ALBUM REVIEWS Tim Perry

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The Independent Culture
Garth Brooks `Garth Double Live' (Capitol) The often-derided Brooks is actually a very clever man and knows how to deliver his redneck rock on stage. An essential purchase for his fans, it does rock in places and has an excellent long version of his best song, "Friends in Low Places." HH

Jewel `Spirit' (EastWest) Though never unpleasant, Jewel's largely acoustic album of self-written songs never quite takes off and one wonder just how she's so much more successful in the US than the rest of the Lilith Fair posse. The recent album by Joni Mitchell, from whom she takes inspiration, deserves a listen before this. HH

The Pastels `Illuminati: The Pastels Remixes' (Domino) Sixteen patchy but occasionally brilliant reworkings of tracks by the venerable Scottish indie band. The best moments come from a chilled-out Kid Loco, fun-loving Stereolab and a soothing closer from Jim O'Rourke. HHH

Seal `Human Being' (Warner Bros) The great voice is still there - but in his rush to bring out his third album in almost eight years, Seal has forgotten the tunes. "Human Being" meanders along with little purpose and, despite a few bright intrusions from a large supporting cast, it's swamped by over-arrangement. HH

Various Artists `The Acid House' (EMI Soundtracks) Released some three months before the movie (presumably in the hope that Irvine Welsh junkies will buy it for Christmas) this is nothing remarkable. A uninspiring mix of indie (Verve, Pastels, Gyres, Oasis) and a few decent beats (BRA, Chemical Bros, Dimitri From Paris) it's no better than most music-mag freebies. HH

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Alabama 3 `Converted' (Elemental) The ugly radio-edit mix is the worst thing this fine band have recorded, but their own version and the extra track are dark, disturbing gems - hopefully more indicative of what this "pharmacountry" crew have to offer in the future. HHH

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