Various Artists

Adult Alternative Collection, Vol. 3

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The third compilation in this series sports a white CD label in contrast to the beige of volume one and the blue on natural aluminum of volume two. These very classy collections of music from around the North American continent are issued in the tradition of Warner Bros.' Attack of the Killer B's, Revenge of the Killer B's, and other budget-anthology discs like those issued under that label's Loss Leaders imprint. Record Show, The Big Ball, and other titles were available for two dollars via mail order in the 1970s and three decades later, has resurrected the idea without changing the price too much. Pushing the limits of what a CD can hold, the 20 tracks on the third disc come in at over 78 minutes, more than the two previous volumes. It's amazing stuff that you, sadly and probably, will not hear on AAA radio. New York's Jennifer Barrett's "My Guitar" is previously unreleased -- like some of the titles sprinkled across these collections (one of the selling points of the Warner series), and it is a standout -- jangle guitar meets 1960s Donovan with a touch of Joan Jett's angst. Pennsylvania act Gentle Soul's "It's Only Roy" is a tribute to Carl Wilson from the album Art Is on Vacation. The song is just a tremendous re-creation of the Beach Boys, quirky enough to make your ears perk up in wonderment. The title track to Andy Pratt's I'm Alright disc is on here, along with New Yorker Jon Pousette-Dart's "It's About Time," both titles bringing some familiar voices into the mix. Philadelphia's Kevin Hanson is jazz-meets-Brit rock on "Just Because" -- heavy keyboards form a nice undercurrent, letting the George Harrison-style guitar lines embellish these otherworld lyrics on a song of goodbye. It's all a dizzying array of sound, with the only downside being that it might be too much of a good thing. Pratt and Pousette-Dart have established followings, but how many know of New York's Jon Herington, Canada's Janet Panic, Detroit's Eclectica, or Colorado's J.D. Martin? Perhaps a disc jockey opening and closing the discs, announcing the first ten titles, and backtracking the final ten would give these deserving artists a bit more recognition. The limitations of four-page CD booklets (this writer enlarged them on the Xerox machine for these reviews) and the succession of different melodies might let some of the music get lost in the shuffle -- but for a few bucks, the complaint is a minor one. Producer Dean Sciarra's ability to find great tracks from so many artists and let them flow so majestically is a talent in itself. Developing anthologies of music that expose deserving talent, entertaining while enlightening, is not an easy task. The music here is a joy to listen to from start to finish, and some clever A&R guy would be well-advised to pick up on Jan Garrett (also from Colorado), with her Christine McVie-flavored voice and Karla Bonoff approach. Real tasty material all the way around.