Newest Dylan is not inspired, but close


Bob Dylan (Columbia 57590) In some ways, the most interesting thing about Bob Dylan's "World Gone Wrong" isn't the way he recasts folk classics like "Two Soldiers" and "Delia," but the way he describes the songs in his liner notes. After all, it's one thing to hear him stomp through the ragtime rhythms of "Stack-a-Lee," something else entirely to read that Stack "is not some egotistical degraded existentialist dionysian idiot," and that "the Authentic alternative lifestyle [is] the Agrarian one." And while few of the performances here are as revelatory or inspired as those, say, on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," they're closer than Dylan has come in a long time.



Eazy E (Ruthless 5503)


Anyone who knows the video for "Dre Day" saw how Dr. Dre took a few shots at his former N.W.A. mate, Eazy E. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Eazy shoots back on his latest release, a vile-tempered EP called "It's On 187um Killa." Trouble is, after calling Dre every name in the book (and quite a few that aren't), Eazy doesn't really have much to say, beyond insisting that he and his crew are the "Real [expletive] G's," and boasting that he's "Still a Nigga." And frankly, we've heard it all before -- including the booming, Dre-style beats behind Eazy's drawl. So even though the war may be officially "on," Eazy is definitely "off."


Various Artists (Arista 18737)

From the first, the Red Hot Organization has tried to use pop music to raise money and awareness to fight AIDS. First came the all-star Cole Porter tribute "Red, Hot + Blue," then the club music compilation, "Red, Hot + Dance." The latest is "No Alternative," which (naturally) is built around performances by alternative rock acts, including Soul Asylum, the Breeders, Smashing Pumpkins and an uncredited performance by Nirvana. you'd expect from a 19-song collection (21 on the cassette), some tracks shine brighter than others, but the best of the lot -- like Bob Mould's jangly "Can't Fight It" or Sarah McLachlan's impassioned "Hold On" -- are simply stunning.


PJ Harvey (Island 314 518 450)

Falling somewhere between a rough draft and a blueprint, the demo recording has long been an important step in the recording process. But it's not one the fans usually hear, in part because it lacks the polish of a finished recording, but mostly because the artist rarely sounds as naked on an album as he or she does in a demo. PJ Harvey's "4-Track Demos" is a case in point. Even though most of the songs included here can also be found on Harvey's "Rid of Me" album, the differences between the two can be revealing. On "Rub 'Til It Bleeds" and "50ft Queenie," the stripped-down sound of the demos conveys a lusty aggression that's lost in the full-band versions, while the demos for "Legs" and "Ecstacy" expose a bluesy passion the "Rid of Me" renditions barely hint at. For all their rough edges, the performances on "Demos" cut "Rid of Me" to shreds.