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Published: Sunday, 3/23/2003

CD reviews: Everclear pokes at American dream

There's nothing slow motion or dreamy about Everclear's latest release, a full-frontal assault on the complacency of middle class America.

Art Alexakis, the band's principal songwriter, likes to pick at the American dream, pulling threads out of the ennui that can settle into a comfortable, safe life. He's been at it since “Songs From An American Movie. Volumes 1 and 2,” an ambitious two-disc project three years ago.

On “Daydream,” his characters worry about the effects of Attorney General John Ashcroft on their liberties on the punky “Blackjack,” the loss of loved ones on the brief, touching “Chrysanthemum,” and the grinding pain of loneliness on “TV Show.” The people in his songs wander around alone late at night in supermarkets looking for answers and, like the ex-porn star in “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom,” they're haunted by their pasts.

The three-piece band delivers its message with a huge grunge-based sound, guitars roaring away behind arrangements that capture the complexity of the subject while rocking out righteously.

Alexakis injects humor and hopefulness in his message songs. He also has a unique perspective, that of the ex-junkie who savors his hard-won daily victories, while glancing over his shoulder now and again at the mistakes of his past.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

Savoy Brown began as part of the British blues boom of the '60s, and founding guitarist Kim Simmonds has kept the group name alive over the years with different lineups. “Strange Dreams” features 10 tracks of laid-back blues/rock. On the title track, the easy rhythm, strong melody, and muted guitar come together well, while the chilled 12-bar “Keep On Rollin'” features understated vocals and tasty guitar. “Strange Dreams” breaks no new ground, but it is a polished and solid collection.

- RICHARD PATON

Ready to cuff anyone not itching to get the party started, Hot Action Cop screeches onto the scene with lights flashing on its new self-titled album. Littered with Spring Break beach-bash anthems, “Cop” kicks things off with spirited tracks like “Fever for the Flava” and “Busted.” Sounding like a fusion of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Limp Bizkit, Cop has rock radio written all over it, and hip-hop/metal fans should enjoy the funky, hard backbeats and smooth lyrical delivery.

- JAKE JONES

This is a 4 star-quality remake of the soundtrack to the classic 1962 film, yet it falls short because Robert Preston's mighty stage presence as the original Professor Harold Hill is impossible to replicate. Matthew Broderick shows versatility and promise as the new TV version of Hill, yet is overmatched by Preston's legacy. The beauty of composer Meredith Willson's work comes through on this soundtrack, especially on Kristin Chenowith's solos, and the disc is worthy of being in your collection. But not at the expense of replacing the original.

- TOM HENRY

Recorded live in a Starbucks coffee shop in New York City, Brubeck and his quartet mix oldies like “Take Five,” jazz standards, and new works by Brubeck that show great breadth in style. The good thing about Brubeck is that nothing is ever what you expect. Not even “Take Five,” an anthem for the pianist, is safe from reinvention. His group's playing is worth hearing at least one more time, because what you have heard and loved in the past has been improvised upon to make it fresh and invigorating

- LARRY ROBERTS

Here is a solid album of formidable vocal strutting by a new trio of dynamic, fresh voices on 16 classic American tunes, along with a few Italian and Spanish tenor showpieces. Each tenor gets a chance to solo: Granner on “Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair,” Montenegro on “Be My Love,” and O'Reilly on “Granada.” They all perform admirably. The remaining songs feature a blending of the three strong voices, with each man swapping occasional chances to emote with dramatic vocal passion.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

BRIEFLY NOTED

  • WE'RE A HAPPY FAMILY - A TRIBUTE TO THE RAMONES, Various Artists (Columbia) The talent is A-list on this tribute to the punk pioneers, but the performances are uneven. U2's take on “Beat on the Brat” is sublime, and Kiss revels in “Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio.” But The Pretenders' version of “Something to Believe In” is somnolent and the Offspring sound like a cover band on “I Wanna Be Sedated.” A fun but not essential release. R.L.

  • IT'S YOU, IT'S ME, Kaskade (Om) DJ and producer Kaskade's debut is a classy collection of his own compositions of cool vocal house with delicious melodies. The rhythms pulse with energy but the vocals are soulful, and Kaskade keeps it mellow throughout. R.P.



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