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Ned Massey
Almost Drowned

More than 10 years ago, gritty singer-songwriter Ned Massey was discovered by John Hammond, the legendary music industry executive credited with discovering Bruce Springsteen. When Hammond died, Massey found himself back at square one. But Massey's no stranger to life's hard knocks. After nearly drowning as a child, he became painfully aware of the harsh realities of life. "I wasn't stronger, just more scared/I wasn't smarter, just a little more aware," he sings on the title track. Massey's long-overdue debut incorporates a rough, guitar-driven classic rock sound with keen reflective lyrics. "Old Enough to Drink," for instance, offers this sobering observation: "You're old enough to dream and big enough to talk/And one of these days you'll see every scheme shattered on the rocks." (Sarah Quelland)

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Q-Burns Abstract Message
Feng Shui

Soothing and eclectic, the combination of trip-pop, acid jazz and world music on Feng Shui is uplifting without being insipidly New Agey. A combination of tinkly melodic synthesizers, lulling beats, warm, organic strings and chanting voices from all over the globe, the album delivers a soul-caressing sonic balm. The title song is especially lovely, with a sultry female voice speaking in French over a spare techno backdrop. Also wonderful is "Kinda Picky," with its Middle Eastern singing segueing into an echoey, abstractly melodic seesaw. The incantatory positivity of "A.S.T." recalls the merger between psychedelic rock and electronic music of Primal Scream and the Stone Roses--a hybrid that's rarely done so well and naturally anymore. (Michelle Goldberg)

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Various Artists

If you're not a diehard fan, keeping up with electronic music's mutating microgenres is nearly impossible. Modulations, the album accompaniment to Iara Lee's documentary of the same name, is both a quick tour through the music's evolution and a great classics collection in its own right. Starting with Donna Summer's prototypical aural orgasm, "I Feel Love," Modulations proceeds with hip-hop and electro pioneer Africa Bambaataa and Detroit techno hero Juan Atkins, then moves on through Chicago house, hard-core jungle, ambient and trip-hop. The abrupt transitions between moods and genres would likely irritate electronica devotees, but they're not really the intended audience for this album. Still, no matter how knowledgeable you are, Derrick May's gorgeous house classic "Strings of Life" is always worth another listen. (Michelle Goldberg)

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From the November 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro.

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