1. THE TIGERS HAVE SPOKEN - Neko Case
Weeks on chart: 6
Style: Roots rock, countrypolitan, alternative country, vintage folk, campfire gospel.
Worldview: "I am a poor wayfaring stranger, /
a-traveling through this world below. / And there's no sickness, toil or danger / in that bright land to which I go."
Overall quality:With her Wanda Jackson voice, Ms. Case could settle for rockabilly revivalism, yet she has broader tastes, deeper musical instincts, and the talent to merge them into an entertaining whole.
2. LONELY RUNS BOTH WAYS - Alison Krauss and Union Station
Weeks on chart: 2
Style: Vintage bluegrass and heartbreak folk.
Worldview: "In Your love I find release, / a haven from my unbelief. / Take my life and let me be / a living prayer, my God, to Thee."
Overall quality:The best of the Alison Krauss and Union Station studio albums, if only because the ratio of songs sung by Alison Krauss to songs sung by Dan Tyminski has shifted decisively in favor of the former.
3. RENDEZVOUS - Luna
Weeks on chart: 5
Style: Dreamily catchy if derivative new-wave pop.
Objectionable material: The album cover's subtly erotic Chas Ray Krider photo.
Worldview: Of the making of college-marketed albums consisting of clever verbal involution and skeletal guitar hooks there is no end.
Overall quality:Proof for anyone who remembers New Order and INXS that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
4. ABATTOIR BLUES . . . - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Weeks on chart: 8
Style: Dramatic, frequently bitter explorations of faith and romance.
Objectionable material: Obscenity ("The Lyre of Orpheus"); lechery ("Babe, You Turn Me On," "Easy Money"); double-entendres ("Hiding All Away," "Nature Boy").
Worldview: "God rides high up in the ordinary sky / until we find ourselves at our most distracted / and the miracle that was promised / creeps quietly by."
Overall quality:An intermittently impressive attempt at leavening pop art with high-art allusions.
5. REAL GONE - Tom Waits
Weeks on chart: 11
Style: Ravaged Beatnik expression amid a clatter of distortion and strange percussion.
Objectionable material: "Circus," "Hoist That Rag" (casual cursing).
Worldview: "What I'm trying to say is, don't they pray / to the same God that we do? / And tell me how does God choose? / Whose prayers does He refuse?" ("Day After Tomorrow," from the point of view of a U.S. soldier in Iraq).
Overall quality: Generates more heat than light.
In the spotlight
Hot on the heels of Bob Dylan's memoir Chronicles, Volume One comes Bob Dylan: World Tours 1966-1974, a quirky, low-budget DVD by Joel Gilbert, the leader of the "world's only Bob Dylan Tribute Band," Highway 61 Revisited. With a good deal of humor, World Tours documents the years during which Bob Dylan grew from the Voice of a Generation into a full-fledged rock star.
With no access to Mr. Dylan himself, Mr. Gilbert interviews Barry Feinstein (Mr. Dylan's longtime official photographer), D.A. Pennebacker (the director of the Dylan-'65 documentary Don't Look Back), and others whose involvement in Mr. Dylan's formative years yield an abundance of anecdotes. Mr. Feinstein's previously unpublished photographs more than compensate for the absence of motion-picture footage, and the interview with the lunatic "Dylanologist" A.J. Weberman provides ample warning against the perils of idolatry.