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Reviews of CDs by David Bowie, Sting and Drive by Truckers

Now Hear This

!B! David Bowie, "Hours"
!B! Sting, "Brand New Day"
!B! Drive By Truckers, "Pizza Deliverance"David Bowie, "Hours" (Virgin) - For years, people have called David Bowie a chameleon, but he is more like a pillow, retaining the shape of the last person who touched him. Everyone from Iggy Pop to Trent Reznor has laid his head on Bowie. The most recent person to leave an impression on Bowie is the Thin White Duke himself - circa 1972. His new CD, "Hours" has drawn much comparison to the pre-Ziggy "Hunky Dory," the album that gave us "Changes," "Oh, You Pretty Thing" and the dreamy futuristic classic, "Life on Mars?"

With "Hours," Bowie's most engaging record in recent memory, songs like "Seven" harken back to earlier melodies like "Lady Stardust." But Bowie isn't content simply to recreate the past here: He eschews the piano and sax of early Bowie in favor of heavy-duty synth sounds and drum loops. It's not just pandering to young people. Keeping those different-colored eyes squarely on the future, Bowie is one of the few artists who has managed to couple his longevity with actual musical relevance. In songs like "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell" and "If I'm Dreaming My Life," with a dirgy chorus that will echo in your head for days, the man who brought us into the 21st century 25 years ago enters it now with a glance back. He says as much in "Thursday's Child": "Throw me tomorrow/Seeing my past to let it go." He hasn't quite let it go with "Hours" and I hope he never really does. Now if he'd just put on a silver jumpsuit, we could really get down to business. - Janet Giampietro

Sting, "Brand New Day"(A&M) - For a long time Sting has been the guy men have forgiven their wives and girlfriends for swooning over - he's just that cool. Yet Sting's cool derives not from the fact that he looks and sounds great without really trying, but from his fantastically well-written, always literate and occasionally perfect songs. So fans accustomed to releases full of great new catchy, moving tunes are bound to be disappointed by what sounds upon repeated, careful listening like unwitting self-plagiarism.

This is not a bad album, certainly not by today's standards. But the only thing new about "Brand New Day" is Sting's incorporation of trendy world music and his adoption of digitized synthesizer and drum tracks.

The result is a series of new-sounding but still vaguely familiar tunes that seem to deny the musical progress Sting made on his last album, "Mercury Falling." Instead, on "Brand New Day" Sting appears to strive for a high-tech, world-beat remix of the commercially more successful "Ten Summoner's Tales."

The best song on "Brand New Day" is the sparsely arranged "Ghost Story," a simple matching of acoustic guitar to lyric that contains an inspired bridge and poignant ending.

With "Brand New Day," Sting has done the near-impossible: crafted 10 eclectic, internally perfect songs, most of which, nonetheless, are at best utterly unaffecting. - Rob Morano

Drive By Truckers, "Pizza Deliverance" (Soul Dump Records) - Some would call it alt-country or Americana or Southern garage rock, but whatever you call it, ya better holler!

Trucks with whiskey bottles rolling around on the floorboards, mommas that chase you outta the barn with a shotgun, filterless Camels in T-shirt pockets and dark blue mechanic's coveralls covered in grease are some of the images stirred up by the Drive By Truckers newest album "Pizza Deliverance." The title reflects the down-home humor these proud-to-be-rednecks sprinkle throughout. Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Rob Malone - all born and bred in Muscle Shoals, Ala. - write, sing and trade places on guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin. Brad Morgan, from Greenville, S.C., plays drums.

Just like stories told from creaking wooden rockers on the porch, the songs on this album are colorful, fun, humorous and touching. "Too Much Sex (too Little Jesus)" is guaranteed to get stuck in your head as it quickly rumbles along with sharp strumming and surprisingly tender vocals. "Bulldozers and Dirt," an homage to trailer-park living, slowly unfolds with pretty pickin' and scratchy vocals.

These guys aren't making fun of the rural South any more than they're putting on their drawls; they're just singin' about what they know with equal doses of humor and melancholy. Check out the Drive by Truckers live on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at Humphrey J's. - Carrie Nieman

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