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Thursday, December 12, 2002

Holiday Picks

One of our family’s annual holiday rituals is to submit a list to our kids of CDs that Jill and I would like. We start with a rough list of twenty or so, and then I go down to Hear Music and Barnes and Noble, where you can preview the discs, and narrow it down to six. This is about the maximum that the boys’ budgets (both starving students) will allow.

After getting burned too many times with one and two-hit wonders, I finally got wise a few years ago and stopped buying CD’s without checking all the tracks first. Far too often the record companies will pack a CD with mediocre fillers. It pays to do your homework.

In previous years, I would have just about automatically requested anything by Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen. But these guys are now well into their forties, and no matter how good they are, very few rock artists can maintain the creative freshness past that point.

I was about to buy, sight unseen, “The Rising” by Springsteen, but before doing so was fortunate enough to read the assessment of George Partington, an astute Springsteen commentator. So I previewed all of the tracks and, sure enough, aside from one or two excellent tracks, it’s just a rehash. Sorry to say, it’s the same story with Petty’s latest, “"The Last DJ".

Two notable exceptions, btw, to running out of creative gas in middle age are Neil Young and, of course, Dylan.

Anyway, our six picks for this year:

Plugging two glaring absences from our “Unplugged”collection: Nirvana, and the aforementioned Young.

The latest discs from two of our favorite female groups, The Dixie Chicks (“Home"), and the Indigo Girls(("Become You").

Sinead O’Connor, “Sean-Nos Nua.” No angry feminist rants here. This time around, Sinead uses that wonderful voice with which she was blessed to do traditional ballads from her homeland. Hauntingly beautiful, and much more authentic than that New Age-y stuff by Enya.

Afro-Celt Sound System, ("Vol. 2, Release"). an intriguing fusion of Celtic and African influences.

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