There're a couple dogs on this album: "Never Run Out of Love" would be more suited to Michael Bolton, and "Ride the Pony" sounds like a bad TV-cop-show theme. But so what? The other cuts are vintage Cheap Trick, as cheesy and pure as rock can get.

The biggest thing Elvis and Cheap Trick have in common? Both have finally made albums worth listening to.--Peter Gilstrap ZZ Top

Antenna
(BMG)

The last band in the alphabet is back home after a seemingly endless sojourn in FM hell, and ZZ Top wastes no time in getting its big self comfortable with the old, familiar ZZ sound.

"Pincushion," the CD's wonderfully musty opening cut, gleefully sprays around gobs of Billy Gibbons' guitar drool. From there, Gibbons goes on a restless prowl, resurrecting older riffs (Heard It on the X" is heard again) and coming up with new, invigorating squonk.

Gibbons and his bearded buddies also display an encouraging acknowledgment of reality. The aforementioned "Pincushion" touches on drug abuse (they're against it), and "Cover Your Rig" covers condoms (they're for em).

We're not talking bold statements here. But Antenna's sonic growl is statement enough that ZZ Top is finally finished with the disco-driven MTV mush they've been pumping out the last decade or so.

It's nice to have em back.--Ted Simons

Alex Chilton
High Priest/Black List
Feudalist Tarts/No Sex
(Razor and Tie)

Once upon a time, back in the early Seventies, Alex Chilton was in a band called Big Star. The group created a handful of gorgeous, wrenching albums, and nobody really cared. Big Star broke up. Chilton kept recording, though, turning out erratic, largely dull releases that seemed to be the legacy of an artist who was either falling apart or didn't give a shit. Maybe both. By the mid-Eighties, however, pop/punk bands (and millions of "hip" critics) started rediscovering the man and his work--particularly the Big Star stuff--and Chilton, who had been doing things like washing dishes to make a living, transformed into a three-chord icon. Paul Westerberg solidified the legend when he wrote "Alex Chilton" for 1987's Pleased to Meet Me. What the Disney TV theme did for Davy Crockett, the Replacements did for Mr. C.

By this time, though, Alex was into a different thing. He was recording albums of obscure soul songs, Sixties pop and R&B-tinged originals, and folks eager for anything the skinny legend did ate this stuff up. Now it's the mid-Nineties, and--though Westerberg has since said he's sorry he ever wrote "Alex Chilton"--people are still interested in Chilton. Hence the just-reissued Priest/List and Tarts/Sex compilation CDs.

Hence the question, why is anybody still interested?
Face it, nothing on either of these discs can touch the Big Star load; what we have here is a guy with an obnoxious, weak voice singing a bunch of lame, old B-sides, predictable, old A-sides, and novelty originals. What were we thinking ten years ago when this crap came out? Is this supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek joke, or does Chilton think he actually sounds wicked singing "Take It Off," "Make a Little Love" or "B-A-B-Y"? On songs like "Little GTO" and "Volare," the has-been guitarist and his group sound like a bad wedding band.

Stick with the Big Star stuff--or the Box Tops, for that matter--solo Chilton doesn't matter anymore; it's surprising it ever did.--Peter Gilstrap

Various Artists
Rhythm, Country and Blues (MCA)
If the thought of hearing another "duets" album nauseates you more than a replay of "Ebony and Ivory," relax. MCA has paired up its somewhat disparate R&B and country artists for this one, and the results hit the mark more times than you might expect. Al Green and Lyle Lovett turn in the best duet here, a transcendent but funky "Funny How Time Slips Away." Little Richard and Tanya Tucker come in a close second, yelping "Somethin' Else" in what sounds like the same cramped studio where Richard's classic "Keep A-Knockin'" was recorded. Plus, you get the soulful sounds of Sam and Conway; the late Mr. Twitty's last recorded performance is this touching duet of "Rainy Night in Georgia" with Sam Moore.

Low points include "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," in which Vince Gill's thin reading invites unflattering comparisons to Marvin Gaye. And though you can't fault Aaron Neville's delivery, hearing him sing without thinking about the touch and feel of cotton is damned near impossible now.

Things get a little weird when B.B. King stretches out the spoken-word parts to "Patches" as if it were The Iliad, leaving poor George Jones with little to do but contemplate having a drinking problem again.

But it could've been worse. Just be thankful Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson don't record for MCA.--Serene Dominic

The Verlaines
Way Out Where
(Slash)

The Verlaines once deserved to be mentioned in the same sigh as the best of New Zealand's considerable pop corps--bands like the Bats, the Clean, Look Go Purple and, best of all, the Chills. Those names helped push guitar chords from Down Under to the very top of expressive songcraft.

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