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Notable CDs | The top five most-played triple-A albums

Issue: "Ronald Reagan: In memoriam," June 19, 2004

The top five most-played triple-A albums according to CMJ New Music Report, Issue 867

1. Van Lear Rose - Loretta Lynn

Weeks on Chart: 5

Style: The best Kentucky-holler country that the Detroit garage rocker Jack White could facilitate.

Worldview: "I've heard people say,/ 'God cannot be alive.'/ ...[But] when they're down and out.../ and their very soul's at stake,/ if they'll call on Him and just believe,/ God makes no mistakes."

Overall Quality: Funny feisty, spunky, and funky-in short, no mere imitation of Johnny Cash as produced by Rick Rubin.

2. Trampin' - Patti Smith

Weeks on Chart: 5

Style: Punk songs of innocence, punk songs of experience

Worldview: "In the realm of peace,/ all the world revolved/ around a perfect circle./ Oh Baghdad,/ center of the world,/ city of ashes!/ With its great mosques/ erupting from the mouth of God,/ rising from the ashes like a speckled bird" ("Radio Baghdad")!

Overall Quality: Seventies New York-style punk in all its passion and lunacy, nipped and tucked for the 21st century.

3. The Ride - Los Lobos

Weeks on Chart: 5

Style: New songs featuring Los Lobos, new songs featuring guest vocalists, Los Lobos remakes featuring guest vocalists, other people's remakes featuring those same other people.

Worldview: Someday I will go home,/ and I'll find peace in the house/ of my Heavenly Father./ ...I know it won't be long, / and I shall see the face/ of my Savior" ("Someday," featuring Mavis Staples)

Overall Quality: Fanfare for the common band.

4. Heroes to Zeros - Beta Band

Weeks on chart: 3

Style: Lysergic rock- and pop-tronica with Moody Blues-like vocals.

Objectionable Material: "Liquid Bird," Easy," "Outside."

Worldview: Pop art for pop art's sake.

Overall Quality: This musics ultimate worthlessness notwithstanding, the strategy of hooking meaning-free lyrics to ear candy both trippy enough for the '60s and electronic enough for the '00s is certainly a novel way of bridging the gap(s) separating baby boomers from their children and grandchildren.

5. Boot and a Shoe - Sam Phillips

Weeks on Chart: 4

Style: Inchoate, postmodern, acoustic cabaret.

Worldview: "[R]emember/ that there always has been good, like stars you don't see in the day sky./ Wait till night./ Lies have kept me down, but I've been growing under ground./ Now I'm coming up./ And when time opens the earth, we'll see love has been moving all around us, making way" ("One Day Late").

Overall Quality: Fatally self-concious; so skeletal it's anorexic.

In the spotlight

Tricked out with remakes and cameos (Richard Thompson, Dave Alvin, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples, Tom Waits), Los Lobos's The Ride (Hollywood/Mammoth) looks like the sort of mess a once-mighty group makes when, no longer able to attract its own audience, it settles for attracting the audiences of others.

The music sometimes sounds that way too. Mavis Staples has been trading on her reputation for years, so, soulful or not, she betokens tokenism just by showing up. Richard Thompson, on the other hand, can still deliver a punch, so it's no surprise that his "The Wreck of the Carlos Rey" is the disc's sole knockout, with "La Venganza de los Pelados" (featuring Café Tacuba), "Is This All There is" (Little Willie G.), and "Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street" (Bobby Womack) geting by on points. What remains might be said to constitute the sort of vibrant mess a still-mighty band can make when it decides to treat a recording session like a piñata.

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