The Beatles "Let It Be ... Naked" (Capitol) Rock
2 / 4 stars
To put it simply, "Let It Be ... Naked" is an album that is not necessary for anyone besides a hardcore Beatles fan. The new version features fewer songs than the original release, and those that are left have been stripped of the "Wall of Sound" and overdubbing effects created by producer Phil Specter. However, after hearing the stripped-down version, the album just seems anti-climactic. The song most affected, "The Long and Winding Road," once full of life and wonderful background accompaniment, now seems hollow and rather dull. As for this being a more "intimate" look at the Beatles, the original featured much more conversation between them before the songs, while this album has almost none. Minus the additions of the "Get Back" B-side and "Don't Let Me Down" (the only "new" addition and a welcome one at that), this is something that only the fanatical Beatles fan should buy. - JORDAN BEANE
Snapcase "Bright Flashes" (Victory Records) Hardcore
1 / 4 stars
If it's not broke, don't fix it. Or better yet, if it sounds good, why remix it? Snapcase's last release, "End Transmission," was an original and solid album that fully showcased the band's musical talent. Its new CD, "Bright Flashes," is far from that. "Bright Flashes" is neither bright nor flashy, and was a waste of the record label's money to release. Albums that feature a particular band's B-sides, remixes or covers are never all that engaging except to die-hard fans. Those who don't wallpaper their bedrooms with Snapcase posters just want inventive, new music that lives up to the band's previous releases. "Bright Flashes" offers Snapcase's hard-hitting, brick-to-the-head sound filled with coarse vocals and metallic instrumentals, but since the majority of songs on this release already exist in some other form, the quality of the sound is irrelevant. Snapcase should have waited until inspiration for new material hit before attempting to release something new; fans of the band may enjoy it, but the album probably doesn't deserve the 150 words printed here. - EMILY ZEMLER
Sarah McLachlan "Afterglow" (Arista Records) Light Rock
2.5 / 4 stars
Sarah McLachlan is the godmother of female singers. She was the quintessential pop-rock goddess in the '90s and has influenced numerous solo vocalists during her time in the spotlight. Unfortunately, no one can remain in the spotlight forever, and McLachlan seems to have faded from the memories of many fans.
"Afterglow" marks McLachlan's return to the music scene after several years since her last releases, 2001's "Sarah McLachlan Remixed" and 1999's "Mirrorball," which merely included versions of previously released material. Thus, it has been a long time since the world has seen anything new from the much-hailed singer and songwriter.
Compared to McLachlan's work of 10 years ago, "Afterglow" is an enormous disappointment. The songs contain the smooth, rhythmic feeling that made "Solace" such a success, but "Afterglow" is far from innovative and not worth much more than background noise.
The fact that the staying-power of a musician in today's music market is fleeting is abundantly clear with "Afterglow." McLachlan's name may sell a certain number of records, but the music she is making now won't.
The Buzzcocks "Buzzcocks" (Merge) Punk
1 / 4 stars
For an influential British pop-punk band in existence since 1975, one might expect a solid, decent album characteristic of what it has released in the past. However, "Buzzcocks," the latest record by this aging posse is complete drivel.
The lyrics are lacking the hilarity of earlier songs like "Orgasm Addict" and "Whatever Happened To?" but are not replaced by mature, witty lyrics - just boring, repetitive filler. The actual music is highly simplistic for such a well-established band, and each song ends up sounding like a slight variation of the one before it. "Keep On" is a tired clich?, whilst the rocking "Lester Sands" will stir up feelings of nostalgia for those who own the 1979 compilation "Singles Going Steady."
Sadly, it seems as though this prolific band is sitting back and releasing mediocre albums, based solely on illustrious beginnings as one of the original punk groups. Most of the members are pushing side projects, which always end up absorbing creativity and experimental ideas that should be put into the Buzzcocks.
