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SOUND CHECK.

AMY WINEHOUSE: "Back to Black" (Republic/Universal) - Four stars

The broad's got a tracking device on every politically incorrect thought in the book. A London soul-pop chick with a full-bodied delivery and a couple of top tunes, 23-year-old Winehouse, like fellow Brit singer-songwriter Lily Allen, is an antidote to the current plague of cafe pop. "They tried to make me go to rehab/I said no, no, no!" she huskily sings on "Rehab," the autobiographical opener that sets the tone for an album that clocks in at just 35 minutes.

Musically, "Back to Black" is a canny, note-perfect homage to orchestral '60s girl-group pop and the dramatic productions of Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche and Shadow Morton. While concept and execution are fine, the material falls short. Much of the disc is simply overshadowed by the flawless title track, which uses an irresistible reverb-drenched Motown piano line and an instantly addictive melody for a cathartic old-soul gem. A few more like it would've made a big difference. In stores Tuesday.

-- Fred Shuster

NEIL YOUNG: "Live at Massey Hall 1971" (Reprise) - Three and one half stars

Last fall's Fillmore East archival set from 1970 showed Young in high gear with his band Crazy Horse. This concert from the following year reveals the flip side in intimate solo readings of some of Young's most famous songs, staged for a Toronto crowd in Young's home country. Hearfelt performances of "Old Man," "A Man Needs a Maid" and "Heart of Gold" -- which would show up a few months later on "Harvest" -- find Young plainly in touch with the emotions behind those new songs. Equally fine are touching acoustic versions of "Cowgirl in the Sand," "Tell Me Why," "Helpless" and "Ohio," songs that sound fresh and beautiful more than 35 years later. Another newly mined gem from Young's vault. Out Tuesday.

-- F.S.

BRIAN BROMBERG: "Downright Upright" (Artistry) - Three stars

Valley resident and bassist Bromberg leads a band here that attempts to make a jazz album that appeals to purists and smooth-jazz fans alike. The lineup, which includes saxophonists Boney James and Kirk Whalum, has chops, but rarely puts them to much use. They do soar in fine soul-jazz arrangements of standards like Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" and Joe Zawinul's "Mercy Mercy Mercy," plus five originals. Hard to imagine many complaints about music this impeccably recorded and impressively played.

-- Glenn Whipp

THE GREENCARDS: "Viridian" (Dualtone) - Three and one half stars

The Greencards might be the best argument for liberal immigration policies you'll ever hear. The Austin, Texas-based trio comes by way of the U.K. and Australia, but the sound is absolutely authentic country. Bassist Carol Young's voice has an easy, Norah Jones-like quality, the band fits in electronics and strings without any awkwardness, and the lyrics are unpretentiously literate.

-- Bob Strauss

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(2 -- 5) no caption (CD covers)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 9, 2007
Words:482
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