CD Reviews for Dec. 23

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Beck

"Guerolito"Available at All That Jazz for $15.98

Remember when we all bought Beck's "Guero" album and we liked it so much and we listened to it again and again. And then what happened?

I kept it in the rotation for a while and then slipped it in the back of a CD jacket where I haven't seen it since.

Maybe Beck sensed that we were starting to forget. That so many people had moved on to singing Kanye's Golddigger song that they had forgotten the words to "Guero."

Months are eons in music industry time, and when someone forgets you, the best way to remind them is to repackage yourself in a slightly different form and put yourself back on the front shelf.

"Guerolito" is something of a "what if we had done it this way" alternate reality album. You'll recognize the songs -- he even used the same artist from Guero to illustrate the album cover -- but here they are remixed. They are twisted and fun-house mirrored. Horns and strings and new beats have been added. Songs have been slowed down and sped up.

It reminded me of how much I liked "Guero" the first time around, but it gave me that uncomfortable feeling you get when someone slows down a song you love.

Rated: You want to sing along because you know all the words, but you keep tripping on the tempo.

Johnny Cash

"The Legend of Johnny Cash"Available at All That Jazz for $15.98

This is the moment of the Johnny Cash bandwagon. If you aren't on board now after "Walking the Line" or if you weren't already on after the Johnny Cash revival in the late '90s and early '00s, you'll never join.

And I hate to say it, but you will have missed out.

The thing about Cash is that whether you know it, you're already a fan. Plug in "The Legend of..." album, even if it's your first Cash record, and you'll be surprised how many songs you can sing along.

Cash has been the American soundtrack for decades. It has timelessly played from jukeboxes and radios and movie soundtracks for most of our music-listening lives.

This album is 21 tracks of all the best Cash recordings ever laid down from Sun Studio to his work with Rick Rubin, from "Folsom Prison Blues" to his cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."

This is a comprehensive introduction for the neophyte and a good listen for longtime fans.

Rated: Did someone say stocking stuffer?

Bob Dylan

"No Direction Home: The Soundtrack: The Bootleg Series Vol. 7"Available at All That Jazz for $24.98

When I brought this album to work, it was unwrapped and undefiled by human ears. Little did I know how hard it was going to be to get this album from its first resting spot on my desk to the CD player for a thorough listen and critic's thrashing.

The first grouping of Dylan fans stopped by my desk, picked up the album and started singing the songs they knew from the list on the jacket. Some of them even went to far as to imitate Bob Dylan's voice. (Tom Ross does the best Bob Dylan impression at the Steamboat Pilot & Today.)

The office turned quickly into a clucking hen-house cacophony of Dylan singers. It wasn't long before the album disappeared all together into some Dylan fan vortex, and this review was almost never written.

Hours before deadline, I pried the album out of a pair of tightly clutched fists and got a chance to listen for myself.

This two disc collection is the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese's documentary about Bob Dylan's early years and is a must have for any Dylanophile.

Most of the tracks are previously unreleased versions of some of the most popular Dylan tunes -- early demos, four-track living room recordings and live recordings from the early days in small venues.

The recording quality of most of the songs has that undiscovered sound as if you are listening to some vinyl through headphones in the back room of a public library.

Rated: For all those who read "Chronicles" this year and saw the documentary and are still hungry to learn more.

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