FROM BILLBOARD MAGAZINE
Various artists: Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath _ Columbia. The heaviest of the metal bands pay tribute to Sabbath by performing skull-crushing renditions of the English demigods' tunes. Biohazard, White Zombie, Sepultura, Megadeth, Faith No More and Type O Negative are a few of the names. Of course, fans will salivate over Therapy?'s version of Iron Man, with one Ozzy Osbourne on vox. Other nuggets: a version of Supernaut by 1,000 Homo DJ's, with Al Jourgensen of Ministry on vocals; and a take on The Wizard by a super-group that includes Sabbath's Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, plus Rob Halford of Judas Priest fame.
The Go-Go's: Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's _ I.R.S. This best-of retrospective will delight true fans of the SoCal gals who made some of the '80's brightest pop. This set features their five top 40 singles, including top 10 hits We Got the Beat and Vacation. Bonuses include their first version of Cool Jerk, plus B-sides like the Ventures-covered Surfing and Spying. The set also contains lots of live recordings from the their early, rowdy, go-go days, as well as later in their career. Most promisingly, the album's three newly recorded songs recapture the act's brilliant, empowered-pop spirit.
Kenny Rogers: Timepiece _ 143/Atlantic. Rogers takes a sentimental journey on an orchestral album plump with the hummable likes of When I Fall in Love, Love Is Here to Stay, My Funny Valentine and lead single You Are So Beautiful. David Foster and the orchestra have laid down a plush musical bed of softly swaying strings and gentle brass, over which Rogers drops his equally warm vocal to lovely effect. On the jauntier side, Take 6 kicks in backing vocals on the dashing Love Is Just Around the Corner.
Jade: Mind, Body & Song _ Giant. The group's sophomore set offers matured vocals over sturdy melodies. After the obligatory demonstration of harmonic sonics, the act settles into tighter collective choruses on the 14-track collection. Laced with hip-hop grooves and an eye on young-adult demos, the album still manages to embrace traditional R&B. The set offers a broad range, from the patient If the Lovin' Ain't Good and retro/introspective What's Goin' On to the spunky 5-4-3-2 (Yo! Time Is Up), Every Day of the Week and the funky Hangin'.
Da Youngstas: No Mercy _ EastWest. Weaving hard-edged rhymes into a knotty, jazzy tapestry, the group shows heightened maturity on its third set. From Hip Hop Ride, its grabby first single, which lists MC luminaries, to the title track, which attempts to verbal-blitz the competition, Da Youngstas capture the rap experience beyond knocked boots, shot Glocks and puffed blunts.
George Jones: The Bradley Barn Sessions _ MCA. In his brief liner notes, producer Brian Ahern explains that he put "superstars" like Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Keith Richards and Mark Knopfler together with George Jones to "motivate this great artist." Well, that's exactly what happened. Each of these duet performances puts a fresh and refreshingly traditional spin on Jones classics like One Woman Man (Marty Stuart), A Good Year for the Roses (Alan Jackson) and Why Baby Why (Ricky Skaggs). But Jones is the star, and he hasn't sung with such conviction in a possum's age.