The Critics: RECORDS

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ROCK

James Iha: Let It Come Down (Hut, CD). If your band were best known for death, drug addiction, looming walls of noise and a frightening man with a shaven head, you'd want to take a break, too. This is the first solo outing from the guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins, and, rather unexpectedly, it's a sweetly tuneful, sun-kissed pleasure. Acoustic guitars, pedal steels and twanging arpeggios set a country-pop mood, violins and pianos get all plaintive, and Iha's straining, untrained voice picks its way through 11 summer-evening serenades. And at 40 minutes, it's mercifully shorter than your average Pumpkins opus too. A record that's not afraid to say, "Feel the warmth love gives/ To everyone and everything/ I know you feel the same/ Do-do-do do do", Let It Come Down is recommended for fans of James Taylor, Neil Young, Ron Sexsmith, Teenage Fanclub or the quieter, soppier moments of Pearl Jam and REM. Recommended for everyone except Smashing Pumpkins fans, really. Nicholas Barber

CLASSICAL

Dominick Argento: An American Romantic. Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota/Philip Brunelle (Collins Classics, CD). Dominick Argento might have been what Julian Lloyd Webber had in mind the other week when he made his European Summit plea for tuneful music. Except of course, that Argento's tunefuleness is all-American and doesn't offer much to cellists. His entire output is voice-driven (there are 10 operas, none of them ever heard this side of the Atlantic) and a lot of choral music - which is what you get on this disc, unaccompanied or with piano. The "American romantic" sums it up: the writing here is soft-edged with a tenderly inviting lyricism. You could call it listener-friendly. But it's never obvious or crass. The friendliness is for discerning listeners, and the response to text - settings of Wallace Stevens, Robert Herrick, Keats - immaculately crafted. Heavily in debt to Britten but no worse for that. Michael White

JAZZ

Miles Davis/Bill Laswell: Panthalassa (Columbia, CD). So who exactly is this record by? The sub-title, 'The Music of Miles Davis 1969-74', gives us a clue but it doesn't tell the whole story. Producer Bi11 Laswell gets his credit for "Reconstruction and Mix Translation", which basically means he's mucked about with some of Miles's most trance-like electric music, beginning with the already sublime "In a Silent Way". What he comes up with is even heavier on the trance than the original and while it remains interesting, it's rarely as interesting as the albums it feeds so parasitically from, consigning the genius of modern music to history's chill-out room. And while we're at it, is Laswell - who has a massively hip reputation but is really rather like a Hollywood script doctor, only with music - actually any good? If he is, I've yet to hear the evidence. Anyway, next month's six-CD box set of Miles's quartets with Wayne Shorter will more than redress the balance. Phil Johnson

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