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Culture Notable CDs
CATEGORY Singer-songwriterly rock 'n' roll for longtime fans of the head Kink's wit and wisdom.
CAUTIONS "After the Fall," "Stand Up Comic" (profanity, vulgarity).
WORLDVIEW Although "you can't run away from time" and "we are such creatures of little faith," there is "life after breakfast" and a reason to celebrate "Thanksgiving Day."
OVERALL QUALITY Both the songs and the performances brim with the rejuvenated confidence and optimism that are this album's subjects.
CATEGORY "Sing-a-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George" (the album's subtitle).
WORLDVIEW "If you have two, / give one to your friend. / If you have three, / give one to your friend and me. / It's always more fun to share with everyone" ("The Sharing Song").
OVERALL QUALITY Deadly dull as a maker of music for grownups, Mr. Johnson may have found his calling as a maker of music for children.
Back to Bedlam
CATEGORY Overblown sensitivity on parade.
CAUTIONS "You're Beautiful," "Wisemen" (profanity).
WORLDVIEW "How I wish I could choose between Heaven and Hell. / How I wish I could save my soul. / I'm so cold from fear."
OVERALL QUALITY Literature lovers beware: Despite the aptly named Mr. Blunt's allusions to Dorian Gray in "Tears and Rain," his failure to grasp the importance of not being overearnest is his only Oscar Wilde connection.
Eye to the Telescope
CATEGORY High-gloss singer-songwriterly pop, sensitive adult-female division.
CAUTIONS "Suddenly I See" (casual cursing).
WORLDVIEW "Miniature disasters and minor catastrophes / bring me to my knees. / Well, I must be my own master, / or a miniature disaster will be . . . the death of me" ("Miniature Disasters").
OVERALL QUALITY Pretty and hummable-somewhat tedious over the long haul but pleasant enough a song or two at a time.
CATEGORY Singer-songwriterly folk-rock with a pedigree (Mr. Thompson is the son of the British folk-rock legends Richard and Linda Thompson).
WORLDVIEW Not so much that one cannot live with or without wine, women, and song as that it's life's business to figure out why (with sarcasm, if possible).
OVERALL QUALITY Interesting when not entertaining, like his father; luminous on the "hidden" Everly Brothers cover duet with his mother.
In the spotlight
Other People's Lives (V2) is being touted as the "first solo album" by the ex-Kink Ray Davies but, in fact, many a Kinks album was a Ray Davies solo effort in all but name. As the main songwriter, lead singer, and all-purpose front man of a band that, from 1964 to 1994, matched and sometimes bested its fellow British-invasion survivors the Who, the Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney's Wings in quantity and quality, Mr. Davies created a body of work that remains provocative and entertaining.
Fans familiar with his penchant for speaking through "characters" should know that these days Mr. Davies is mainly playing the Straightforwardly Compassionate Narrator, thus guaranteeing admirers of 1983's "Heart of Gold," for instance, a better time than admirers of his many sarcastic social commentaries. Interestingly, as moving as his compassion is, it's the straightforwardly sarcastic "Stand Up Comic" (take that, Comedy Central) and "The Tourist" (cf. 1966's "Holiday in Waikiki") that inspire the album's catchiest music.