Fastball: All the Pain Money Can Buy (Hollywood Records) _ And here's the pitch . . the second album from this Austin trio is its best to date. Fastball's secret ingredient is evenly divided singing and songwriting. Its diplomacy in divvying the main credits makes for a diverse listening experience. As both songwriters and lead singers, Tony Scalzo and Miles Zuniga have left behind the harder sound on their 1996 debut and have found a successful combination of melodic pop instrumentation and introspective lyrics that will fit nicely in the playlists of the "best of new rock" radio stations. Moderate-tempo rock songs prevail, with various instrumental embellishments. The Way, a song about an older couple heading to a family gathering, and never quite making it, is very listenable, and one of the more straightforward tunes on the album. But the electric piano on Which Way to the Top? and the brass section in G.O.D. (Good Old Days) show the band is into experimenting with their sound. Which Way to the Top?, 1033.
Miles Davis: Panthalassa (Columbia) _ Taken from the name of the primordial ocean that once lapped against the shores of Pangaea, this Miles Davis classic has been reconstructed and mixed by Bill Laswell. Panthalassa is Davis in his electronic phase, a period which, depending upon whom you ask, sees Miles either reinventing jazz or stabbing it in the back. Regardless, it marked a new movement in jazz music, and through association, pop music. A slow, progressive soundscape fading seamlessly from movement to movement, Panthalassa features a minimalist Davis on trumpet gliding over the ambient electronic and percussive continuum that Laswell establishes from the beginning of his translation. He Loved Him Madly, 7215.
Dakota Moon: Dakota Moon (Elektra) _ Combining elements of country instrumentals (i.e. acoustic slide guitar and slowhand fingerpicking) with Boys II Men vocal harmony, Dakota Moon has a sound that is bound to be popular somewhere. Already this quartet is climbing the charts with its smooth pop tunes Another Day Goes By and A Promise I Make. They are equally spicy on the somber Black Moon Day, where harmony is the primary element. On a cover of James Taylor's Your Smiling Face the harmonizing is what breathes new life into the piece that would otherwise be very similar in sound to the original. Won't Be Alone Tonight, 7216.
Reverend Horton Heat: Space Heater (Interscope) _ The Reverend, singer/guitarist Jim Heath, bedecked in western wear and horn-rimmed glasses, is a powerful enough stage persona without honing his theatrical skills on The Drew Carey Show or as a televangelist on Homicide. Fortunately, his dramatic forays have not lured him permanently away from music. The latest album from this Texas trio is some of its grittiest work yet. Southwestern flavor pervades songs such as the instrumental Pride of San Jacinto and the Espanol track Cinco de Mayo. Most of the album is pretty furious, with an unstoppable revving guitar and up-tempo rhythms. Lie Detector, 7217.
Rhodeside: Live (Trans Com Uni Global Records) _ The past two years have been good ones for the bay area's Rhodeside band. Its most prominent gig, playing the pavilion at Ruth Eckerd Hall before some of the larger concerts, gave the group plenty of exposure. It was a novelty song, however, that garnered the band some national attention. Pewter Pirates, a hearty little ditty about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was played on news stations locally and nationally on Inside the NFL. The new live album captures the band in January, at the height of its football fame. Pewter Pirates aside, the band is soft-rock with some amazing Herbie Mannlike flute soloing and a sweet acoustic guitar. The duo of Mike Huber on flute, harp and guitar and James Rhodes on guitar and lead vocals manages to sound like a full band. The percussion and bass are well-programed, with a live quality to it. The music has a Caribbean sound to it, or as the band likes to define it, Floribbean. Seven of the 12 songs on its live disc are originals, and the rest are popular covers. For more information on the band, visit the Web site at http://home.tampabay.rr.com/ rhodeside/BAND.HTM Pewter Pirates, 7219.
Tori Amos: From the Choirgirl Hotel (Atlantic)
Roy Rogers: Pleasure & Pain (Virgin)
Veda Hille: Spine (Bottom Line)
The Seymores: Treat Her Like a Show Cat (Vernon Yard/Caroline)
The Jesus Lizard: Blue (Capitol)
Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz: Deja Vu (Columbia)
Olivia Newton-John: Back with a Heart (MCA)
Jason & the Scorchers: Midnight Roads and Stages Seen (two discs) (Mammoth)
John Michael Montgomery: Leave a Mark (Atlantic)
Mark Wills: Wish You Were Here (Mercury)
Joe Ely: Twistin' in the Wind (MCA)
Tracy Byrd: I'm From the Country (MCA)
Jacky Terrasson Trio: Alive (Blue Note)
James Solberg Band: L.A. Blues (Atomic Theory)
Tutu Jones: Staying Power (Bullseye Blues & Jazz)
Pete Seeger: Dangerous Songs and God Bless the Grass (Legacy)
David Bromberg: The Player (Legacy)
Tom Jones: The Very Best of (Deram/Polydor)
Ritchie Valens: Come On Let's Go (three discs) (Del-Fi)
- Compiled by CHRISTOPER BLANK