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Notable Music

Notable CDs | Five noteworthy Grammy nominees

Marbletown

CATEGORY Best bluegrass album.

WORLDVIEW "Cross a mile-high mountain or a windy plain, / my Lord is the captain of this train. / Won't you run toward the station when the whistle blows / and get on board with the one who'll bring peace to your soul" ("Endless Train").

OVERALL QUALITY Pickin', grinnin', harmonizin', and (on "Endless Train," "Lazarus," and "Wild Urge to Ramble") preachin' to the already converted.

BROTHERS IN ARMS-20TH ANNIVERSARY

CATEGORY Best surround-sound album.

WORLDVIEW That given the music industry's obsession with milking the reissue market, the biggest-selling Dire Straits album ever is as safe an investment as any.

OVERALL QUALITY Caveat emptor: Like so many double-sided 5.1 surround-sound discs, "This disc may not play on some CD players and DVD players" (from the fine print). Owners of such CD and DVD players will therefore have to burn playable copies.

CHAOS AND CREATION IN THE BACKYARD

CATEGORY Album of the year, best pop-vocal album, best pop-vocal performance ("Fine Line").

WORLDVIEW That reconciliation (with estranged relatives and friends, with mortality and one's own immensely legendary pop-musical legacy) is both possible and desirable.

OVERALL QUALITY Months after this album's release, the songs, which seemed disposably slight or self-consciously Beatlesque at first, turn out to have both staying power and a way of sounding fresher with each listen.

AGORAPHOBIC COWBOY

CATEGORY Best comedy album.

CAUTION "Three Days Rest" (Viagra humor).

WORLDVIEW That nothing shows up the pretensions of contemporary civilization like wittily rhymed lyrics about society's increasingly technological and pharmaceutical nature set to sprightly country-bluegrass melodies.

OVERALL QUALITY Mr. Moranis' deadpan singing is an effective foil for his inspired silliness, which is in turn an effective foil for his occasional flirtations with profundity.

END OF THE CENTURY

CATEGORY Best long-form music video.

CAUTION The intermittent R-rated profanities typical of firsthand punk-rock reminiscences.

WORLDVIEW That punk rock exists to transform the world's overwhelming ugliness into something loud, hard, fast, and capable of being confronted and enjoyed on its own terms.

OVERALL QUALITY Revealing, fascinating, seamy, grim, and tragic-the American equivalent of Julien Temple's Eurocentric Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury.

In the spotlight

As a member of the Emmy-winning SCTV comedy troupe, Rick Moranis earned a reputation for expert mimicry (Woody Allen, Merv Griffin) and for inventing memorable original characters (most notably the beer-besotted Canadian Bob McKenzie of "Bob and Doug McKenzie" fame). Nothing, however, in his versatile resumé will prepare listeners for The Agoraphobic Cowboy (ArtistShare), an album of satirical country-bluegrass songs sung in what's surely the blandest voice ever to garner a Grammy nomination.

The voice, though, is part of the joke, as the songs themselves are mock celebrations of Western society's blandest, least celebration-worthy ubiquities. From the proliferation of acronyms ("SOS") and cell phones ("Press Pound") to the banality of politics ("Four More Beers") and celebrity ("Wheaties Box"), no detail is too mundane for Mr. Moranis' punning wit. And when he rewrites the country standard "I've Been Everywhere" as "I Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (a paean to agoraphobia, hence the album's title), he beats Weird Al Yankovic at his own game.

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