- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2001

(Universal Records)
Wondering who might be the next Bob Dylan or Neil Young is always a fun guessing game. Although young troubadours such as Pete Yorn and Badly Drawn Boy might one day fit the bill, a better bet is the prolific Ryan Adams. As the singer-songwriter for the alt-country group Whiskeytown which has enjoyed a sort of cult-popularity since its end in 1999 and as an emerging solo artist, Mr. Adams has shown that his songwriting abilities are an equal match for his singing skills.
This second solo album may not be his breakthrough record, but it should win him a number of new fans, especially those turned off by the country part of the alt-country label. Mr. Adams kicks off his semiautobiographical album with "New York, New York," a rollicking ode to the Big Apple that is ever more poignant in the wake of September 11.
The album's last track is "Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd.," a gentle piano ballad that resolves all the angst behind the CD's early, uncertain tracks. Most of the album focuses on this tender side, such as the vulnerable, Van Morrison-esque "Somehow, Someday" and the rather bland "The Rescue Blues."
With the album clocking in at more than an hour, these ballads can get tiresome, which is why faster numbers, such as the bluesy "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues," provide some relief.
Still it's commendable that Mr. Adams turned a bitter breakup with his girlfriend and a move from New York to Los Angeles into fodder for one of the year's more compelling releases. What's even more amazing is that he wrote enough material to fill three albums. For those who pick up "Gold" early enough, the album includes an additional CD with five country-tinged tunes that hint at the kind of material he has hidden away.
As long as his output continues to be as consistently strong as "Gold," Mr. Adams is a shoo-in as the next great American songwriter. Derek Simmonsen

Bootleg Series Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes
(Universal Records)
As a band, the Velvet Underground tends to be referenced more than listened to, which is why any chance to slip below the mystique and hear the group for what was is a welcome opportunity. On these bootleg albums, recorded live to cassette by punk rocker Robert Quine between May 11 and Dec. 1, 1969, the band sounds less revelatory than on its studio albums. But it also seems more confident as an ensemble, feeling free to spontaneously reinterpret nearly every song.
These three discs, capturing several nights of concerts in San Francisco and one performance in St. Louis, are, unfortunately, not the highest quality recordings. Considering how little live material there is from the Velvet Underground's heyday though, (no decent recordings from the 1960s with the original lineup are available) these recordings are still a gem.
Founding member and bassist John Cale already had left the band and lead singer-guitarist Lou Reed would leave not long after his departure, but the other two starting members, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, are present, along with replacement bassist Doug Yule.
The best material from the band's first three albums is well-represented here (the final Velvet album "Loaded" would be released not long after), in versions that are sometimes startlingly different from the studio takes. "I'm Waiting for the Man" slows down to a snail's pace, "Rock and Roll" nearly becomes a folk ballad and "What Goes On" turns into a rough jam.
The ability of the band members to jam off one another is actually the highlight of these bootlegs, and this is no more evident than on the three versions of "Sister Ray" available here. Clocking in at 24, 38 and 28 minutes, respectively, these three songs all maintain the bare-bones song structure of the original while drifting off into grand vistas of guitar fuzz, barely audible vocals and frenetic drumming that would not be matched again until Sonic Youth burst on the music scene more than a decade later.
Other highlights include an awe-inspiring, 10-minute rendition of "White Light/White Heat," in which the layered, intense guitar interplay of Mr. Reed and Mr. Morrison turn the original three-minute ditty into a miniepic that features so many competing, yet equally strong, musical components that it is almost too much for the ears to handle at one time.
Casual listeners are unlikely to gain much from "The Quine Tapes" because the sound quality and experimentation do not always paint a flattering picture of the band. Mr. Reed's vocals aren't nearly as polished as on his studio efforts, and some of the song reinventions (such as the slow "I'm Waiting for the Man") are not the best versions of these songs.
For die-hard fans, though, especially those who were disappointed by the Velvet Underground's 1993 live reunion album (a subpar effort) or those who never were able to hear the band live in the first place, these bootlegs are essential. With the promise of more of these kinds of recordings to come, it may be time for a reappraisal of the Velvet Underground as not merely arty rock experimenters, but as legitimate performers. D.S.

(WEA/Atlantic Records)
The musical style of P.O.D. may be heavy, but the spirit of its songs points toward heaven.
P.O.D., which stands for "payable on death," is known for blending rock, rap, reggae and punk into a form all its own. With "Satellite," the San Diego-based quartet's second major label release, the band continues in the vein of its first project. That was "The Fundamental Elements of Southtown," which expresses the group's Christian faith through symbolic lyrics.
Complete with dreadlocks and tattoos, the band members display excellent musicianship. A tight groove is woven throughout the album, featuring Sonny Sandoval on lead vocals, Marcos on guitars and vocals, Traa on bass and vocals and Wuv on drums and vocals. The album was produced by Howard Benson, who has also worked with Zebrahead, Lucky Boys Confusion and Nullset.
The most refreshing aspect of P.O.D. is that the group is able to "rock the party" any day of the week without distasteful lyrics. The first single of the album, "Alive," expresses gratitude for life. The first verse says, "Everyday is a new day/I'm thankful for every breath I take/I won't take it for granted/So I learn from my mistakes."
One of the most powerful songs of the collection is "Youth of the Nation," which was written in response to school violence across the United States. As a slower song on the album, it provides a contrast to P.O.D.'s more hard-core numbers. It also features a children's choir on the last chorus, which provides a haunting feeling to the piece.
Guest musicians include H.R. of the Bad Brains on "Without Jah, Nothin,' " reggae artist Eek-A-Mouse on "Ridiculous" and Christian Lindskog of Blindside on "Anything Right."
"Portrait," the last song on the album, is a prayer to God. The lyrics say, "I surrender, giving up all that is me/Yielding to you/Shape my brokenness/Empower me forever."
P.O.D. can hold its own with any band on the block. Hopefully, it will rock on for a long time to come. Jennifer Waters

"On the Line" soundtrack
(Jive Records)
The soundtrack for "On the Line" follows the movie's storyline and is about romance. The title track is sung by the "On the Line" Allstars, which includes two members of 'N Sync Lance Bass and Joey Fatone, who also star in the movie along with Christian Burns of BBMak, Mandy Moore and a new group, True Vibe.
The soundtrack includes singer Al Green, who makes an appearance in the movie, with a remix dance version of his hit "Let's Stay Together." Britney Spears turns in an understated song with a catchy chorus titled "Let Me Be." Other songs on the 15-track album include "Don't Look Down" by BBMak, "Do You C What I C?" by Vitamin C and "Take Me On" by Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, who also appears in the movie.
The highlights of this soundtrack are "Falling" by 'N Sync, which contributes another song, "That Girl (Will Never Be Mine)," and the song "Ready to Fall" by country newcomer Meredith Edwards. As the title indicates, "Falling" is about realizing you're falling in love. "Ready To Fall" is a beautiful song about opening your heart. Miss Edward's delivery of this song proves that she should have a bright future on the country music scene. "Ready to Fall" is also covered by 'N Sync member Fatone, although he uses acoustic guitars to give it a more adult contemporary pop feel.
Unlike with some soundtracks, the listener does not need to see the movie first to appreciate this music. Amy Baskerville

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