The Essential Marvin Gaye (2005) ? Marvin Gaye Don?t believe the title. This isn?t anywhere close to the essential stuff. This is, to begin with, entirely live cuts of Gaye?s biggest hits. Not only that, but the live recordings are absolutely awful; this is one of the worst sounding CDs I?ve ever heard. The sound is muddy and usually one or two of the instruments are fully fifty percent louder than everything else on the track. These are great songs and it?s true that Gaye was a powerhouse live, but you can do better than this. Well, really, just start with What?s Goin? On and then move from there. This is a disastrously bad album. All I Really Want For Christmas (2005) ? Steven Curtis Chapman Like everything Chapman?s done since Declaration, this is patchy. Most of this album is rote, but it has moments that are really brilliant. O Little Town of Bethlehem gets slowed down to a glacial pace in a piano based version drenched in sorrow and melancholy, for example. And Chapman?s classic Christmas is All In the Heart gets a great re-recording here with Vince Gill contributing some astonishingly evocative guitar lines. The album as a whole isn?t worth your time, but those two songs probably are. Fingers Crossed (2004) ? Architecture in Helsinki Australian group mixes up indie pop with electronic pop and creates a confection so sickeningly sweet it?ll turn your stomach. The first vocals on this album are quite literally an incredibly high pitched, breathy female voice singing, ?La la la la la la la la.? It kind of stays in that mode for the whole album which is mercifully short. The singers croon in a sort of breathy castrato warble over gently plucked guitars and light electronic percussion and beeps and twits and such. Did I say twits? I meant tweets. Or did I? The only interesting track is the wordless Spring 2008, which has an odd Japanese tinge to it. Beyond that, even at two minutes these songs are too long and too twee for human consumption. Ick. 1 (2000) ? The Beatles Slammed by a lot of people as a pure experiment in marketing. I couldn?t care less about that though. What do I care about? I care about the fact that this CD has twenty-friggin?-seven of the greatest pop songs you?ll ever hear in your friggin? life jammed together in a chronological dance through the career of the best pop group in history. From Love Me Do to The Long and Winding Road, this album covers it all in, up until just last year, the best remastered sound in which one could hear The Beatles. Every time through this album, you discover something new even in songs you?ve heard hundreds of times before; these songs will never die, not ever, and this CD is a blisteringly wonderful listening experience. Well, okay, so Yellow Submarine sucks and always has and All You Need Is Love really sucks and always will, but other than that, this is something like the Platonic Ideal of pop music. Incredible; no one will ever equal this stuff. Bad (1987) ? Michael Jackson A lesser album than his two solo masterpieces, Thriller and Off the Wall, but still a worthy album. The production sounds more dated here than on either Thriller or Off the Wall and occasionally that matters. On the sweeping, stupendous Man in the Mirror, the violent, gruesome Smooth Criminal, the paranoid rant Leave Me Alone, and the brilliant groupie bash Dirty Diana, it doesn?t. Special brickbats reserved for Just Good Friends; Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson and you couldn?t come up with anything better than this crap? Please.