For music lovers who have it all, you can find more


December 20, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Giving the gift of music is easy -- provided you know what to give. And most of the time, knowing is as easy as keeping track of which artists those on your list most like hearing.

But not always. A new album would be just the thing for that receptionist who adores Mariah Carey -- except that he already owns both of her albums, plus the "MTV Unplugged EP." Or say you want to buy something for your lawyer the music fan, but all you know about her taste is that she has every album Frank Sinatra ever made. And what do you do about cousin Chris, who loves Anita Baker and feels frustrated because there's no new Anita album to buy this year?

How do you shop for such people?

Easy: You simply start with what you know, and extrapolate. Take the Carey fan, for example. If he already has all of her albums, why not try the Trey Lorenz album, "Trey Lorenz" (Epic 47840). His name may not ring a bell, but it was he who took the Jermaine Jackson part in Carey's remake of the Jackson Five's "I'll Be There." And Carey returns the favor by producing his sparkling, soulful debut.

Likewise, if your lawyer loves the swinging sound of Sinatra, she'd undoubtedly enjoy Tony Bennett's "Perfectly Frank" (Columbia 52965). A heartfelt tribute by one of Sinatra's own favorite singers, this album -- devoted to "the torch and saloon songs of Frank Sinatra" -- would be a welcome addition to any Sinatra-lover's collection.

As for Chris the Anita Baker-booster, Miki Howard's "Femme Fatale" (Giant 24452) could be just the ticket. Howard's sultry, jazz-inflected phrasing is remarkably similar to Baker's, but her taste in material is a good bit broader, ranging from Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache" to Sly Stone's "Thank You for Talkin' to Me Africa."

But what if you can't come up with an ideal alternative on your own? No problem. What follows is a range of suggestions, listed by style, designed to help the holiday shopper who hasn't spent the last year listening to four or five new albums every day.

Thanks to Bill Clinton's embrace of "Don't Stop," Fleetwood Mac seems hipper than it has in years. If you were feeling especially generous, you could spring for "The Chain" (Warner Bros. 45129), the new, four-CD boxed set from Fleetwood Mac. Or you could give your Mac addict something just as delightful: F.M. alum Lindsey Buckingham's "Out of the Cradle" (Reprise 26182), an exquisitely tuneful album that's as ear-grabbing as anything on "The Chain."

Sometimes, it's easy to make a match between an old favorite and a new discovery. Fans of the Georgia Satellites, for example, ought to adore the witty wordplay and roots-rock punch of Dan Baird's "Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired" (Def American 26999) -- no surprise, considering that Baird used to be a Satellite himself. And there are moments on Paul Brady's lustrous "Songs & Crazy Dreams" (Fontana 512397) where you'd swear you were listening to some half-forgotten Dire Straits album.

Other artists, though, are so singular in their sound that it makes more sense to find a performer whose music has a similar feel. For instance, anyone who enjoys the quiet, confessional approach of early Joni Mitchell will be pleasantly surprised by the Tori Amos album "Little Earthquakes" (Atlantic 82358). And any listener who remembers the edgy excitement of the Pretenders' first album is probably ripe for P.J. Harvey's "Dry" (Indigo 162-555-001), an angular, eccentric, utterly entrancing blend of guitar aggression and melodic invention.

Is there a Rolling Stones devotee on your list? Then look for Ronnie Wood's "Slide On This" (Continuum 19210), which finds the guitarist working with fellow Stone Charlie Watts and former Faces pianist Ian McLagan, as well as Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and U2's the Edge. Should something a little bluesier be in order, the Red Devils' debut, "King King" (Def American 26795), is as rough-edged and raw as any early Butterfield Blues Band LP, while Robben Ford's "Robben Ford & the Blue Line" (Stretch 1102) is the next best thing to a new Stevie Ray Vaughan album.

What if you're shopping for a fan of the Seattle sound? No problem. Pearl Jam fans, for instance, should go ga-ga for the churning guitars and tuneful vocals on "Sweet Oblivion" (Epic 48996) by Screaming Trees. Those bowled over by Nirvana's re-invention of punk rock will be similarly thrilled by Sugar's "Copper Blue" (Ryko 10239), an album that's loud, catchy and dangerously addictive.

Metal maniacs tend to be the most loyal of all rock and rollers, so finding something for them can be particularly intimidating. Don't worry, though. Any Guns N' Roses fan will find something to like about former Gunner Izzy Stradlin's gritty debut, "Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds" (Geffen 24490). And if you know someone who likes Metallica, there's a good chance that they'll be similarly entranced by the sound of Biohazard, whose "Urban Discipline" (Roadrunner 9112) is one of the freshest-sounding thrash albums in ages.

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