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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five (more) overlooked but noteworthy recordings of 2005

THE BEST OF THE BOOMTOWN RATS

STYLE Rocking post-punk character sketches, largely of the disaffected youth who comprised this band's original audience.

WORLDVIEW That Bob Geldof's grandstanding do-goodism has its roots in a concern for and identification with the alienated and downtrodden among whom he grew up (i.e., charity began at home).

OVERALL QUALITY If the music sounds dated, the topics (school violence, sexploitation, the superficiality of trendiness) remain relevant.

THE VERY BEST OF ROSEANNE CASH

STYLE Singer-songwriterly country-rock, 1979-2003.

WORLDVIEW That only some of the excellent music for which Ms. Cash's father Johnny was responsible (albeit indirectly in this case) can be found on his own recordings.

OVERALL QUALITY It's no insult to Ms. Cash's considerable talent that this single-disc compilation doesn't feel too short at 16 tracks; rather it's evidence of how consistently she hits the bulls-eye every time she takes aim.

MAGIC TIME

STYLE Jazz, blues, and big-band songs both vintage (Frank Sinatra, Fats Waller) and original.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL Casual cursing ("Carry On Regardless").

WORLDVIEW "Call it nostalgia. I don't mind, / standing on that windswept hillside / listenin' to the church bells chime / in that magic time."

OVERALL QUALITY "You gotta fight everyday to keep mediocrity at bay," sings the mediocrity-prone Mr. Morrison, and for the most part he succeeds.

CIELO NORTE

STYLE Skeletal piano fleshed out with gentle percussion and residual "New Age" ebb and flow.

WORLDVIEW That there is creative life after Little Feat (the rock 'n' roll band that has been Mr. Payne's base of operations for over 30 years) and that fresh music can coexist with stale titles ("Through the Eyes of a Child," "Your Beautiful Smile").

OVERALL QUALITY Too sparse for lush; lush enough for gorgeous.

THE ART OF VIRTUE

STYLE Appalachian-rooted singer-songwriterly country, folk, bluegrass, and gospel.

WORLDVIEW "I'm waitin' for the real thing, honey. / Ain't nothin' wrong with chastity. / If I could walk the path of Jesus, / live each day the best I can, follow in those humble footsteps, / I might reach the promised land."

OVERALL QUALITY Surprisingly old-timey for so young a talent, strikingly fresh for music so rooted in the past.

In the spotlight

Like Alison Krauss, whom she's almost as good as, and Kate Campbell, whom she's better than, Adrienne Young & Little Sadie (her band) alternate between a folky bluegrass and a bluegrassy folk awash in traditional American, yea, even biblical echoes. How traditional? The Art of Virtue (Addiebelle) includes a facsimile of Benjamin Franklin's 13-virtues diary, and in the title cut Ms. Young boldly declares her allegiance to both Jesus and chastity.

Tradition cuts two ways, however, hence her soft spot, for instance, for moonshiners ("Hills and Hollers"), the fruits of whose labors tend to discourage virtue, yet the liveliness inherent in the working out of the contradiction pervades the album as a whole. Some may prefer Ms. Young's 2004 album Plow to the End of the Row because it leans less heavily on sepia-tinted narratives and contains the Roseanne Cash-worthy "Poison." This album's "My Love Will Keep," however, is just as Cash-worthy, and the singing and the playing remain sharp.

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