Live - The Distance To Here Live
The Distance To Here

After a three-year break, Live has released the best disc of the band's career and one of the best CDs of the year.

Opening with the poetic tension of the soft-to-crashing single "The Dolphin's Cry," The Distance to Here moves from one rock anthem to the next, ably pairing pounding angst with soft-spoken beauty in a breathtaking sweep. The Distance to Here is filled with moments of precious sentiment and edgy drama, and works in the same mold as much of their best prior work. "Run to the Water" and "Face and Ghost (The Children's Song)" hold the same slow-building payoff provided by their big radio hit, "Lightning Crashes."

Singer/songwriter Ed Kowalczyk has grown increasingly masterful at crafting potentially "sappy" poetry and slamming a melodic but distortion-rich riff behind it to give the sweetness of his intent the thorns of alternative rock. Case in point, the gorgeous intro to "The Dolphin's Cry": "The way you're bathed in light/reminds me of that night/God laid me down into your rose garden of trust."

You might expect this verse at a women's poetry club meeting, but instead, it's the lead for a raucous modern rock gem. Likewise in "Sparkle" he sings that "Love will overcome/if this love will make us men/love will draw us in/to take our fear away."

It's Kowalczyk's charisma that makes it all work, and work it does. Live has created a rock masterpiece in The Distance to Here. Don't miss it.


Groove Collective - Declassified Groove Collective

This is one aptly named band there are 10 musicians hiding under the Collective monicker, and with that much of a mob, they spin some unsurprisingly big-sounding jams, from the shake-your-booty disco of "Up All Night" and "Everything Is Changing" to the modern, mellow rap of "On a Feeling," to the '70s fusion jazz vibes of "Some People" and "Crisis." There are bass-thumping instrumental bits, Afro-Cuban exotic percussion and bongo breaks, synthesizer sonnets and silky soundscapes all segued together here.

This is a great party album filled with chunky funky jams and smooth grooves.


Pocket Size
100% Human

After the recent success of the husband-wife pop duo Fleming and John, Atlantic's new English boy-girl duo Pocket Size should be an easy sell on radio. Lead singer Liz Overs has a crisp, clean voice and the songs, especially the breezy "Human Touch" and "Walking" are deliciously sweet and poppy. The gentle touch brings to mind both Fleming and John and Everything but the Girl.

While occasionally the disc drags in plodding midtempo songs, it's an easy, engaging listen overall that's worth the price for "Human Touch" and "Walking" alone.


New on the Shelves:

South Park - Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics"South Park" fans can get prepared for the popular cartoon's Christmas special on Wednesday with a new "South Park" Christmas album, Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics on Columbia/American. While some of the music from this disc which includes Satan singing "Christmas Time in Hell" and Eric Cartman making up new words for "O Holy Night" will appear on Wednesday's special, much of this foul-mouthed, irreverent material won't be aired on television any time soon without copious censoring. This album is definitely not for kids, but adults who aren't easily offended will laugh their [censored] off.

Atlantic has released "Best of" collections from two of its top-selling, now defunct artists Genesis and Led Zeppelin.

Genesis' Turn It on Again - The Hits includes 18 of the band's best, including a reunion rerecording of "The Carpet Crawlers" by Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Mike Ruther-ford with both Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel on vocals. Among the hits included are "Turn It on Again," "Invisible Touch," "Mama," "Hold on My Heart," "Abacab," "That's All," "Follow You, Follow Me" and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight."

Led Zeppelin's Early Days - The Best of Led Zeppelin Volume 1 is the first of two discs that reprise the Zeppelin catalog. A "Latter Days" disc is due next year. This 13-song collection includes "Good Times, Bad Times," "Dazed and Confused," "Communication Breakdown,""Whole Lotta Love,""Immigrant Song," "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," and "Stairway to Heaven." The disc also includes a never-before-released 1969 live performance video of "Communication Breakdown" and 24 pages of liner notes.