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Published: Saturday, 1/20/2007

DeSare finds his groove on new CD

The songs are old and new, standards and originals, but all have something in common - DeSare's readings are suave and they swing. He can even take Prince's "Kiss," which leads off the disc, and turn it into a cool jazz vibe, and add a hint of the bossa nova to Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move."

He's an accomplished pianist, performing here with a band featuring guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli that's totally in the groove. He also has a smooth, expressive voice that's well-suited to the songs, whether adding a taste of the blues to a slow and moody reading of "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You," or swinging on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me."

His songwriting skills are highlighted on the lovely and slow "Let's Just Stay In" and jazz/blues hybrid "I'll Never Have Enough of You," with those tracks fitting in well among the time-tested standards.

- RICHARD PATON

The original score for this Mel Gibson film, a movie which uses the end times of the Mayan civilization for the story's backdrop, isn't nearly as bleak as the title suggests. But nor is it the best work from Oscar-winning composer James Horner, whose Titanic film score remains the all-time top seller.

While there are occasional bursts of energy from thumping percussion and a slightly exotic touch with intriguing - though overdone - use of woodwinds, there are a lot of dead spots.

An odd hodgepodge of vocal backdrops is provided by singer Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whose forte is Qawwali, a type of Islamic devotional music native to Pakistan and India. Overall, the disc seems lost and confused, not sure if it wants to head toward some sort of inspirational climax or stay mired in something dreary.

- TOM HENRY

On an indie label out of Minneapolis, the Honeydogs are a cult band waiting to happen.

"Amygdala" is its seventh release, but the band still is a regional phenomenon, building a small, devoted fan base. Lead singer and writer Adam Levy composes highly literate tunes backed with lush Beatles-like arrangements that conjure images of 10cc and Flaming Lips.

Quirky song titles like "Ms. Ketchup And The Arsonist," "Tar Baby Napalm," and "Blues for Castro" sound like they were cribbed from the Robyn Hitchock song book.

Despite the obvious influences, the band maintains its originality thanks to Levy's worldly lyrics and sense of wordplay. Toss in the adventurous songs and you have an outfit that's too smart for popular consumption but just right for fans who like to get really intense about their favorite bands.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

The last time these two country music legends joined forces on a recording project was 25 years ago. Here they pay warm homage to each other's successful career, trading tributes by performing each other's songs. Also, they do a knockout job on four additional numbers as duets.

Neither of these superstars still is in peak voice; their husky gruffness is becoming more noticeable every year. But what's left is more than enough to blow the doors off most of the competition - what they might lack in vocal power is made up for in heartfelt poignancy.

The other side of the coin is the high quality of the favorites they selected. They were big hits in the hands of the original singer, and become very worthwhile again when done reverently by the other artist.

Among the duets, "Footlights," a song about fading veterans trying to hold on to the magic of performing, shines most brightly. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" is a humorous, old-style reminiscence.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

This definitive collection, produced by Rivers and including remastered songs from his Soul City label, raises as many questions as it answers. His ballad, "Poor Side of Town," showcases the best of his songwriting ability. But why didn't we ever get more original work from him?

He is equally known for his performance on "Secret Agent Man," and his hot guitar licks on covers of two Chuck Berry hits, "Memphis," and "Maybelline." But that's just it: After hearing this 36-song, two-disc anthology, one wonders whom Rivers hasn't covered.

The set ends with his recent acceptable-but-average covers of Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone" and Berry's "Let It Rock."

- TOM HENRY



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