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CLASSICAL

Scandinavian String Music; Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Richard Studt (Naxos) +++ _ A pair of works from the standard repertoire are included on this appealing disc of music from the north country: Grieg's Holberg Suite and Nielsen's Little Suite in A minor, both given suitably lush treatment by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta under Richard Studt. There's another well-known work for strings, the Serenade in G major by Swedish composer and critic Dag Wiren. The pieces by Norwegian violinist, conductor and composer Johan Svendsen, a contemporary of Grieg, will be less familiar. They're based on folk melodies and reflect the rich musical tradition of the Scandinavian people. _ John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

7220

POP/ROCK

Rod Stewart: A Spanner In The Works (Warner Bros.) ++ _ In a rare moment of self-reflection, the gravel-throated Stewart has penned a tribute on his latest disc to a trio of inspired vocalists. While cooly crooning about his reverence for the late Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, you really wonder about their aghast reaction up in soul heaven to Stewart's lame remembrance. Let's face it, Stewart is about schmaltz _ chilled wine, friends, fireplaces _ just about as far as you can get from the funk and gritty soul each singer bared in their own songs. Except for the fiery reading of Cooke's Soothe Me, there's little on this album that balladeer Roger Whitaker wouldn't find gentle on his mind. After all these years, Rod should know that blandly singing about soul is a good way to lose it. _ Richard Proplesch, Times correspondent 7211

Paula Abdul: Head Over Heels: (Virgin) ++ _ With all that's happened in her life recently, it would be nice for Paula Abdul to come back with a strong album. Absent from the scene during a battle with bulimia, her dancing-diva thunder has been stolen by Madonna and former dance student Janet Jackson. Unfortunately, her personal life is more interesting than the cliche-ridden dance-pop on this album. Her name will allow some of the catchier singles (Crazy Cool, My Love is For Real) to do some serious coattailing, but that's about it. _ Tony Green, Times Pop Music Critic 7221

Pink Floyd: Pulse (Columbia) +++ _ While Pink Floyd may have economized and softened its epic sound over the years, there is no dispute about the spectacle of the band's live shows. The group's massive, multimedia stadium events have become renown for their special lighting effects, quad sound, and floating pig balloons. With such vivid visual experiences to recollect (someone suggested that the unique flashing light on this disc's cover is the home version of Floyd's light shows), why are the band's live albums so lackluster? In Floyd's meticulous effort to flawlessly recreate their recorded works for the stage, they've also forsaken any opportunity to improvise or expand upon their most familiar material. It's more than unnerving to hear guitarist David Gilmour mimic a solo he created nearly twenty years ago from Dark Side Of The Moon (presented in its entirety on Pulse), to eager audience anticipation. This set was recorded live on Pink Floyd's European tour last year in support of The Division Bell, so most of the tracks here present the mellowish Floyd Lite in sublime form. _ Richard Proplesch, Times correspondent 7212

Goo Goo Dolls: A Boy Named Goo (Warner Bros./Metal Blade) +++++ _ Finally _ completely delivering on the promise that's been evident since their debut as an erstwhile garage punk trio with a penchant for doing cool covers, this release is Goo Goo Dolls' absolute best. The band has already developed an identity as aggressive rockers with keen pop tendencies and an identifiable guitar-and-harmony-heavy sound of their own. Melodic throughout, A Boy Named Goo throws hooks like The Replacements did at their finest. There's an undeniable feel running through most of these tracks _ not so much happy as infectiously celebratory _ whether the song's perspective is one of awareness, innocence or sadness. Long Way Down, Burnin' Up, Naked, Flat Top, and Eyes Wide Open all offer proof of excellence (even the ballad Name and the bombastic Spinal Tap meets Beastie Boys' drive of Slave Girl). A Boy Named Goo is, honestly, a contemporary classic. _ Ron Boyko, Times correspondent 7213

COUNTRY

Kate Wallace: Kate Wallace (Honest) ++++ _ There is a compelling sincerity in Kate Wallace's singing that gives the impression that she's not under the thumb of some Nashville A&R guy who's bent on creating a new country sweetheart. With folk rootsiness the singer/songwriter serves up a pleasant blend of unpretentious heart songs such as Saving It All For You and Dancin' On The Edge Of A Heartache _ the kind of stuff you don't two-step to. Okay, Wallace isn't destined for the top of the charts just yet, but consider her a pleasant diversion. _ Logan Neill, Times correspondent 7214

Vertical Hold: Head First (A&M) +++ _ With all the interchangeable tunesmiths on urban radio these days, it's nice to know that someone, namely Vertical Hold, still knows how to make interesting, provocative R&B. With a consistently sophisticated, mellow style, the group often evokes images of Loose Ends, one of the more innovative R&B groups of the 1980s. Though the pace is strictly mid-tempo, Vertical Hold creates a variety of scenarios in songs such as the title track, Sounds of New York and Now That It's Over. _ Erika N. Duckworth, Times staff writer 7210

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