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Calendar Holiday Gift Guide : We're Making a List:
It's Our Annual Roundup of Suggestions

Top Pop Albums

December 03, 1998|CALENDAR WRITERS

** 1/2 KORN, "Follow the Leader," Immortal/Epic. The Pied Pipers of post-grunge metal tap a sort of free-floating, mall-rat angst that's both insular and small-minded. Despite the funk-slapped bass and the sometimes fun roar of singer Jonathan Davis, the tactics usually ring silly and false.

*** 1/2 LOS SUPER SEVEN, "Los Super Seven," RCA. Tex-Mex and Chicano artists including members of Los Lobos team for an exploration of their musical roots. A masterful revival album that looks into the future with unflinching optimism.

*** 1/2 MALDITA VECINDAD, "Mostros," BMG. With one delicate exception ("El Cocodrilo"), the album covers the Mexican band's familiar territory, but with a renewed sense of maturity. Retains the essence of Mexico while looking to the world with a joyous lust for new, foreign sounds.

** 1/2 BARRY MANILOW, "Manilow Sings Sinatra," Arista. With the benefit of Sinatra-style production and stunning arrangements, Manilow manages to do a pleasant job of joining the ranks of the Sinatra wannabes. But really, who would you rather hear sing "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"?

*** METALLICA, "Garage Inc.," Elektra. A sequel to the 1987 "Garage Days Revisited" EP (included in its entirety here), this two-disc collection features all the outside material Metallica has tackled over the years, plus 11 newly recorded.

*** 1/2 METHOD MAN, "Tical 2000: Judgment Day," Def Jam. The Wu-Tang Clan member keeps his musical mission consistent on his second solo album. Backed with top-notch production, Method Man's strongest assets emerge: his distinct, gravelly voice and uncanny knack for coining catch phrases.

*** MIA X, "Mama Drama," No Limit/Priority. On her third album, the lone female rapper in Master P's family finds the delicate balance between sensationalized boasts and a more gentle, feminine approach.

**** ALANIS MORISSETTE, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie," Maverick. A brave, soul-searching work that looks at life's challenges and rewards with the primal scream intensity of John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" collection.

** 1/2 THE OFFSPRING, "Americana," Columbia. Cleverly crafted tunes and snappy playing make all the familiar sneers and jeers sizzle anew on the Orange County band's fifth album. It's just a shame the Offspring can't match its incite-ful musical attack with a more insightful sense of purpose.

**** OUTKAST, "Aquemini," LaFace/Arista. The Atlanta duo's third brilliant slice of hip-hop. The group explores the bleakest aspects of humanity while encouraging its listeners to examine themselves, and the collection supplies some of the lushest tracks ever included on a hip-hop record.

*** PEARL JAM, "Live on Two Legs," Epic. These 16 tracks selected from this outstanding rock band's summer tour may have been the ones that sounded best on tape, but there are too many essential Pearl Jam songs missing for the collection to be as satisfying as it could have been.

*** PHISH, "The Story of the Ghost," Elektra. The Vermont quartet wriggled its way through the rock 'n' roll food chain and entered the Top 10 with its new album, which wraps the band's metaphysical parables around circular, complex melodies that sound like rootsy prog-rock.

*** 1/2 R.E.M., "Up," Warner Bros. Guilt and flagging spirits, laden with fin de sieecle anxiety, set to a new sonic construct that's a muted pop baroque. No bopping tunes for the kids here.

*** THE ROLLING STONES, "No Security," Virgin. Market-driven motives aside, this actually ranks high among the Stones' live recordings. The playing is top-notch, the song selection is not entirely predictable, and there are soulful duets with Dave Matthews and Taj Mahal. Go figure.

*** THE RZA, "RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo," Gee Street. The Wu-Tang Clan mastermind raps with fury over his intricate production on the soundtrack from his forthcoming direct-to-video movie.

** 1/2 SEAL, "Human Being," Warner Bros. The album strives to be a cohesive, close-in look at loss, mainly sketching the death throes of a love affair, but the listener is distracted with too many ostentatious sound-scapes.

*** 1/2 TIMBALAND, "Tim's Bio: From the Motion Picture: Life From Da Bassment," Blackground/Atlantic. Catchy, dance-inducing production and nonconfrontational rapping by the man responsible for recent hits from Aaliyah, Ginuwine and others.

**** U2, "The Best of 1980-90," Island. The best rock band since the '60s sweetens a masterful single disc "best of" in this limited edition, budget-priced package with a second disc of B-sides, most of which would have been respectable entries on the quartet's original studio collections.

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "The Prince of Egypt: Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack"; "The Prince of Egypt--Inspirational"; "The Prince of Egypt--Nashville," DreamWorks. These three separate CDs featuring music from and inspired by "The Prince of Egypt" pack so much star power and accessible warmth that their chances of being commercially ignored are about as good as those of the Red Sea parting again.

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Belly," Def Jam. The fierce, uncompromising rapping from prominent artists such as DMX and Nas on this soundtrack commands attention.

*** ROB ZOMBIE, "Hellbilly Deluxe," Geffen. Bears an uncanny likeness to the singer's now-defunct main gig, White Zombie, but the overall sound is leaner, and the tracks are infused with the campiest elements of Zombie's B-movie obsessions.

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