Various Artists

Adult Alternative Collection, Vol. 2

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With 13 minutes more than the previous collection, over 77 minutes of music, Kenny White gives a stunning "In My Recurring Dream" with the great Duke Robillard on guitar. Almost a response to the first volume's opening track, with Kati Mac's "Einstein's Dream" diversity rules and the brain is given a lot of sounds and styles to absorb from inside this genre. It is sophisticated music for an older crowd, pop that dabbles with jazz and mature rock. The liner notes here give the cities where this music emanates from: Boston for Eric Colville's harder-edged "Afraid to Dance," Philadelphia for the exotic and steamy Gray Eye Glances, while Brad Yoder's previously unreleased "Bad Day" hales from Pittsburgh. Detroit's Rich Nelson with his "Take Me to the Sky" draws more from a low-key Genesis than his namesake, Rick Nelson, though Ricky Nelson was one of the pioneers of adult alternative album music, if you think about it.

Boston's the Griffins find themselves co-produced by the legendary Ducky Carlisle and rock a little harder than many of the acts. Mike Benjamin has a touch of James and Liv Taylor, and not surprisingly he comes from Vineyard Haven, MA. This particular collection from Itsaboutmusic.com is pretty much localized (except for Berm's wonderfully poppy "Tonight" from down under in New Zealand, or Chris Max, who is from San Francisco by way of Paris). These are mostly acts found around Boston, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, with a couple of others from the Midwest. It's smart-sounding rock with an emphasis on strong melodies and lyrics that actually make sense. A consistent sampling from so many artists, volume two also brings up a notion that what might have been considered mainstream FM in the '80s is now its own fully blossoming, hip underground genre of music too smart for constricted radio formats. It flows wonderfully and features a unique instrumental in "Choir of Angels" by Symphony -- all instruments performed by New York's Joseph T. Lor. That's followed by a classic track from the all-girl band Isis, produced by the Shangri-La's' Shadow Morton. If they sound like they've been listening to Genya Ravan, that's because some of the gals actually played with her in Goldie & the Gingerbreads, and their innovative sound from years ago fits in very nicely here. A lost gem which shimmers in this setting.