AC/DC (Atco 92212)
theory, a live album ought to be the easiest kind to make, since the only thing to worry about is making sure the microphones are on. So why aren't more concert recordings as accurate or energetic as AC/DC's latest, the aptly titled "Live"? Some of the credit no doubt belongs with producer Bruce Fairbairn, who keeps the guitars crisp and the drums punchy, and it obviously doesn't hurt that the set list includes all of the band's best-loved material, from "Highway to Hell" to the recent "Thunderstruck." But none of that would matter if not for the infectious enthusiasm of the band itself, for between Brian Johnson's lusty howl and Angus Young's frenzied fretwork, "Live" offers an approximation of an AC/DC show that's almost as good as being there.
Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack (MCA 10651)
Putting George Strait in the role of a country superstar isn't exactly casting against type, but what makes the soundtrack to "Pure Country" so believable is that almost every one of these songs sounds like a real-life hit. Granted, that's not much of a stretch when Strait is dealing with moist-eyed ballads like "I Cross My Heart" or the lovely, lyrical "Last in Love," since that sort of song has become one of the singer's specialties. But that isn't all we get here, and fans of his early albums will be especially delighted by the album's inclusion of sassy, Western swing tunes like "Overnight Male," or foot-stomping workouts like the anthemic "Heartland."
PLEASE DON'T GO (THE ALBUM)
K. W. S. (Next Plateau/London 422 828 368)
Ask most pop fans to name some of the most influential pop acts of the 1970s, and odds are some time would go by before anyone mentioned K. C. & the Sunshine Band. But after listening to "Please Don't Go (The Album)," it seems a fair bet that Harry Casey and his crew rank high on K. W. S.' personal hit list. After all, the album's three best songs are all Casey compositions (though, to be fair, it was George McCrea who had the hit with "Rock Your Baby"). And though K. W. S. does its best to update the Sunshine Band sound, no amount of synthesizers or house beats could camouflage the debt the combo owes.
A JOHN COLTRANE RETROSPECTIVE
John Coltrane (Impulse/GRP 119)
most fans would no doubt agree, jazz legend John Coltrane has been almost criminally under-represented on the boxed-set front. Now, with the 25th anniversary of his death, that's beginning to change -- but not quite enough. Although the massive "Complete Coltrane" set on Prestige does an admirable job of assembling his early work, the three-CD "A John Coltrane Retrospective" doesn't quite fill the bill for his later years. Granted, it makes a nice start for those interested in a sense of his stylistic range, but it shortchanges the saxophonist's legacy by not leaving room for the exploratory sprawl of pieces like "Ascension" or "Om."