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$25 GUIDE

Rappin', Rockin' and Fast Dancin'

February 21, 1988|ROBERT HILBURN

There's everything from heavy metal and rap (thanks to the "Less Than Zero" sound track) to country and dance-floor vigor represented in the January-February edition of Calendar's guide on how to keep up with choice new releases on a budget of $25 a month.

JANUARY

"Less Than Zero" (Def Jam)--A great bargain, this Rick Rubin sound track includes one of the season's most invigorating pop singles (the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter"), two stand-out raps (from Public Enemy and L.L. Cool J) and three good-natured heavy-metal remakes (highlighted by Slayer's rampaging version of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"). CD available.

Lyle Lovett's "Pontiac" (MCA/Curb)--Lovett sings with the understated wisdom of Jesse Winchester and writes with the intelligence and grace of Kris Kristofferson's early days, but his bittersweet stories and images also remind you of a Texas-based Randy Newman--or is it Tom Waits? CD available.

Singles: the seven-inch version of M/A/R/R/S' "Pump Up the Volume" (4th & Broadway/Island), perhaps the catchiest techno-pop groove from England since Thomas Dolby's "Hyperactive," and the 12-inch version of the Sugarcubes' "Birthday" (One Little Indian import), arty, yet visceral post-punk from Iceland (!) that is one of the most commanding debut singles since the Pretenders' "Stop Your Sobbing."

FEBRUARY

12-inch singles: Terence Trent D'Arby's "Wishing Well" (Columbia), which offers a different mix of the "Hardline" album track plus a remake of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" and a must-have D'Arby original titled "Elevators & Heavens," and Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" (Epic), which consists of four versions (including a knockout a capella) of the sensual track that is the "Billie Jean" of the "Bad" album.

House of Freaks' "Monkey on a Chain Gang" (Rhino)--A remarkably tuneful and lyrically alert debut by a two-man band that mixes Beatlesque pop-rock with Creedence sparkle and a dark tribal urgency as it looks at matters of self-identity and social purpose. CD available.

Sinead O'Connor's "The Lion and the Cobra" (Chrysalis)--This Irishwoman's debut is a bit pretentious, a bit derivative (think Kate Bush), but it's also wonderfully imaginative and enormously promising. CD available.

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