Various Artists (Warner Bros. 26974)
At first glance, it's tempting to think of the Olympic-themed "Barcelona Gold" as a sort of pop/rock Dream Team. After all, the artists assembled here are some of the biggest in the business, ranging from Madonna to Rod Stewart, to Keith Sweat, and to Sarah Brightman. Listen to it, though, and the album quickly becomes a lesson in how less becomes more. Trying desperately hard to be everything to everybody, the album has no focus or sense of center; instead, the music ambles aimlessly from rap to R&B to country to light classical. As such, the few standout tracks -- Madonna's "This Used to Be My Playground," for example, or Marc Cohn's lovely "Old Soldier" -- are marooned in a sea of mediocrity that stretches from such treacly tributes as Randy Travis' "The Heart to Climb the Mountain" to leftovers like En Vogue's "Free Your Mind." Next time, why not the best?
I AIN'T NO PLAYBOY
C.J. Chenier (Slash 26788)
Because the late Clifton Chenier was proclaimed "King of Zydeco" by dint of hard work and artistic ingenuity, it wouldn't be fair for his son, C. J. Chenier, to inherit the throne simply through an accident of birth. Thankfully, C. J. has no intention of taking the easy road, and "I Ain't No Playboy" suggests that his claims to squeezebox supremacy are less a matter of birthright than of sheer talent. Like his dad, C. J. knows how to blend the two-step intensity of traditional Creole dance tunes with the funkier feel of the blues, and the chemistry between the rhythm section and his accordion riffs is nothing short of awesome. But C. J. is also smart enough to know when to add extra color to his sound, and touches like the slide guitar solos on "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Long Hard Road" are what give this album its edge.