Warner Bros. released The Best of James Taylor this month, a 20-song hits-loaded collection that includes "Something in the Way She Moves," "Sweet Baby James," "Fire and Rain," "You've Got a Friend," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" and many more classic folk-pop songs.

Columbia is capitalizing on The Fugees' short run of fame by offering a 10-song Greatest Hits from that band, which served to launch the career of Lauryn Hill. The Fugees Greatest Hits CD includes "Vocab," "Nappy Heads," "Fu-Gee-La" and remixes of "The Sweetest Thing" and "Ready or Not."

Crossing Jordan"Crossing Jordan" fans can now pick up a soundtrack of retro cover songs that have appeared on the TV show. Crossing Jordan: Music from the Television Series opens with Sam Phillips' give a smoky voiced reading of the Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man," and Marc Anthony Thompson's low-voiced run-through of the Kinks' "Days."

Alison Krauss turns Steve Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home" into a soothing backporch croon, Cassandra Wilson adds a folkish, soulful flavor to Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" and Richard Thompson offers a building brooding remake of Donovan's "Season of the Witch." The disc also includes the instrumental funky celtic "Crossing Jordan Themes" from Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman (Wendy & Lisa of Prince fame).

Other artists include Lucinda Williams, Vic Chesnutt, Jill Hennessy covering Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and more.

"Star Search" viewers can pick up a Sony Music compilation of songs from the show's recent star Jake Simpson. Star Search Winner: Jake Simpson includes the young vocalist's covers of "What's Going On," "Isn't She Lovely" and "Signed, Sealed Delivered I'm Yours," along with five other tracks.

If you were a fan of jangly retro-leaning pop in the late '80s, you probably ran into San Francisco garage band Redd Kross. The band released a number of discs in the '80s and '90s, and became an increasingly polished Beatlesque band.

That Beatle-base was in place from the beginning, but their 1987 debut album, Neurotica knitted it with a Ramones fury and Monkees' bubblegum sense, a fiery feat indeed. The band has now reissued that debut album on CD with bonus tracks (including the gorgeous '60s-esque distortion fuzz power ballad "It's the Little Things") through Five Foot Two/Oglio Records. For more information, check their site at www.reddkross.com.

 

Venus Hum - Big Beautiful Sky Venus Hum
Big Beautiful Sky
(MCA)


From the first throbbing oscillations and ooh-ahhh techno drums of "Hummingbirds" to the closing confection of "Bella Luna," Venus Hum's debut album is a retro-synthpop lover's dream come true.

Lead singer Annette Strean slings melodies with an effortless abandon, alternately crooning in an entrancing Cocteau Twins/Bjork-influenced pure pop delivery and then sing-speaking with a quavering hint of vulnerability.

The band, filled out by Ohio and New Jersey natives Tony Miracle and Kip Kubin, sound like refugees from the English club scene of the mid-'80s, rather than residents of their current home base of Nashville ("Soul Sloshing," for example, sounds like a rousing techno soundscape from England's Erasure). But while the sound of this CD is Brit-synth all the way, the pounding sing-song vocal affectations of the techno anthem "Montana" are all about the "big beautiful sky" of Strean's home state.

The disc gallops off to a rousing start in its first three tracks before settling back for its first ballad, the gorgeous "Wordless May," which leaves Strean plenty of room to croon atop the spartan Yaz-like blurbs and bleeps of its synthesizer underpinnings.

As the album wears on, it gets increasingly expansive, from the broad lilting hymn of "The Bells" to the trance-dance wall-of-sound pound of "Beautiful Spain." Later, they offer a rave-ready mix in the fury of "Sonic Boom," and cap it all off with a sweetly sorrowful ballad in "Bella Luna."

Through the course of Big Beautiful Sky, Venus Hum showcased the power of sythesizer-based pop and Strean's sweetly girlish, affecting vocals. This is a CD every techno-pop lover should own.

Venus Hum has also collaborated on a song on Blue Man Group's new album. They will play as the opening act for Blue Man Group on May 21 at the Congress Theatre in Chicago.