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Reviews of CDs by Matraca Berg, Puff Daddy and John Popper 

CD Reviews

Matraca Berg, "Lying to the Moon & Other Stories"Puff Daddy, "Forever"John Popper, "Zygote"
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"Why Didn't You Call Me""Do Something""Caligula"

Real Audio Required -->Matraca Berg, "Lying to the Moon & Other Stories" (RCA) — Nashville-bred singer-songwriter Matraca Berg's contemporary country tunes have been recorded by everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Pam Tillis to Patty Loveless. But Berg has never really broken through as an artist herself, despite winning Country Music Association Song of the Year honors in 1996 and receiving high praise from many of today's female country stars for her writing.

For "Stories," Berg and producers collected a group of her previously released songs in an attempt to reintroduce her as an artist in her own right. The result is a wide-ranging effort that's partly magic and partly mediocre, and at the risk of chauvinist generalization, it's one that probably speaks more directly to women than to men. The title song is simply gorgeous; "Back When We Were Young" and "Alice in the Looking Glass" are hauntingly thoughtful tunes. But much of the rest is middle-of-the-road '90s country music that plays on every well-worn woman-vs.-man cliché in the catalog.

Berg has won awards and acclaim and many who know music are in her corner. But to these ears, this CD is feast or famine. Some of the tunes are terrific keepers, but I don't want to hear the others again.

— Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"Savage Night""Flesh & Soul""Shakin' All Over"

Real Audio Required-->Puff Daddy, "Forever" (Bad Boy Records) — It hasn't been a good year to be a Bad Boy. First, Mase's "Double Up" is a critical disaster and moderate commercial success. Then, he leaves Bad Boy to focus on his relationship with God.

The label then dropped a seven-digit signing bonus on hip-hop agent Shyne, only to have him branded a "Biggie knock-off."

Things haven't improved with Puff Daddy's latest. Critics will be ... critical. Highly critical. Fans will feel shortchanged by the remix master. Somehow, it will still go multiplatinum.

There's an impressive assortment of featured artists — from the Bad Boy stables and hired guns. "Do You Like It ... Do You Want It ..." features Jay-Z and "Fake Thugs Dedication" hosts Redman. Both are huge disappointments. "Angels With Dirty Faces," with Bizzy Bone, is decent, but nothing to write home about.

One of the two winners here is "Journey Through Life," featuring Lil' Kim, Nas, Bennie Sigel and Joe Hooker. It has a good hook and a tight beat. The other is "Satisfy You" featuring R. Kelly.

Listening to this disc is like watching Jordan play baseball. Remember? He was better at it than you or I will probably ever be, but it just wasn't the same.

— Joseph Jones, The Virginian-Pilot


Play These Songs"Summertime""My Funny Valentine""All Soul"

Real Audio Required-->John Popper, "Zygote" (A&M Records) — Sooner or later, it seems, they all feel the need to do a solo record. Just bare the vocal cords and let her rip. Nothing wrong with that.

So here's big John Popper, who drives Blues Traveler into a free-form frenzy, without the band, without his harmonica (on half the disc, anyway), without the frenzy.

"Zygote" has some nice songs on it. "Love for Free" rolls along , kicks into high gear at the chorus and features a mild harmonica solo. To Blues Traveler fans, the good songs will sound familiar, for those who love Popper's touching, high-pitched vocals, this CD is for you.

But many of the songs are rock ballads that drag. At those points, fans will be imploring Popper to bring back the band and jam.

— Lon Wagner, The Virginian-Pilot
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