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SOUND CHECKS.

Janet Jackson/``All for You'' (Virgin)

You know you're in trouble when an album's credits say ``assembled'' rather than ``recorded.'' And, of course, when the half-dozen hair, makeup and clothes stylists get top billing.

Jackson's carnally minded eighth studio effort, her first since 1997's equally sluggish ``The Velvet Rope,'' is simply tiresome. From the intro, a supposedly impromptu conversational tidbit from the studio, through each abrasive, cliche-ridden track that follows, the overlong ``All for You'' is all for naught.

Jackson is even kookier than we thought if she imagines anyone has the time or interest in sharing her fantasies (``Love Scene (Ooh Baby),'' ``Would You Mind''), designed to make the wine cooler crowd think they're onto something edgy. In her hands, sex is truly the opiate of the masses.

Yes, she looks like a model out of the Victoria's Secret catalog and coos like an overheated pigeon, but so what? Ann Peebles, Millie Jackson and Irma Thomas suggested more with mere vocal tics than Jackson manages in full rut.

The problem isn't only the little-girl voice and overused pseudo-gospel inflections. It's the banal material (``You Ain't Right,'' ``Truth,'' ``Come on Get Up,'' ``Doesn't Really Matter,'' ``When We Oooo''), mostly penned by Jackson and her longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

The nadir of this mediocre record comes with ``Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You),'' an apparent sequel to Jackson's '97 hit, ``Got 'Til It's Gone,'' which utilizes Carly Simon's ``You're So Vain'' in place of the Joni Mitchell standard sampled earlier.

For Jackson, that's considered a major creative achievement. One star

- Fred Shuster

Nicholas Payton/``Dear Louis'' (Verve)

There isn't a trumpeter alive who could capture the joyous spirit of Louis Armstrong any better than Payton, who, like Pops, was born in New Orleans and practically oozes red beans and rice from his horn.

Having already recorded an album of Crescent City classics (1996's ``Gumbo Noveau''), Payton goes a step further here, tackling signature songs like ``Hello Dolly'' and ``West End Blues.'' The results are a joyful delight, helped along by a big-band ensemble and special guest vocalists Dr. John and Dianne Reeves.

Payton himself even sings on two numbers, and while his understated vocals might not be quite as memorable as Satchmo's, their heart and soul perfectly capture the spirit of jazz music's most legendary figure. Three and one half stars

- Glenn Whipp

Eden's Crush/``Eden's Crush'' (London/Sire)

A fiercely independent collection of glossy dance-pop from the made-for- TV female vocal quintet that starred in the WB's ``Popstars'' series.

Despite close deadlines, the gals rise to the occasion and this collection of state-of-the-art r&b-tinged pop soars. Some of the best moments include the candy-coated chart-topper ``Get Over Yourself,'' a cover of Sheila E.'s funky '80s hit ``The Glamorous Life'' and the Spanglish-sung ``1,000 Words (Mil Palabras).'' < Check out ``Eden's Crush'' and you won't be reaching for the remote. Three stars

- Sandra Barrera

Alejandro Escovedo/``A Man Under the Influence'' (Bloodshot)

This eclectic Texan continues his musical therapy through a haunted, well-structured mood chamber. Laying cellos and church organs across traditional pop, Americana and Tejano arrangements, rocking out spectacularly (``Castanets'') and lamenting who-knows-which lost wife or stepmother (maybe all of 'em in ``Across the River''), Escovedo's musical mastery casts an impressively wide net.

The first two songs, ``Wave'' and ``Rosalie,'' consciously address the dislocations felt and created by the songwriter's peripatetic Mexican father, but they also speak for a son who, at 50, still wrestles with the same traits. Three and one half stars

- Bob Strauss

Beach Boys/``Hawthorne, Ca. - Birthplace of a Musical Legacy'' (Brother/Capitol)

Sleepy suburban Hawthorne today looks a lot like it probably did 40 years ago when this two-disc set opens with a run-through of ``Surfin' '' taped at the boyhood home of Wilson brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis.

lso included in this collection are rehearsals of golden oldies such as ``Good Vibrations,'' a demo of ``Surfin' USA,'' radio promos, a guest appearance by Jan & Dean's Dean Torrance on ``Barbara Ann'' and assorted alternate mixes.

Interesting but intended for Beach Boys fanatics only. Two and one half stars

- F.S.

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5 photos

Photo:

(1) no caption (JANET JACKSON)

(2 -- 5) 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:May 4, 2001
Words:711
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