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SOUND CHECK.

The Cure/``Galore: The Singles 1987-97''

Who would have guessed the Cure has concealed a secret life as a superb singles band? This compilation, a condensation of 10 years of British mope-rock, reveals gloomy old Robert Smith and company have been churning out memorable radio songs for a good while now. Consider such standout tracks as ``Lullaby,'' ``Lovesong,'' ``Friday I'm in Love,'' ``Pictures of You'' and ``Just Like Heaven,'' which range in style from dance-pop to frothy neo-psychedelic workouts. Great stuff. Three Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

The Spice Girls/``Spiceworld''

Resembling a cageful of crazed hamsters on helium, the Spice Girls are as talentless and disposable as you would expect on their latest worldwide smasharoo album. While there's nothing wrong with bubblegum - some of it is as clever as anything else in pop - this insipid concoction is as thin as melting ice. The first single, ``Spice Up Your Life,'' now climbing the charts like a trail of Argentinian ants in sugar shock, has a mild Latin hip-hop feel that stops just short of spicy. It's too bad those pulling the strings behind the Spice Girls phenomenon weren't blessed with a bit more wit, irony or brains. In any case, toddlers will lap this up. One and One Half Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

Michael Bolton/``All That Matters''

He's got rippling muscles, a mature new hairstyle, rugged good looks and - wait for it, girls - feelings he doesn't mind sharing! Yes, that singing dreamboat, the overemoting Adonis of adult-contemporary, Michael Bolton, is back to set female hearts aflutter. On his new album, though, Mr. Sensitive has apparently toned down the familiar histrionics. Not to worry, though, because he's come up with a clever ploy to make you think he's really crying. By placing material such as the nightmarish first single, ``The Best of Love,'' in a key that forces him to strain, it seems as if Bolton is wracked with genuine emotion. The truth is, he's just trying to get through the song just like this listener. Piffle, but skillfully done. Admittedly. Two Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

X/``Beyond & Back: The X Anthology''

A two-CD collection of mostly unreleased X-cellence, this anthology perfectly captures the essence of Los Angeles' gritty punk scene starting in the late '70s when Exene Cervenkova, John Doe, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake came together as one of the greatest bands the Orange ever produced. While the album isn't a conventional best-of, it certainly contains many of X's most resonant performances, including ``Los Angeles,'' ``Hungry Wolf,'' ``White Girl'' and ``Johny Hit and Run Paulene.'' There are also some equally memorable rarities such as the remixed outtake of ``Blue Spark'' and the 1979 demo of ``Sex and Dying in High Society.'' The liner notes are fine, too. Three and One Half Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

G. Love & Special Sauce/``Yeah, It's That Easy''

The third G. Love & Special Sauce album in as many years continues the vision of this youthful modern-day bluesman and ex-street musician. Noted for a sense of humor, singer-guitarist Love enjoys slipping his own name into his lyrics. Album opener ``Stepping Stones'' kicks proceedings off in a loose, funky manner while ``I-76'' boasts a nice swinging feel. A little light on substance, but still enjoyable for fans of roots-rockers like Dave Matthews or Blues Traveler. Two and One Half Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

Jai/``Heaven''

Looking like a Calvin Klein model and sounding like a male Joni Mitchell, 23-year-old Brit-soul crooner Jai calls himself ``a mod for the hip-hop generation.'' He's moody, intense and soulful on this debut disc, which is attuned to cutting-edge electronics. At the same time, producer Joel Bogen's guitar work offers a stylishly earthy tone. The album could be a big hit, fueled by radio play for the excellent title track, the warm VH1 hit ``I Believe'' or the sweet cover of J.J. Cale's ``Magnolia.'' Three Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

The Replacements/``All for Nothing''

This expansive twin-CD look back at the much-mourned Replacements misses a chunk of the band's early output for the Twin/Tone label. While not telling the entire story, the anthology nonetheless captures many of the 'Mats' best tracks, including such fine Paul Westerberg moments as the lovely ``Here Comes a Regular,'' the gorgeous ``Skyway,'' the rocking ``Alex Chilton'' and the stunning radio hit ``Achin' to Be.'' Disc 2 of the package boasts previously unreleased tracks, B-sides and outtakes, but few of these odds and sods reveal anything new about this ahead-of-its-time outfit. Three Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

Lowell Fulson/``The Complete Chess Masters''

Always the odd man out at Chess Records, Lowell Fulson never fit into the label's Delta-to-Chicago sound. Still, the Okie singer-guitarist produced a memorable body of work for Chess that stands among the greatest contributions to the blues. Fulson's best-known tunes, including ``Reconsider Baby,'' ``Lonely Hours'' and ``Tollin' Bells'' suggest a sophisticated writer whose arrangements - some featuring musicians that would later join Ray Charles - owed as much to jazz as to jump blues. Three and One Half Stars

?13- Fred Shuster

Nas Escobar, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature/``The Firm - The Album''

Murder, misogyny, rape, dope dealing and general mayhem - you guessed it, ``The Firm - The Album'' was the top-selling disc in the country last week. With some tracks produced by the overrated Dr. Dre, this collection is so predictable you find yourself finishing the rhymes on the first listen. Supposedly some kind of hip-hop concept album based on the life of various lowlifes, the disc seems as instantly dated as a Pet Rock. When are teens going to stop buying into this sort of celebration of illiteracy, stupidity and meaningless violence? One Star

?13- Fred Shuster

Simon & Garfunkel/``Old Friends''

Oh, what a pleasure is ``Old Friends,'' a 59-song, three-CD collection that offers up not only the b`est of Simon & Garfunkel but a bunch of rare live cuts and previously unreleased tracks. Even better, these selections were digitally remastered directly from the source tape, making the jaunt back to the '60s even more soothing. Besides classics like ``Bridge Over Troubled Water,'' ``Mrs. Robinson,'' ``America'' and ``The Sound of Silence,'' the duo lets listeners in on warm concert renditions of the poignant ``A Poem on the Underground Wall'' as well as a cover of the Everly Brothers' ``Bye Bye Love.'' These old friends deserve a prominent spot in every music lover's library. Four Stars

CAPTION(S):

9 Photos

Photo: (1) Michael Bolton sheds his long locks but keeps his emotive style on ``All That Matters.''

(2--9) no caption (CD covers)
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Nov 7, 1997
Words:1088
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