HONEYMOON IN VEGAS
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(Epic Soundtrax 52845)
Elvis Presley recorded more than his share of soundtrack albums, but there's nothing in his catalog quite as eclectic as "Honeymoon in Vegas." A combination soundtrack/tribute album, "Honeymoon" offers Elvis cover tunes from a variety of rock and country stars. Some, Billy Joel's dead-on Elvis impression on "All Shook Up," are completely conventional; others are utterly idiosyncratic, like Bryan Ferry's ultra-mannered Are You Lonesome Tonight?" or Bono's eerie, ethereal take on "Can't Help Falling in Love." But despite a few failures (Jeff Beck's guitar trashing of "Hound Dog," for instance), the best tracks -- like Travis Tritt's fiery take on "Burning Love" -- capture
both the energy and audacity of the originals.
Elton John (MCA 10614)
Even though Elton John's songs are no longer as guileless and effervescent as they were in the '70s, it would be a mistake to say that he has somehow lost his way with a melody. Quite the opposite. In fact, many of the songs on his latest album, "The One," are just as tuneful and insinuating as any of his early efforts -- it's only the mood of the music that has changed. Because his strengths these days run more to elegant, mournful melodies, the best numbers on this album tend to be somewhat downbeat, like the sad-and-catchy "When a Woman Doesn't Want You" or the reflective, elegiac title tune. But that hardly keeps the album from throwing sparks; indeed, "Runaway Train," recorded with Eric Clapton, offers one of his most energetic performances in years.
BUSINESS NEVER PERSONAL
EPMD (RAL/Chaos 52848)
Most rap artists obsess on superlatives: Having the fattest beats, the freshest loops, the dopiest rhymes. But Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith -- the E and P of EPMD -- prefer to play it cool, figuring that quiet confidence is far more impressive than any boast. Maybe that's why "Business Never Personal" is so likeably low-key; these guys always sound like the real deal, whether riding the easy-rolling funk of "Crossover" or playing off the pumping insistence of a track like "Boon Dox." And though the album occasionally stumbles (as on the who-cares whodunit, "Who Killed Jane"), it never falls. And that ensures that this "Business" will be a success.
Damn Yankees (Warner Bros. 45025)
When Damn Yankees first hit the scene two years ago, this ersatz supergroup -- including Tommy Shaw of Styx, Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Ted Nugent -- was sneeringly dismissed by the rock press as just another AOR gimmick. But the combo's sophomore effort, "Don't Tread," suggests that a total reconsideration is in order. Not only are the songs sharper this time around, with memorable melodies and sure-fire choruses, but the playing is clean and cohesive throughout. As a result, the album is full of the sort of guilty pleasures rock critics rarely admit to, from the anthemic refrain of "Fifteen Minutes of Fame" to the full-throttle boogie of "Dirty Dog."