Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 CDs for the week ending April 20, 2001, according to CDNow

Issue: "Summer Travel 2001," May 12, 2001
1
Live in New York City
Bruce Springsteen
STYLE
Classic blue-collar American rock.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Like a displaced Puritan, Mr. Springsteen still sees America as a "promised land" in which the stirrings excited by every river, alley, and mansion on the hill symbolize realities that transcend human comprehension while inspiring genuine awe.

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OVERALL QUALITY
Uneven-the better performances ("Born to Run," "Prove It All Night") echo the studio versions, the lesser ("Born in the U.S.A.," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out") do not, and the new songs ("Land of Hope and Dreams," "American Skin") consist almost entirely of clichés.

2
Revelling/Reckoning
Ani Difranco
STYLE
An ambitious and experimental blend of folk, jazz, and spoken word.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Garden of Simple," "So What" (foul language).

WORLDVIEW
Sophomoric rebellion disguised as psychoanalytical confession.

OVERALL QUALITY
Miss Difranco's main flaw isn't her political anarchism or her open bisexuality (or even her multiple tattoos and piercings) but her inability to distinguish between quality and quantity-had this two-hour disc come out in the vinyl days, it would have been a three-record set and as such immediately (and correctly) stigmatized as self-indulgent.

3
Set This Circus Down
Tim McGraw
STYLE
Slick country-rock, country-pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Telluride" (which wistfully commemorates an extra-marital winter fling).

WORLDVIEW
Touchingly humble-whether celebrating a marriage ("Set This Circus Down"), lamenting a breakup ("Angry All the Time"), waxing corny ("Grown Men Don't Cry"), or stating an explicitly biblical worldview ("Angel Boy"), Mr. McGraw's point of view is resolutely Common Man.

OVERALL QUALITY
Unlike his bio-dad Tug, Tim McGraw is no master of the screwball; these songs are fastballs right down the middle, each one potentially a solid hit.

4
Everyday
Dave Matthews Band
STYLE
Intricately arranged, meticulously produced modern rock.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"If I Had It All" (mega-obscenity).

WORLDVIEW
Overtly anti-Christian ("There's no God above, no hell below" ... "Hoping to God on high / Is like clinging to straws while drowning" ... "I for one don't turn my cheek for anyone").

OVERALL QUALITY
The influence of U2 and Counting Crows can be distracting, but on "The Space Between," "Fool to Think," and "Sleep to Dream Her" the DMB succeeds on its own tentatively experimental terms.

5
All for You
Janet Jackson
STYLE
Sparkly dance pop, whispery ballads.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"All for You," "Come On Get Up," "China Love" (softcore porn); "Love Scene," "Would You Mind" (hardcore porn); "Trust a Try," "Son of a Gun" (foul language).

WORLDVIEW
Miss Jackson says this album includes "ballads, which are really sweet. Then you have your 'baby-making songs,' which go beyond the sweetness. They get a little dirty in a good way." What way is that?

OVERALL QUALITY
Immaculate production at the service of songs ranging from stubbornly adolescent to pornographic.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Word Gold handily compiles onto two CDs 35 of the best-known songs ever to appear on the Word record label. The subtitle, however, "Five Decades of Hits," is misleading. First, two of the decades are represented by only one song each: the '60s by Cliff Barrows' Gang singing "He's Everything to Me" and the '50s by a 20-second excerpt of Word's inaugural release, "The Game of Life" (which, if only for historical reasons, should've been included in its entirety). Second, as these songs were unknown outside the evangelical community, "hits" is precisely what they weren't. Yet as a chronicle of the heights and depths-both creatively and morally-to which Contemporary Christian Music's brightest stars have risen and sunk, Word Gold deserves attention. Like wheat among chaff, flowerings of catchy thoughtfulness (Fernando Ortega, A Ragamuffin Band, 2nd Chapter of Acts) balance stalks of derivative corn (David Meece, Ray Boltz). Less felicitous is how hollow the songs by Sandi Patty and Amy Grant sound now that the two stars were not role models in overcoming the temptations and problems that beset them. It's an emptiness that the remaining, and generally entertaining, inspirational and sentimental favorites only partially offset.

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