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SOUND CHECK.

Pearl Jam/``Live on Two Legs'' (Epic)

If you're a Jam fan, you'll just have to own this career-spanning package that ignores ``Jeremy'' but adds nods to old tour partner Neil Young - a verse of ``Rockin' in the Free World'' inside ``Daughter'' and a cover of a Young tune that boasts an unprintable title. No matter what you think of terribly self-important lead singer Eddie Vedder, you'll admit they've churned out a solid live effort. Other goodies here include punchy readings of ``Corduroy,'' ``Even Flow'' and the emotive ``Black,'' still among the band's best numbers. Three stars

- Fred Shuster

Garth Brooks/``Double Live'' (Capitol)

Brooks made no bones about it - he issued this specially priced two-disc package with various covers as a marketing ploy to set a sales record. A modest talent to begin with, Brooks is clearly more interested in raking in as much dough and glory as possible in these waning days before the parade passes by. If you fall for this so-so set, don't expect anything groundbreaking, just the usual arena-country fare (with numerous overdubs and annoyingly loud crowd response). Here are artificially charged concert versions of ``Two Pina Coladas,'' ``Friends in Low Places,'' ``Unanswered Prayers'' and ``The Dance,'' along with three new songs, including a duet with Trisha Yearwood. One and one half stars

- Fred Shuster

Miles Davis/``The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions'' (Columbia Legacy)

Despite the myth, ``Bitches Brew,'' issued in 1970 as a double album, wasn't the first fusion record and it wasn't Miles' first electric effort. That happened even before ``In a Silent Way'' a year earlier. But ``Bitches Brew'' showed how far the Davis ensemble (and that includes producer Teo Macero) had come in the use of abrupt dissonant cues, silence, contrasting moods, long spare rhythmic passages and, most of all, tape editing since the album was spliced together from various sessions. This four-disc box offers the album's original six cuts, plus nine previously unissued tracks and material chronologically sequenced according to the 1969-70 sessions that lent material to later Davis releases such as ``Big Fun,'' ``Circle in the Round'' and ``Live-Evil.'' Fantastic, atmospheric and timeless music. Four stars

- Fred Shuster

Bruce Springsteen/``Tracks'' (Columbia)

Bruce fans have been waiting for this four-CD, 66-song collection spanning 25 years for ages. Starting with a song from his 1972 audition for Columbia right through stirring '80s outtakes with the magnificent E Street Band to tunes cut in the last few years with L.A. session pros, there's rarely a dull moment here. Best of all, though, is disc two, containing tunes Springsteen jettisoned from ``The River,'' including the haunting ``Restless Nights'' (a distant relative to the great ``Point Blank'') and the equally hypnotic ``Wages of Sin.'' He also reclaims ``Born in the U.S.A.,'' offering the toughened, slide-guitar version familiar to those who attended the ``Tom Joad'' tour a few years ago. Four stars

- Fred Shuster

Whitney Houston/``My Love Is Your Love'' (Arista)

For her first non-soundtrack-based album in eight years, Houston wants to be viewed as a contemporary r&b artist instead of a mink-lined lifestyle accessory. ``My Love Is Your Love,'' overseen in part by Brandy producer Ronald Jenkins, could be the latest from Mary J. Blige or Faith Evans (who appears on one track here). Other cameos include Missy Elliott, who drops hip-hop science on two tracks, and Wyclef Jean, who creates a reggae-tinged rhythm bed for the title song. This warm set also reunites Houston with producers Babyface and David Foster, with whom she has worked in the past. The biggest drawback: that horrific ``Prince of Egypt'' duet with Mariah Carey, ``When You Believe,'' which sounds like a cageful of hopped-up hamsters at feeding time. Two and one half stars

- Fred Shuster

John Coltrane/``The Classic Quartet, Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings'' (Impulse)

This eight-CD set showcases what might just be the greatest working band in jazz history, saxophone legend John Coltrane's riveting quartet with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. The music picks up where last year's Village Vanguard box left off, encompassing four years of music (1962-65) that would change the face of jazz. The 66 tracks (including seven previous unreleased alternate takes) are arranged chronologically, providing a fascinating journey through Coltrane's spiritual and musical quest. The band's playing is unbelievably telepathic, whether they're tackling beautifully lyrical ballads or Coltrane's later explosive, experimental work. The set is exquisitely packaged and includes a 100-page book with rare photos, interesting essays and a fond remembrance by drummer Jones. This is an absolute must for every jazz library. Four stars

- Glenn Whipp

Various/``Beleza Tropical 2'' (Luaka Bop)

A decade ago, David Byrne helped fuel a resurgence in U.S. interest in Brazilian music with his excellent first ``Beleza'' compilation and succeeding retrospectives of individual artists. Now he returns with an even wider-ranging collection of 15 songs, showing the impacts such American musical developments as rap and sampling have had on Brazilian artists. Standout tracks include Lenine's ``Hoje Eu Quero Sair So,'' Marisa Monte's ``Balanca Pema'' and Moleque De Rua's ``Pregoes Do Rio.'' Other artists on the disc include Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tom Ze' and Sergio Mendes. May this collection have the same effect as its predecessor. Three and one half stars

- David Bloom

Gilberto Gil/``O Sol de Oslo'' (Blue Jackel)

The great Gil here explores the musical backlands of his country, and those of other places, in a sort-of supergroup recording at an Oslo, Norway, studio. The unusual combination of instrumentation (violins, accordion, tablas with guitars, bass, Brazilian percussion) makes for an intoxicating mix. Three and one half stars

- David Bloom

Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Cuban Quartet/``Antiguo'' (Blue Note)

The endlessly inventive Cuban-born jazz pianist here composes, produces and plays a suite of vaguely related songs exploring his and his country's Yoruban (West African) and Caribbean roots, while using more electronic keyboard colorings than in any of his previous works. Santeria master singers bump up against custom synth samples and classic horn charts. This is complex stuff, not always easy or pretty in the ways some of his meditative previous recordings and pyrotechnic live shows have been. But it is rewarding, and worth a listen to hear one of the world's best young jazz pianists examine his musical roots, and future. Three stars

- David Bloom

Strunz & Farah/``Wild Muse'' (Selva)

Duo Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah play delightful Latin-tinged acoustic guitar, flavored with congas, tamboras, horns and even the occasional udu and bouzouki. Perfect for margaritas on a sailboat off Cabo. Two and one half stars

- David Bloom

Flaco Jimenez/``Said and Done'' (Barb Wire)

Mexican conjunto king Jimenez takes a break from his supergroup exercises of recent years (Texas Tornados, Los Super Seven) with this fun solo album, assisted by prominent friends such as the Mavericks' Raul Malo. It's not strictly Mexican country accordion here, as the rocking title track shows. Bouncy, bright and warm, this is party music for your next road trip to the Tex-Mex border. Three stars

- David Bloom

CAPTION(S):

6 Photos

Photo: (1) no caption (Miles Davis)

(2--6) no caption (CD covers)
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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:Dec 4, 1998
Words:1185
Previous Article:FROM GUTHRIE TO BRAGG.
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