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The Moody Blues
Seventh Sojourn

The Moody Blues started out as a British invasion pop group playing love songs. But the Beatles demonstrated that rock could be smart and lofty-sounding; the Moody Blues responded with art-rock treks like "Nights in White Satin" (1967), and the group's albums became conceptual manifestos. Seventh Sojourn (1972) was such an effort. The prestigious Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has digitally remastered the original tapes for this reissue. On cuts like "Isn't Life Strange" synthesizer, woodwinds and acoustic and electric guitar all mesh to produce a rich tapestry of sound not as readily apparent on the original analog release. Still, the Moody Blues never quite forsook their rock/pop roots, as tracks like "You and Me" and "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)" attest. (Nicky Baxter)

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Critical Mass
Give It Up, Let It Go!
Ska Satellite/Moon Ska

Berkeley-based Critical Mass' debut is divided evenly between rollicking ska/funk instrumentals and irritating ska-tinged rock. The liner notes explain the split: lead singer Michael Valladares doubles as the band's saxophonist, and while he blows a mean horn, he has an excruciatingly thin, nasally voice. The instrumentals, though, are certainly worth a listen; they've got old-school two-tone momentum, deliciously danceable funk bass and a tinge of smoky soulfulness. Also impressive are the cross-genre experiments, especially a cover of Rakim's "Paid in Full" that expertly pairs a hip-hop MC with horns and a mellow dub beat. (Michelle Goldberg)

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Izzy Stradlin

Guitarist Izzy Stradlin gave Guns N' Roses its hard-edged soul; after he left, the band fell apart. Though his departure debut with the Ju Ju Hounds was unsuccessful, Stradlin's keeping himself on the map. His latest release is a timely return to gritty guitar rock. On "Old Hat," which is like a sequel to GNR's heroin-addiction song "Mr. Brownstone," Stradlin sings, "I don't really need no bag of cocaine/Been there and done that/That ain't too clever/I sure don't miss it/Had enough of that crap." Stradlin's rough, gravely voice is the ideal accompaniment to his unassuming guitar work. Look for the Ju Ju Hounds and ex-Guns Duff McKagan on a number of tracks. (Sarah Quelland)

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From the June 11-17, 1998 issue of Metro.

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