Burlap to Cashmere
Anybody Out There?

Between the folkish guitars, often exotic percussion and leader Steven Delopoulos' high thin tenor, Burlap to Cashmere sometimes comes across sounding like a 1990s Christian rock update of Cat Stevens. Actually, the band tends to flit styles on almost every song, so that the laidback keyboards on "Eileen's Song" sound like Bruce Springsteen circa "Philadelphia," the classic instrumentation of "Chop Chop" aches of Dave Matthews and the staccatto "Lie-lie-lie"s and fiery flamenco guitars of "Basic Instructions" bring to mind Gipsy Kings. While occasionally message-heavy, it's a warm, easy-listening album that's full of varied celebratory sound and lyrics that, instead of exploring another broken heart story, speak to a universal quest: "Looking for the answers/and where I do belong."

Robyn Hitchcock
Jewels for Sophia
(Warner Bros.)

When did Robyn Hitchcock get so boring?

Despite working with Jon Brion (Aimee Mann) and former Soft Boy/Katrina and the Waves guitarist Kimberly Rew, this album is a snore. Stick with old Hitchcock quirky pop like "Balloon Man" and "Queen of the Wasps."


Box Sets

Rhino Records has released two inventive box sets the past month. Just in time for the back-to-school insanity we get Be Thou Now Persuaded: Living in a Shakespearean World, a six-CD box that includes some of the Bard's most famous speeches, performed by famous actors from the first half of the 20th century. While it covers Shakespeare's plays admirably, the collection does scrimp on modern performances most of these audio clips are taken from movies that were filmed in black and white. There are no excerpts from the most recent Shakespeare movies.

The box does include an 80-page booklet with essays, track descriptions and the text of these famous quotes. The discs include readings by Lawrence Olivier in Henry V, John Gielgud in Henry V, Hamlet, A Winter's Tale, Measure for Measure and Richard II, John Barrymore in Richard III, Henry IV and Macbeth, Vanessa Redgrave in As You Like It and The Tempest, Richard Burton in Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew and The Rape of Lucrece, Jessica Tandy in Coriolanus, Rex Harrison in Much Ado About Nothing, Orson Welles in Macbeth, Alec Guinness in Macbeth and more.

On a less serious note, Rhino also offers Tip of the Freberg: The Stan Freberg Collection: 1957-1998. A four-CD set with a video, the set includes more than 100 clips of Freberg's musical lampooning, including the classic "John & Marsha," "Green Christmas," "Yellow Rose of Texas," the Lawrence Welk lampoon, "Wun'erful, Wun'erful," and others.


Soundtrack Row

Stigmata SoundtrackThe soundtrack to the new movie Stigmata is out with seven vocal tracks from modern artists and 10 instrumental bits of incidental music from the movie composed in part by Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan. Chumbawamba opens the disc with a crunch guitar rave up of "Mary Mary" and Sinead O'Connor offers a collaboration with the Afro Celt Sound System in the ambient "Release." Massive Attack turn in another eerie, ambient number in "Inertia Creeps" and Natalie Imbruglia performs a quiet stirring ballad penned by Corgan in "Identify." Corgan's instrumental contributions are more ephemeral. Rather than the big string orchestrations you might expect from soundtrack work (like the Pumpkins' introduction to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness) these are mostly electronica bits of echoing percussion and synthesizer phrases with an eerie haunted-house ambiance to them.

Columbia's Legacy arm has re-released the soundtrack to Top Gun, one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, with five bonus tracks that were not originally on the soundtrack album, though three of them were in the movie. The original album spawned the hits "Danger Zone" from Kenny Loggins, "Take My Breath Away" from Berlin, and "Heaven in Your Eyes" from Loverboy. Now it also includes Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," Harold Faltermeyer's "Memories," Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire," The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and a dance mix of Kenny Loggins' "Playing With the Boys" (the original version is also included on the soundtrack).

The Outside Providence soundtrack on Giant/Reprise is a new album filled with old songs. The soundtrack features the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," Paul McCartney and Wings' "Band on the Run," The Eagles' "Take It Easy," Ten Years After's "I'd Like to Change the World," Steely Dan's "Do It Again," Free's "All Right Now," Yes' "Roundabout," Badfinger's "No Matter What," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" and more.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & UncutThe soundtrack to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut on Atlantic features all of the outrageously funny (and potty-mouthed) musical numbers from the film as well as eight "interpretations" of music from the film, including the Violent Femmes' take on Saddam Hussein's shining film moment, "I Swear It (I Can Change)," which, among the interpretive numbers, is the only one that resembles the songs in the film. The other "interpretations" — RuPaul's "Super," Joe C. & Kid Rock's "Kyle's Mom's a Big Fat B....," "D.V.D.A.'s "What Would Brian Boitano Do? Pt. II" and Trick Daddy's "Shut Yo Face (Uncle F...a)" include only a word or two from the original "South Park" character-sung numbers. Isaac Hayes contributes a Chef song that's not in the movie in the funky "Good Love," and Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush sing the national anthem of Canada.


'Best of' reissues

The Beautiful South, which had far more success across the Atlantic than on these shores during its decade of existence offers a 5-year-old, 15-song collection in The Best of The Beautiful South Carry On Up the Charts on Mercury Records.

Epic's Legacy label has reissued The Very Best of Poco and the Charlie Daniels Band A Decade of Hits on CD.