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Noteworthy CDs

Guster – Ganging up on the Sun (Wea/Reprise):What exactly is a Guster? Let's go to the source:

Guster n. 1: a trio of talented musicians who met at Boston's Tufts University in 1991 and released the first of their five studio CDs in '96. 2: a fresh and invigorating breeze portending sunny melodies, whiffs of The Beatles and Beach Boys, and innovative instrumentation. (See also: banjo, harmonium, car alarm). 3: one of a handful of touring bands that go green – utilizing wind power and biodiesel fuel on the road, when available.

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Melody is alive and well in pop music these days, thanks to megastars Keane, Coldplay, and these unassuming boys from Boston. Plaintive verses by lead-singer/guitarist Ryan Miller give way to stirring choruses on standout cuts like "Satellite" and "Manifest Destiny," with its rollicking "Lady Madonna"-style keyboards and dreamsicle harmonies. "Ruby Falls" would be right at home on "Pet Sounds" – with the best falsetto singing this side of "Caroline, No." Maybe the lyrics don't stick to the ribs as much as one would like, but there are enough hummable tunes and irresistible choruses contained herein to propel this pretty balloon to the top of the charts. Grade: A
– John Kehe

Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways (Lost Highway): The themes are familiar: death, boxcars, and tear-stained letters from Mama read in jail by a penitent son. What distinguishes this collection (all covers, with the exception of "Like the 309," Cash's welcoming of the end of the line) is its place in the oeuvre. It's a curtain-call studio CD, and if that proud, ragged voice wavers painfully in places, it still commands attention. Toward the end, the late Man in Black lent his voice to songs by Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails. This time Gordon Lightfoot ("If You Could Read My Mind") is among the wonderfully rendered. Thanks, Johnny. Grade: B+
– Clayton Collins


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