Barry Manilow

Fans of Barry Manilow can get the singer-songwriter's early albums on CD from Arista/Legacy with bonus tracks not on the original LPs. Barry Manilow II, originally released in 1974, features "Mandy" and "It's a Miracle" and its follow-up, 1975's Tryin' to Get the Feeling, features the hit titletrack, as well as his signature song, "I Write the Songs." Even Now again presents a hit title track and Manilow's other trademark anthem, "Copacabana." Each disc offers two bonus tracks recorded during the period of the original album's recording, some of them previously unreleased in any format.

On the other end of the spectrum, Epic/Immortal offers some rarities from hard rock band Korn. Live & Rare features 11 concert tracks, including its thrashing cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" (parts 1,2,3), and two studio rarities including a cover of the classic heavy metal comedy song "Earache My Eye," originally recorded by Cheech and Chong.


Secret MachinesSecret Machines
Ten Silver Drops

Secret Machines made my top 10 CD list for 2004 with their debut Now Here Is Nowhere, thanks to their bombastic, lumbering rhythm tracks, serpentine guitar leads, Brit-pop taut vocals and progressive art-rock vibe.

The sound was unlike any of the bands on the charts or concert circuit, both then and now. Its sophomore CD is slightly less expansive, but still delivers firmly on the punch of that debut. Ten Silver Drops offers an amazing mix of inventive rock instrumentation and vocal depth.

While the title might lead you to think this disc has 10 tracks, in fact, it has only eight. However, only one of those is less than five minutes long. Secret Machines are not in any way a three-minute pop band, preferring to explore a musical theme leisurely, building to a climax with reserve and cool inventiveness.

The first track, "Alone, Jealous and Stoned" builds its hypnotic mix of hymnlike organs and piano and tense guitars for more than a minute before the first lyric materializes. It's a phenomenal track of strutting rhythm and broken emotion.

That's followed by the slow gallop of "All at Once (It's Not Important)," which boasts some of the best end-of-a-relationship lyrics I've heard in awhile as the lover left behind finds a moment of clarity:

"All those things you said you never meant
it don't mean much
how can I forgive and just forget
it don't mean much
all that time we spent, I swear we wasted
It don't mean much
and all at once it's not important
what fell in place just falls apart."

The band progresses from the slow build of the first two tracks to a pounding crash of cymbals, drums and guitars on "Lightning Blue Eyes," and then slips back to a more menacing rhythm with "Daddy's in the Doldrums."

Then it's a more experimental jam with "I Hate Pretending," which finds a spoken word vocal over a bed of sound effects and guitars, before a more traditional, bombastic chorus takes over the speakers. The disc ends with an emotionally dramatic, piano-accented track, a guaranteed concert lighter song (and unaccountably reminds me of the classic ELO everytime I hear it).

Secret Machines are one of the only bands without a 30-year pedigree still making progressive art rock. Drawing on the echoing guitar effects of the '80s and the inventive intensity of bands like Pink Floyd, Yes and Rush, yet really not sounding like any of those acts, they push the envelope on nearly every track they record, exploring mood, atmosphere, intensity and rhythm with a disregard for convention.

Ten Silver Drops is an album to slip into slowly, and dream inside for hours.

For more information, see its Web site at Catch Secret Machines performance on Saturday at Chicago's Metro.