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POP MUSIC SPECIAL : Fall's Big Albums, From AC / DC to Z.Z. Top

October 14, 1990| Robert Hilburn and Dennis Hunt and Mike Boehm and Richard Cromelin and Jonathan Gold and Steve Hochman and Chris Willman and Randy Lewis and Connie Johnson and D on Waller.

Get ready.

We're entering the busiest time of the year in the pop world, the fall release period, when traditionally more than a third of all pop recordings are sold.

The following guide is designed to assist shoppers through what is sometimes a confusing maze of choices.

The comments are by The Times pop writers indicated, but the star ratings (one is poor, five a classic) are sometimes based on a consensus of editors. Reviewers are Robert Hilburn, Dennis Hunt, Mike Boehm, Richard Cromelin, Jonathan Gold, Steve Hochman, Chris Willman, Randy Lewis, Connie Johnson and Don Waller.

*** AC/DC, "The Razor's Edge,"Atco. With hot Aerosmith/Bon Jovi producer Bruce Fairburn at the board, the album still rocks like AC/DC, but a rather slick version thereof. This is probably AC/DC's best album since 1985's "Fly on the Wall." (Gold)

*** 1/2 ANTHRAX, "Persistence of Time,"Island. The least apocalyptic of new-metal bands comes closer to the dissonant post-punk of Gang of Four or Fugazi than to the death spew of Sodom or Vio-Lence. An art album within the context of Anthrax, and a small masterpiece of metal. (Gold)

*** 1/2 BLACK BOX, "Dreamland,"RCA. An exceptional dance album full of furious grooves and vocals performed with Gloria Gaynor-like fervor by French singer Katrin Quinol. (Hunt)

** JON BON JOVI, "Young Guns II,"PolyGram. These songs "from and inspired by" the movie are the singer's least contrived music to date. But the cliches still fly faster than lead at the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. (Hochman)

*** 1/2 BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS, "Edutainment,"Jive/BMG. Leader KRS-One takes on misguided teachers, the government, crooked cops and meat--hamburgers, to hear him talk, are a drug addictive as crack, and worse for you. (Gold)

** 1/2 GARTH BROOKS, "No Fences,"Capitol. A considerable improvement over his 1989 debut, but still with only modest yields. In the best moments, Brooks' woody baritone suggests several lifetimes of hard living, but there's too much emphasis on hokey melodrama. (Lewis)

* 1/2 LUTHER CAMPBELL, "Banned in the U.S.A,"Luke/Atlantic. Despite greater comic invention and more sophisticated grooves, the 2 Live Crew leader's approach continues to offer a dour, ultimately ugly view of sex. There is also an unnecessarily mean spirit. (Hilburn)

** 1/2 COCTEAU TWINS, "Heaven or Las Vegas,"4AD/Capitol. The three twins explore some new textures, and an occasional lyric is actually discernible (the meaning rarely is). But the gauzy impressionism, though still haunting and hypnotic, could use some tampering. (Hochman)

*** ROBERT CRAY BAND, "Midnight Stroll,"Mercury. Cray checks in to the Cheatin' Place with another solid album of nether soul noir blues. His sinewy, Sam Cooke-in' vocals cut through the familiar shadowy ambience like light reflecting off a freshly drawn knife. (Waller)

** 1/2 DEEE-LITE, "World Clique,"Elektra. House music by a co-ed New York trio that includes a Japanese and a Russian. It's littered with distracting touches and tries too hard to be innovative, but it's fine when it relies on the beats to carry the songs. (Hunt)

*** BOB DYLAN, "Under the Red Sky,"Columbia. May be the most fun release from Zimmy in ages: a blues-based romp, with Dylan as the Crawlin' Kingsnake. Still, there's an underlying feeling that Dylan kinda walked through the project . . . again. (Hochman)

** 1/2 "GHOST," soundtrack,Varese Sarabande. Lovers can swoon once more to the resurrected Righteous Brothers hit "Unchained Melody"; the rest of the LP consists of Maurice Jarre's mixed bag of orchestration and synthesizers, whose romantic spookiness is sure to be Oscar bait. (Willman)

*** THE GRATEFUL DEAD, "Without a Net,"Arista. The Dead's eighth live release is still not like being there. But this two-hour-plus set, recorded before the recent death of keyboardist Brent Mydland, adequately captures the sounds of a typical evening with the venerable band. (Hochman)

** 1/2 EMMYLOU HARRIS, "Brand New Dance,"Reprise. Harris' instinct for material is usually as impeccable as her singing, but this collection is spotty--ranging from the excellence of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest" to several moments of mediocrity. (Hilburn)

* 1/2 INDIGO GIRLS, "Nomads Indians Saints,"Epic. Why does a 1990 album by two post-collegiate types with help from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck sound like something that could have been made by two 1970 Marin County earth-mother types with help from Jesse Colin Young? (Hochman)

** INXS, "X,"Atlantic. At some point, INXS decided it was a funk band. It's not--but the Aussie outfit insists on keeping up the charade on about half of this album. When not funkin', INXS falls back on standard arena-rock fare that at best is simulated Stones. (Hochman)

L.L. COOL J, "Mama Said Knock You Out,"Def Jam/Columbia. For two views, see Page 59. The rebounding rapper is profiled on Page 49.

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