THE SKY IS CRYING
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (Epic 47390)
Posthumous albums are, by nature, hodgepodge affairs, invariably consisting of leftovers and often sounding like it. Stevie Ray Vaughan's "The Sky Is Crying" is a happy exception, however, in part thanks to the painstaking care with which Vaughan's brother Jimmie assembled the album, but mostly because of the astonishing consistency of the late guitarist's playing. It hardly matters whether Stevie Ray is tossing off an upbeat blues number like "Empty Arms," exploring the possibilities of a jazz tune like "Chitlins Con Carne" or pulling new insights from a rock classic like "Little Wing" -- his solos are never less than stunning, making this album an ideal tribute.
PAUL SIMON'S CONCERT IN THE PARK
Paul Simon (Warner Bros. 26737)
As was obvious to anyone who caught Paul Simon's Born at the Right Time Tour, either on the road or on HBO, the former folk singer has never sounded better. It wasn't just that his
newer songs seemed to shine when framed by his expert, 14-piece band; even old favorites like "Kodachrome" or "Late in the Evening" took extra sparkle from its sinuous Afro-Brazilian rhythms. "Paul Simon's Concert in the Park," recorded during his Central Park concert in August, captures much of that magic, and as such makes a marvelous souvenir for those fans who want more than their memories could provide. Keep in mind, though, that it was recorded before a New York audience; normal people are rather less likely to cheer at the line in "The Boxer" about "the whores on Seventh Avenue."
vTC Various Artists (Polydor 845 750)
Multi-artist tribute albums are becoming something of a cliche these days, as rockers ranging from Elvis Presley to Sonny Bono are paid their due. Even so, it's hard not to like "Two Rooms," an all-star tribute to the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It isn't just the quality of the songs or the fame of the artists involved, although both are impressive; what ultimately makes this album work is the intelligence with which the two are paired. And though some of the combinations are obvious -- having the (( Who rip through "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)," for instance, or giving "The Bitch Is Back" to Tina Turner -- others, like Rod Stewart's "Your Song" or Kate Bush's airy "Rocket Man," are delightfully inspired.
Miles Davis/Michel Legrand (Warner Bros. 26438)
A great soundtrack album is one that can convey a sense of the film's drama even to those who haven't seen the film and have no idea what happens on screen, and the Miles Davis/Michel Legrand soundtrack "Dingo" is one such album. Of course, it helps that the film, which apparently concerns the relationship between a young Australian trumpeter and his jazz idol, features Davis in the latter role. But what carries the album are the musical characterizations, particularly when Davis is called upon to re-create his early '60s sound.