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Published: Sunday, 1/23/2005

CD reviews: Sarah McLachlan shows different facets of her considerable talent on new live release

McLachlan is in the enviable position of having at least two distinct audiences those who know her music in its original form, and those who experience it remixed by dance music producers/DJs.

It s testament to the remarkable quality of her voice that she is equally successful on this live disc fronting her band, and, for example, on the genre-defining Tiesto remix of Delerium s Silence on which she s the featured vocalist.

Afterglow Live is both a live music CD and a DVD of McLachlan in concert plus additional background footage and interviews. It features music from her 2003 release Afterglow and other favorite songs 15 tracks in all.

With a tight and muscular band giving the songs power when needed, yet allowing their more delicate side also to come through, McLachlan turns in an often-stunning performance.

She has a nigh-on miraculous voice, soaring through the octaves, but she also knows how to soften its tone, and make it seem more intimate and expressive. She writes songs that are deeply melodic, like Fallen, Angel, and Building A Mystery.

On their own, the CD and DVD each would be a worthy record of an artist of uncommon talent in top performance mode. Together, they are indispensable for anyone who appreciates music with the power to move emotions.

RICHARD PATON

It is faint praise to say ex-Smashing Pumpkins member Jimmy Chamberlin s first solo release is exceptional for a drummer because the list of percussionists who successfully go out on their own is short. Life Begins Again is a complex work that features odd time signatures and progressive rock and jazz leanings without meandering into pointless jams. There s still an alternative rock feel to some of the tracks and Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan shows up on the gentle Lokicat, but for the most part Life Begins Again is an inventive work that should merit Chamberlin a shot at a second release.

ROD LOCKWOOD

Kenny G has a knack for successfully bridging jazz with pop and other genres for a mainstream audience. On this album, his balancing act is put to the test on duets ranging from LeAnn Rimes to Barbra Streisand, as well as Chaka Khan and members of Earth, Wind & Fire. For the most part, it s a successful project even if Kenny G never gets as sultry, or cuts loose as he can do in concert. He s at his velvety smooth best when he s paired with instrumentalists such as trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on At Last and saxophonist David Sanborn on a spiffy remake of Average White Band s Pick Up the Pieces.

TOM HENRY

On his latest release, Xzibit, of TV show Pimp My Ride fame, drops rhymes about the West Coast lifestyle essentially clubbing, low riding, and being gangsta . The majority of his tracks are mid-tempo and attempt to create an early 70s funk feel. But they sound like an imitation of funk, and it s here that the project suffers. Xzibit flows with authority but the tracks aren t up to the task. The disc has its moments, though, where Xzibit shines surprisingly, on more up-tempo club tracks Criminal Set and Hey Now, produced by Battlecat and Timbaland, respectively showing that chemistry between artist and producer is paramount.

STEWART WALKER

The guitars lead the way, while the splendid horn section punctuates every move for a high-energy blend of jump, rock, and blues. Standing Room Only comes one year after Roomful Of Blues Alligator debut with Grammy nominee That s Right! They pick up right where they left off, with powerful instrumental work and solid vocals to match as they swing and rock. Fourteen knockout songs here are a treat for nearly 50 minutes, giving listeners a solid representation of what these eight guys can do.

KEN ROSENBAUM

THE HOLLYWOOD MOTEL, Various Artists (Artemis) A long list of Hollywood celebs get skewered in this comedy spoof, courtesy of some dead-on impersonations and a biting script. The first half of the farce is set in a B-grade motel frequented by A-list celebs. The second half is the so-called Bighead Awards ceremony. Written and performed by Australian comedians Lee Perry and Gary Eck, with the help of other voices for impersonations, nothing s sacred and nothing s held back. T.H.

UNFORGETTABLE, Merle Haggard (Capitol Nashville) Haggard is trying to board the same train that has taken rocker Rod Stewart to new success with the old pop standards. Unfortunately for Haggard, that train has already left the station. Haggard, whose slightly thin voice is more suited to the country yarns he spins so well, tries admirably with Unforgettable but, despite valiant vocal and studio efforts, it is very forgettable. K.R.



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