1. A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD - Coldplay
Weeks on chart: 146
Style: U2 on ice.
Worldview: Love is God ("Honey, you are a rock / upon which I stand"; "Give me heart and give me soul, / wounds that heal and cracks that fix, / oh, Love . . ."; "Where do I go to fall from grace? / God put a smile upon your face.")
Overall quality: Enough glacial arena-rock grandeur and sub-zero emotions to single-handedly forestall global warming.
2. THE VERY BEST OF THE BEACH BOYS - The Beach Boys
Weeks on chart: 109
Style: The most enduringly popular American rock 'n' roll music ever recorded; what the Beatles regarded as their only serious competition.
Worldview:That the Garden of Eden lives on in summer days and summer nights spent on California beaches populated with surfing, hot-rodding, and swimsuit-wearing youth.
Overall quality: As his lyrics recede rapidly into nostalgia, the young Brian Wilson's production values sound increasingly ahead of their (and our) time.
3. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON - Pink Floyd
Weeks on chart: 1,458
Style: The most popular and influential progressive rock album of all time.
Objectional material: "Money" (obscenity).
Worldview: "For long you live and high you fly, / and smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry. / And all you touch and all you see / is all your life will ever be" ("Breathe").
Overall quality: Spacey, sophomorically cynical, its latest sales surge no doubt propelled by Pink Floyd's reunion at the Live 8 shows.
4. ELEPHUNK - The Black Eyed Peas
Weeks on chart: 107
Style: Celebratory hip-hop.
Objectional material: "Labor Day (It's a Holiday)," "Let's Get Retarded," "Hey Mama," "Shut Up," "Smells like Funk," "Latin Girls," "Sexy," "The Boogie That Be," "Anxiety" (debauchery, racial epithets, and/or profanity).
Worldview: "It's time to get wasted and scope the whole place for girls with cute faces. / I see some fly mamas, so pack your pajamas, but don't bring the drama" ("Labor Day").
Overall quality: Reckless abandon.
5. DANCE WITH MY FATHER- Luther Vandross
Weeks on chart: 63
Style: Sumptuous modern R&B.
Worldview: "Back when I was a child, . . . / my father would lift me high and dance / with my mother and me and then / spin me around 'til I fell asleep. / Then up the stairs he would carry me, / and I knew for sure I was loved."
Overall quality: Rich, glossy, often gorgeous, its latest sales surge no doubt propelled by Mr. Vandross' recent death.
In the spotlight
Before the "duets album" became a cross-promotional gimmick for vocalists past their prime, it was primarily a means by which still-vital singers could, with the aid of carefully selected foils, shine with fresh luster. Two recently re-released country albums-George Jones' My Very Special Guests (Epic/Legacy) and Ray Charles' Friendship (Columbia/ Legacy)-illustrate the difference particularly well.
The Ray Charles disc topped the country charts in 1984 and yielded a No. 1 single in "Seven Spanish Angels" (with Willie Nelson), a song which along with duets featuring Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Mickey Gilley testifies especially well to Mr. Charles' versatility. The George Jones album, a mere 10 songs when it charted in 1980, has been expanded to 38 and collects duets recorded as recently as 1997, many of them versions of his greatest hits. As such it constitutes a crash course in some of the finest country singing ever recorded.