Unbelievable Truth
Almost Here
(Virgin)
½


This is a quietly haunting album spotlighting the charismatically smooth vocals and lusciously melancholy songs of singer-guitarist Andy Yorke. Almost Here is one of those insidious albums — on a first listen, it’s melodic background stuff: slowly strumming guitars, rising keyboard auras, rolling basslines. But with every subsequent visit, Yorke’s gently delivered leads and warm harmonies get under the skin deeper and deeper. Like Cowboy Junkies and early Toad The Wet Sprocket, this is atmospheric pop with ironclad hooks.

Highly recommended.

 

Goodness - Anthem Goodness
Anthem
(Immortal/Epic)
½


It’s easy to forget with the onslaught of quietly dramatic songstresses like Jewel and Tori Amos and pop fluff like Natalie Imbruglia and Spice Girls, that girls really can rock. Goodness takes the listener back to the early days of Pat Benatar, before keyboards and producers took the edge off. Or, more correctly, Goodness follows the lead of contemporary girl-rock acts Sister Seven and Seven Day Diary (maybe they should have called themselves Seven Sisters’ Diaries?)

Goodness plants the swelteringly sensual vocals of Carrie Akre atop the bashing beat of a four-piece rock band. Anthem is loaded with “driving” music, good classic riff guitar songs that sound best cranked up with the windows rolled down (not an advisable way to listen to it this month, however). There’s even a radio friendly anthem with an easy sway rhythm and falsetto-tipped chorus: “I’d Rather (be alone than here with you)”

 

Various Artists
The Faculty Soundtrack
(Columbia)


While this “horror high school” movie soundtrack is bookended by a throbbing, oatmeal-mouthed workout of the two parts of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” by grunge kings Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) under the moniker Class of ‘99, the real draw is in the other yesteryear “teen” rock anthems covered by today’s artists. Creed drawl through Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” and Soul Asylum offer a great big guitar revisitation to Cooper’s classic “School’s Out.” And Shawn “Lullaby” Mullins turns to David Bowie’s “Changes” (which was recorded here in Chicago with Eric Bazilian of The Hooters, for all you trivia fans). There are also songs taken from the most recent Offspring, Stabbing Westward and Garbage albums as well as tracks from Oasis and Sheryl Crow.

Chicago-spawned folk & jazz


Elektra has put together The Best of Tom Paxton, a collection of 26 songs recorded between 1964-1971 from the Chicago-born acoustic guitar-toting folk star. This was his most visible, productive period, but Paxton has released 34 albums and written 15 books over the past three decades, so he has not rested on those laurels. Since he began recording for Elektra in the early ‘60s, his songs have been recorded by a wide variety of artists, from Peter, Paul & Mary and Judy Collins to Nanci Griffith and Dolly Parton and even Irish punk band The Pogues...Chicagoan Lisa Lauren has enlisted the talents of renowned jazz guitarist Fareed Haque to craft What Comes Around on Planet Jazz Records, a late-night listening album of lounge-y standards, with a couple of originals (including the jazz-train ode to aging, “Midlife”). Composed of a half dozen Beatles songs, along with covers of songs from Carole King (“Some Kind Of Wonderful”) and Donovan (“Sunshine Superman”), this is like listening to a crack jazz-pop band playing the lobby of a four-star hotel (not too surprising, since when you read her bio, it turns out she’s been featured on the WNUA-FM Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch at Chicago’s Hotel Nikko, among other high class stages). David Sanborn turns up to blow a sweet saxophone solo on “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and Howard Levy contributes harmonica to “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” Lauren plays sleek piano throughout and sings in a cool easy tone that doesn’t distinguish her as a born “star” but doesn’t play her false, either.