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SOUND CHECK.

SCISSOR SISTERS: ``Scissor Sisters'' (Universal) - Three stars

AM radio, take note: Just when you thought the world had moved on to '90s nostalgia, along comes this campy New York group whose witty '70s-style tunes and top-notch production makes for a noise so catchy it's been lingering at the top of the U.K. charts and in local dance clubs for weeks. Think prime-time Elton, Bowie, Bee Gees, Roxy Music, Giorgio Moroder's glam disco and a little Frankie Goes to Hollywood for starters. But it's not just a fashion thing - the five Sisters have come up with some unusually good stuff on this self-titled debut. After two listens to the lively trio of dance-floor stompers that open the disc, an unabashed grin begins to spread; pop music rarely feels this good anymore. Funky bass, falsetto vocals and wah-wah guitar power the groovers ``Laura,'' ``Take Your Mama'' and a sparse remake of Pink Floyd's rehab anthem, ``Comfortably Numb,'' that wouldn't be out of place on the ``Saturday Night Fever'' soundtrack. ``Scissor Sisters'' loses steam on a couple of tepid ballads, but what works delivers a jolt.

- Fred Shuster

VARIOUS: ``Happy Birthday Newport! 50 Swinging Years'' (Columbia/Legacy) - Three and one half stars

It's hard to find with a three-disc collection that features the pantheon of jazz greats - Monk, Coltrane, Miles, Brubeck, Ellington and orchestra - at the peak of their powers. Still, aficionados will probably have a sense of deja vu listening to this collection's 27 cuts, since 26 of them have been previously released. Of course, you'd have to be a serious collector to have amassed all the material here, culled from the celebrated festival's distant past. (The majority of the songs were recorded between 1956 and 1963.) Call this a great one-stop purchase then. And the one unreleased track, Miles Davis' 1955 ``comeback'' performance with Thelonious Monk on `` 'Round Midnight,'' elevates this set to must-have status for anyone who considers this particular tune to be the pinnacle expression of late-night introspection.

- Glenn Whipp

MEAT PURVEYORS: ``Pain by Numbers'' (Bloodshot) - Four stars

Sort of a Texas hill country meth lab answer to Fleetwood Mac (they even do an amphetamine/acoustic rendition of ``Monday Morning'' here), this band is all about the sorrows of women who drink too much and love too well. Lead singer Jo Cohen gets both wicked wit and heart-palpitating anguish into her tales of befogged romance, made all the more blood-curdling by Cherilyn DiMond's razor-blade harmonizing. This is psycho banjo, maddened mandolin, ferocious fiddle bluegrass impurity at its, well, purest.

- Bob Strauss

JULIA FORDHAM: ``That's Life'' (Vanguard) - Three stars

Though equipped with a four-octave range, it's Fordham's warm, rich honeyed tones that immediately grab you on the infectious rhythm and groove ``Sugar,'' the first cut on her latest CD (out on Tuesday). Being seduced by the English singer-songwriter's mellifluous voice has been easy since the release of her first full album, the titillating ``Porcelain.'' What's noticeable on this album and her previous one - the stellar ``Concrete Love'' - is that her songwriting has reached a consistently higher level. While there are no emotional knockout punches in this 10-song collection, like when she solemnly swears, ``I'd take a bullet for you,'' on ``Concrete's'' ``Love'' (and you feel it), tunes like ``Perfect Me,'' ``Downhill Sunday'' and ``Jump'' display wit and heart, both lyrically and musically, and benefit from Larry Klein's sparely elegant production.

- Rob Lowman

THE PIERCES: ``Light of the Moon'' (Universal South) - Three stars

These two sisters, born to hippie parents in Birmingham, Ala., don't just share a love for ballet, they share a love for harmonizing, which is something they do very well on this set of bleeding-heart folk rockers. Allison and Catherine Pierce wrote all 11 tracks, some with the help of producer Brian Sperber, who has worked with Guided by Voices and Dinosaur Jr. The standouts include the ethereal opener ``The Space Song'' and ``A Way to Us,'' which sounds an awful lot like something Alanis Morissette might sing on a good day. But the real gem here is ``Louisa,'' a breakup song abounding with gorgeous harmonies and a melody you'll be singing for days. In stores Tuesday.

- Sandra Barrera

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Review
Date:Aug 6, 2004
Words:708
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