**** Devil Creme Cake
*** Fudge Rounds
** Easter Puffs
* Raisin Creme Pies

No More Drama

Hey, ladies! If you're looking for that perfect disc to go bumpin' around town during a night out with the gals, this is it! Mary J. sheds the niceties of the past and gets it percolatin' with some jazz-nasty ghetto soul specially designed for head-noddin', rump-bumpin', and makin' love all damn day. Filled with wicked beats, courtesy of Dr. Dre, the Neptunes, Jimmy Jam, Missy Elliot, and more, Mary's vocals soar from satiny sweet to down-right hollerin'; especially in "Love," which puts En Vogue's faux-punk declarations of self-empowerment to shame. And unlike other chocolate divas, Mary J. has a surprising sense of humor, as exhibited in her ode to premenstrual cramps called "PMS," set to the sultry tones of Al Green's "Simply Beautiful." In fact, out of the 17 songs (!!) on this jam-packed disc, only two are crap (three if you count the dumb spoken-word poem "Forever No More"). But after hearing this release? As far as I'm concerned, Mary J. can do whatever she wants. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Take a Picture

Have I been duped? I feel foolish admitting that I've never heard of this Margo Guryan person prior to now. I expect to hear, "You've never heard Margo Guryan?" or "Oh, yeah, that's a fake. That was recorded last year and made to look and sound like an authentic '70s pop album." But it wasn't. According to the liner notes, Guryan's disdain for performing live and lack of attention from radio stations contributed to the silent passing of her material into musical oblivion. Having studied under the likes of jazz greats Ornette Coleman, Milt Jackson, and Max Roach, Guryan's versions of light '70s pop have an underlying jazz feel, not unlike many pop artists of this period. But what sets Guryan apart is her unmistakably whispery yet dominating vocal style. That asset, and an isolated drive to fulfill her own creative needs above generic pop expectations, have made Take a Picture a pertinent record. JOE FAUSTIN KELLY



[KINSELLA ALERT!--arts ed.] Mike Kinsella recorded this album in the basement of his mom's house and named it after his car, Owen. I think that comfort level adds to the sincerity of the CD. It's slow and depressed, sort of early Elliot Smith-like (or more than sort of), but it's sweet and Kinsella's voice is smooth, dark, and hollow sounding, like it's echoing in an auditorium. He plays an acoustic guitar, which is occasionally layered over itself, and his adept playing is concise as usual. As an integral member of Cap'n Jazz, American Football, Joan of Arc, and Owls, Kinsella can almost do no wrong in my eyes, and even though this CD shuns the rock and goes with the restrained and sad, I think it's just perfect. KATIE SHIMER