Looking for something to buy with those stocking-stuffer gift certificates? Below are some current CD releases making a deserved buzz on the airwaves.

 

Beatles The Beatles
Let It Be...Naked
(Capitol)


The story behind what became The Beatles' last official album (though it was recorded prior to Abbey Road) is a strange one. The group had been working on a filmed performance to show its music stripped back and raw, rather than the studio-enhanced work they had been doing up until then.

The project was temporarily abandoned after its 1969 sessions, but when it finally did appear, it was with a production that was anything but stripped back. Phil Spector was hired to clean up and augment the tracks.

Now, more than 30 years later, Capitol has issued Let It Be as it was originally intended without the layers of strings and overdubs.

The difference between the two versions isn't shocking, but on some numbers it is definitely apparent, especially on the sparse, quiet "Long and Winding Road," "Across the Universe" and "Let It Be," which have an immediate, living room performance quality.

The disc also comes with a second CD, Fly on the Wall, which captures snippets of some of the Fab Four's chatter and musical noodling, including a comical slip from a practice of "Maggie Mae" into "Fancy My Chances With You" that went on during the Let It Be sessions.

 

Sarah McLachlanSarah McLachlan
Afterglow
(Arista)


The Lilith Fair founder's first album in four years is a quiet, introspective affair, filled with shimmering guitars, slowstepping rhythms and soothing vocal melodies. While that may be a little disappointing to fans of her more rhythmic exercises over the years ("Possession," "Drawn to the Rhythm," "Into the Fire"), she and longtime producer Pierre Marchand have put together a sweetly ethereal set in Afterglow that follows the delicate blueprint set by "I Will Remember You" and "Sweet Surrender." On a first listen, the disc sounds a little same-y, moving from one slow song to the next. Subsequent playings allow the carefully woven, intricate rhythms and harmonies to flower.

Opening with the delicate beauty of "Fallen" and "World on Fire," and the intense, grinding guitars and emotion of "Stupid," Afterglow is the natural progression from 1999's introspective Mirrorball. The latter songs, along with "Train Wreck" and the gorgeous "Push" where McLachlan pledges "you're the one true thing I know I can believe in/you're all the things that I desire, you save me you complete me" rank among the singer's best work.

With rich arrangements mixing piano, strings, guitars and whispering cymbals, this is an album for dreaming, not dancing.

 

JetJet
Get Born
(Elektra)
½


The latest catch in the wave of retro-punk rock acts is Jet. Following the lead of the Hives, the Vines and others, Jet's Get Born features three raw riffed rock tracks that sizzle with hooks, energy and a rock of yesteryear vibe.

There are plenty of nods to the Beatles, and Jet sounds like Oasis on the slower piano ballad "Look What You've Done." Jet also pay tribute to the Kinks' sound here, and further, the break on "Roll Over DJ" sounds like the infectious guitar work of one-hit wonders The Kings' "Switching to Glide." The hands-down winner is the raucous hand-clappin' "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," which has been getting air play on Q101 and WXRT.

 

StingSting
Sacred Love
(A&M)


Sting's latest release is a marvelous mix of pop, exoticism and lyrical depth.

From the slow-building intensity of the opening track, "Inside," to the Spanish guitar intro and World Music percussion of "Send Your Love," to his celebratory duet with Mary J. Blige on the spiritual "Whenever I Say Your Name," Sacred Love unveils a rich mix of music on every one of its 10 regular tracks. The disc also includes an 11th offering, a more dance-club ready mix of "Send Your Love."

Sting alludes to his Police past when he quotes "Walking in Your Footsteps" in the midst of the swirling "Dead Man's Rope" and works with Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka (who played a large role in the recently released George Harrison tribute concert CD/DVD) on the Eastern-tinged "The Book of My Life." This is one of Sting's strongest solo efforts.

 

No DoubtNo Doubt
The Singles 1992-2003
(A&M)


If you've listened to pop radio at all in the last few years, you know most of the tracks on No Doubt's hits collection, which includes their breakout hits "Spiderwebs" and "Don't Speak," as well as "Just A Girl," "Hella Good," "Hey Baby," "Bathwater," "Simple Kind of Life," "Ex-Girlfriend" and a single rescued from their original, unappreciated first album, "Trapped In a Box." The disc also includes their new cover of Talk Talk's "It's My Life." In a nice touch, the CD's liner notes include full lyrics and the story behind the song to each track.