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The Independent Culture
Pete Townshend 'The Lifehouse' (Eel Pie)

The planned follow-up to Tommy finally sees the light in this six-CD box (available from www.petetownshend. co.uk) comprising two discs each of the futuristic Lifehouse play and original demos, one of orchestrations and a superb remixes, and live disc. In all, excellent brainfood from an often-overlooked genius. HHHH

Lazycame 'Finbegin' (Hot Tam)

The first of several upcoming projects from The Jesus and Mary Chain's William Reid, sees him adopting a stripped-down, less fuzzed approach that's heavily influenced by the chemical folk of Skip Spence. Jumping from endearing warmth to sheer eeriness, it's worth a listen. HHH

Sheryl Crow & Friends 'Live From Central Park' (A&M)

Crow's arena rock shows can often be a turgid, but she pushed the boat out at this concert and her "friends" (including Keith Richards, the Dixie Chicks and Chrissie Hynde) help out well to realise a reasonable lively album. HH

George Michael 'Songs from the Last Century' (Virgin)

An ambitious covers album ranging from Thirties showtunes to the Police's "Roxanne", sees Michael treat them all with affection, and while they're also painstakingly well-produced the result just feels like a well-timed close-of-the-century cash-in rather than a meaningful concept. HH

Mr Hankey's Christmas Classics - Dirty Version (Columbia)

While the South Park film used lewdness and blasphemy to meaningful effect, this anti-Xmas collection is unable to carry the barrage of jokes about Channukah, Garrison's xenophobia and the Virgin Mary giving Gabriel a blowjob. HH


William Orbit 'Barber's Adagio for Strings - Ferry Corsten Remix' (WEA)

Rounding off an incredible renaissance year for trance music, the man from Gouryella lifts Orbit's reworking of this classical piece into a joyous, euphoric, frantic and driven collage of beats that is going to be hard to escape this holiday season. HHHH