- SARAH REED
Sheryl Crow "The Best of Sheryl Crow" (A&M Records) Rock
4 / 4 stars
Sheryl Crow will always be remembered as one of the great musicians of our time. "The Best of Sheryl Crow" is a compilation of Crow's biggest and most successful hits. With 10 years' worth of jazz, folk, rock, and country music, the album will be one of the best "greatest hits" CDs this year. The album starts off with the single that made her a household name, the energetic "All I Wanna Do," and continues with lively songs such as "Soak up the Sun," "My Favorite Mistake" and "Light in Your Eyes," which inherently portray Crow's love for music. Included are two cuts of Crow's "The First Cut is the Deepest," originally a Cat Stevens song, and bonus tracks. With highlights such as "Every Day is a Winding Road" and "If it Makes You Happy," Crow has written, sung, and produced an album featuring 17 tracks with the power to move you and change your mood.
- JENNIFER VARADI
The Strokes "Room on Fire" (RCA Records) Rock
3 / 4 stars
For a band that was supposed to revolutionize rock music, The Strokes sure is having a tough time. The Strokes solidifies its place in modern rock as one too mainstream for hipsters, but still too hip for most mainstream music fans with its sophomore effort "Room on Fire," the follow-up to 2001's much-hyped "Is This It." The Strokes sticks to its guns and reciprocates the sound from its debut records and the result is not bad. Actually, it's really good - excellent, in fact. Critics have taken notice of this, praising "Room on Fire" as everything it should be: a solid follow-up proving the band's staying power.
On the opener, "What Ever Happened?" singer Julian Casablancas sings "I wanna be forgotten," almost challenging their hype. The single "12:51" combines keyboards and scattered handclaps along with the signature voice of Casablancas. What's most noteworthy about "Room on Fire" is what it's not. The Strokes originally intended the album to be produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich; however, the Strokes opted to return to "Is This It" producer Gordon Raphael instead. The fact that "Room on Fire" is merely "'Is This It" take two makes it all the more uninteresting. "Room on Fire" is a good album; however, it is time for them to do something new, or else Casblancas' wish to be forgotten might come true sooner than he thinks.
- DANIEL LONGINO
Seal "IV" (Warner Brothers) R&B
3 / 4 stars
Successful 1990s hits allowed Great Britain's Seal to emerge on the adult pop music scene. Seal's current North American tour, which hits the 9:30 club on Dec. 13, promotes his fourth album, appropriately titled "IV," which was recorded in London.
"IV" offers similar pop and soul from the familiar silky voice that sounds just as friendly and forgiving as in past albums in such songs as "Love's Divine," "Heavenly," and "Touch." "My Vision" opens with intriguing minor chords, similar to Seal's past hits like "Prayer for the Dying" and "Kiss From A Rose;" the brief pauses with chilling drum beats sound similar to recent theme songs of successful dramatic films. Infusing a little funk, "Waiting For You" mixes trumpets, a catchy rolling piano vamp and some hot guitars. An extravagant string, horn and choir build up to a strong climax with arrangement by Steve Sidwell and led by Gavin Wright. "Get It Together" is a disco song appearing to reflect on the series of tragedies of the past few years in the world, with the opening lyrics: "Now's the time for stepping out of place, get up on your feet and give a count of your faith, pray to God or something or whatever you do." Finally, Seal extends his versatility with the reggae-charged "Where There's Gold."
- MICHAEL MENACHEM
The Carlsonics "The Carlsonics" (The Arena Rock Recording Company) Indie
3 / 4 stars
D.C.'s The Carlsonics' debut album is a throwback to the classic rock of the 1960s. The band creates music that is laid back and mellow, yet manages to contain a strong energetic sense. Its music is distinct because at no point does any single instrument dominate the songs; instead, the vocals and instruments blend together.
This self-titled release combines classic-sounding electric guitar with rough yet surprisingly melodic vocals to create a form of rock with clear influences. Reminiscent of The Strokes and The Hives, The Carlsonics can certainly be placed in the garage rock genre, although, like its contemporaries, the band is merely copying an already perfected genre. Most of the songs on this 11-track CD sound fairly similar to each other, but listeners may not mind once they get into the slow-paced style of the music. This is a decent addition to current classic rock clique bands that should be commended for its refreshingly down-to-earth feel.