

Highlights range from the garage-rock intensity of "I.O.U." to the delicious, hook-conscious feel of "Alex Chilton." CD available.

X's "See How We Are" (Elektra)--Nothing can seem to slow down X, not personnel changes, the John Doe/Exene Cervenka divorce nor the discouraging gap between the band's critical acclaim and its limited commercial success. The L.A. group's fifth album remains a sharp-eyed and generous post-punk excursion, highlighted by a song ("Fourth of July," courtesy of short-term X-member Dave Alvin) that speaks about a familiar topic (romantic troubles) with uncommon poignancy. CD available.

JUNE

John Hiatt's "Bring the Family" (A&M)--The record industry has tried to give this tough-minded singer-songwriter his walking papers three times, but he keeps bouncing back with a new label--and another engaging album. This time, however, there's a difference. Hiatt has dropped the angry, sarcastic edge that once led critics to describe him as America's Elvis Costello. Reflecting changes in his life, he's now celebrating the joys of love and family, and he has done so without sacrificing his imagination and wit. CD available.

Sly and Robbie's "Rhythm Killers" (Island)--Pop's premier rhythm section, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare mix rap, reggae, soul, dance and especially funk ingredients in a remarkably good-natured and unpredictable salute to the liveliness and character of urban pop music in its broadest sense. CD available.

12-inch singles: the Jesus and Mary Chain's "April Skies" (Reprise), which shows the Brothers Reid can drop the feedback and still make exquisite pop-rock, and Prince's "Sign 'O' the Times" (Paisley Park), a quietly insistent reflection on social issues that shows Prince returning to his most convincing early form.

JULY

Elvis Presley's "The Complete Sun Sessions" (RCA)--Quite simply, the most important rock album ever: a two-record set that includes all of Elvis' pre-"Heartbreak Hotel" releases (including the essential "That's All Right, Mama" and Baby, Let's Play House")--the most electrifying moments in the birth of rock. Bonus: a generous number of outtakes (some previously unavailable) from the same pre-1956 sessions in Memphis. CD available.

Elvis Presley's "The Memphis Record" (RCA)--Certainly the second-best Elvis album ever. After years of hapless movies and mediocre Hollywood/Nashville recordings, Elvis went back home to Memphis in 1969 for a series of recording sessions, apparently intent on regaining his rock 'n' roll crown--and he did exactly that. Not as trailblazing as the Sun sessions, but he never sounded better than on these tunes, ranging from the mournful regret of "Long Black Limousine" to the anxious edge of "Suspicious Minds." CD available.

Seven-inch single: Los Lobos' "La Bamba" (Slash)--A downright magical record that is such a heartfelt salute to Ritchie Valens' role as the first Latino rock star that it stands as one of the few remakes of a '50s hit that deserves a place in your collection.

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