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SOUND CHECK.

Various/``Testify! The Gospel Box'' (Rhino)

Housed in a faux pocket-sized Bible (complete with white ribbon marker) this three-disc box impressively captures the wide-ranging sounds and intense purpose of more than 50 years of roof-raising African-American gospel. The collection will please the faithful and undoubtedly convert a few non-believers to the power of this expressive music.

Each disc covers a specific incarnation, moving from heavenly harmonies of vocal groups to '60s soul to the present-day mix of hip-hop, r&b and funk. All the important artists get to share their testimonials - Dorothy Love Coats, the Staple Singers, Aretha Franklin, Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir, Andrae Crouch, the Winans (pictured) . . . all the way up to Whitney Houston and the Georgia Mass Choir performing ``I Love the Lord.''

When you finish listening to these 50 tracks, you'll be left thinking ``how great thou art'' as you cue it up for another listen. A blessing indeed. Four stars

- Glenn Whipp

Soundtrack/``Wild Wild West'' (Overbrook/Interscope)

Soundtrack/``The General's Daughter'' (Milan)

Soundtrack/``Big Daddy'' (American/C2)

The hip-hop-heavy ``Wild Wild West'' soundtrack is big, overbearing and mostly awful - and it's being pounded without mercy by radio, which explains why it zoomed into the Top 5 upon release. The blockbuster tracks, including Will Smith's title theme (based upon Stevie Wonder's ``I Wish'') and Enrique Iglesias' ``Bailamos'' are already so familiar you're probably hearing them in your sleep. No need, then, to play them while awake. One and one half stars

``The General's Daughter'' disc represents a refreshingly imaginative approach. Bay Area musician Greg Hale Jones' remix of '30s field recordings is the most haunting film music we've heard all year. In addition, Carter Burwell's typically dark score and the inclusion of the classic opera piece ``O Fortuna'' make the album a compelling listen whether you like the movie or not. Three stars

``Big Daddy'' is more enjoyable than similar rock-themed collections due to Sheryl Crow's lighthearted remake of ``Sweet Child O' Mine'' and Everlast's version of Neil Young's ``Only Love Can Break Your Heart.'' Other goodies include items from Garbage, Rufus Wainwright and Shawn Mullins. Could do without the movie dialogue, though. Two stars

- Fred Shuster

Toumani Diabete With Ballake Sissoko/``New Ancient Strings'' (Hannibal)

Almost 30 years ago, the fathers of these Malian musicians recorded a seminal album of duets on the kora, a bulbous, 21-stringed cross between a lute and harp. The sons, themselves noted kora players, have now collaborated on another collection of lovely, quiet duets of mostly classic West African repertoire. Truly remarkable sounds from a peaceful place in the soul. Gorgeous. Three stars

- David Bloom

Missy ``Misdemeanor'' Elliott/``Da Real World'' (The Gold Mind/Elektra)

Elliott's supposed to be the cutting edge of hip-hop, and her producer Timbaland is billed as one of the genre's most innovative knob-twiddlers. Her new album, though, reveals a tepid throwback to an early age that won't have anyone dancing ``Da Real World'' shuffle or gasping in amazement.

Lyrically, Elliott deals with the war between the sexes, and if this is how some sections of society relate, we're in trouble. It's all about the ``b-word'' here, as if it's somehow revolutionary to rap bad language in dance mixes. Elliott's 1997 debut promised so much more than this one-dimensional noise delivers. One and one half stars

- F.S.

Alice in Chains/``Nothing Safe: The Best of the Box'' (Columbia)

This 15-track disc offers an early taste of the forthcoming three-CD box set from this missing-in-action Seattle hard rock quartet. How you respond to such stuff as the new track ``Get Born Again,'' the acoustic ``Got Me Wrong'' and such familiar radio fodder as ``Man in the Box,'' ``Rooster'' and ``I Stay Away'' depends on how much you actually miss hearing this long-lost outfit. Two stars

- F.S.

Muddy Waters/``The Lost Tapes'' (Blind Pig)

In 1969, blues great Waters was banged up in a car wreck, while his longtime pianist Otis Spann died the following year. After healing and hiring Pinetop Perkins to tickle the ivories, Waters took his superb Chicago blues band on the road. This recently discovered live session from that trek is a sheer smoker as Waters' crack outfit navigates the classics - ``Honey Bee,'' ``Trouble No More,'' ``She's 19 Years Old'' and ``Long Distance Call.'' The best live Muddy since ``Fathers and Sons.'' Three stars

- F.S.

Kula Shaker/``Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts'' (Columbia)

On its 1996 debut, ``K,'' the group offered a crafty update of late-'60s psychedelia with extended pieces that featured percolating organ and wah-wah guitar in a colorful, slightly off-kilter parade of Indian chants and vague religious mysticism. The magic disappears on the overwrought ``Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts,'' which uses the same instrumental strategies to enliven self-obsessed, desperately-trying-to-be-reverent songs, such as ``Great Hosannah,'' that sound like outtakes from ``Jesus Christ Superstar.'' Two stars

- Tom Moon

Philadelphia Inquirer

Fleetwood Mac/``Shrine '69'' (Rykodisc)

Taped 30 years ago at the Shrine Auditorium downtown, this newly issued disc finds the Peter Green-era Mac at its bluesy best. Green boasted an instantly recognizable guitar style, vibrato and tone, all used to greatest effect on originals like ``If You Be My Baby'' and ``Albatross.'' The weakest moment is the rave-up version of ``Great Balls of Fire,'' which closes out the proceedings. Three stars

- F.S.

Soundtrack/``Tarzan'' (Disney)

This is the most appealing Disney soundtrack since ``Beauty and the Beast,'' even if it's not in that league. The best-selling ``Tarzan'' disc also works as a solid Phil Collins record on its own merits, but one that has to be docked a grade or two for excess filler: Do we really need four versions of ``Two Worlds,'' two of ``Trashin' the Camp'' and two of the first single, ``You'll Be in My Heart,'' which is Collins at his most radio pandering? Two stars

- Howard Cohen

Miami Herald

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(2--9) no caption (CD covers)
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Jul 2, 1999
Words:986
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