Thalía (EMI Latin)

Despite the success of Shakira's recent English-language debut, Thalía—another one of the biggest-selling female artists in Latin America—does not say adios to Spanish on her lively latest. The Mexican soap-opera star, who is married to Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola (Mariah Carey's ex), sings 11 tracks in her native tongue while recording just three in English. The festive but formulaic results reflect much of the Latin crossover acts of recent years, including writing and production by Emilio Estefan Jr. and Cory Rooney, who have worked with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. The latter provides backup vocals on "The Mexican 2002," a sexy dance number that is featured in both Spanish and English. But with these mindless lyrics, you're better off without the translation.

Bottom Line: Bland fiesta fare

Kenny Chesney (BNA)

Despite the carefree title of his sixth studio album, country heartthrob Kenny Chesney isn't just kicking up his bare feet and flexing his pecs. A Nashville veteran at 34, he waxes philosophical on this surprisingly mature effort, which is entertaining though somewhat diffuse. On one tune, "The Good Stuff," he imagines the joys of grandfatherhood (a bit of a stretch given that the single Chesney doesn't even have any kids yet), while on another, "Young," he expounds on the pleasures and excesses of youth. The singer, whose vocals are emphatic if unexceptional, also delivers an introspective rendition of Bruce Springsteen's brooding 1987 ballad "One Step Up," a none-too-romantic look at love. In an attempt to enliven the meditative mood, the drummers sometimes seem to be flailing away, but they needn't have worried. As Chesney proves here, not every country song has to have a pickup truck in it.

Bottom Line: Thinking man's country

The Breeders (Elektra)

Grunge may be dead, but somebody forgot to tell the Breeders. The quintet, led by identical twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, rock like it's 1993 on their first studio album since, well, 1993. (In the interim, Kim formed a new band, the Amps, while Kelley battled a drug problem.) The raw, unpolished music on the new disc sounds as if it was simply played, not produced. The Breeders come by their rude rock honestly: They didn't use any computers or digital technology when making Title TK (publishing jargon for "title to come"); this is an analog-only recording. Their sometimes jarring approach may not be for sensitive ears—the extended bit of feedback on one song will have you checking your stereo system—but fast and furious tracks like "Full on Idle" and "Huffer" pack a refreshing rush.

Bottom Line: Unrefined Breeding

Bryan Ferry (Virgin)

Album of the week

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Like a classic motorcycle or vintage Wayfarers, Bryan Ferry is enduringly cool. On his first album of mostly original material since 1994, the former Roxy Music frontman remains the Sultan of Style, delivering a cocktail-party-ready collection of arty sophisto-pop. Incorporating blues, country and folk into his richly textured rock, Ferry creates a dreamy place where Avalon meets the heartland. Although Ferry has found a kindred songwriting partner in former Eurythmic Dave Stewart—with whom he composed four tunes, including the gorgeous "Goddess of Love"—he hasn't forgotten his Roxy mates: He cowrote the lilting closer "I Thought" with Brian Eno, who also supplies backing vocals and keyboards, and brings in drummer Paul Thompson for a few good licks. Ultimately, though, this disc belongs to Ferry and his haunting tremolo.

Bottom Line: Ferry good

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs claims he's a new man. "My player days are over," says Combs, 32, who never bristles when people call him Puffy. When they do, he says, "I don't care. I'm not crazy." For now, he is content to play P. Daddy to his three sons, ages 4 to 9, who are already following in his footsteps. "They love music and hanging out in the studio," he says. While the jury is still out on his name change, Combs has no regrets. "It may not have worked for Prince," he says with a laugh, "but it worked for me."

It certainly hasn't hurt. P. Diddy has a new album, We Invented the Remix, that just hit stores, a fashion line and a side gig as an actor (he had a role in Monster's Ball). But being "happy, single" and healed from his much-publicized breakup with Jennifer Lopez last year, he's not ruling out another "high-profile" romance. "If I love 'em," he says, "I'm gonna be with them."

Like Frank Sinatra—whose panache Combs likens his own to—he is doing it his way. "He had his Ava Gardner, his peaks and valleys in his career, but at the end of the day I think he won in the game of life," Combs says. "I like his style."

A BEAUTIFUL WORLD Take 6 (Warner Bros.) This Grammy-winning vocal sextet brings tight harmonies and a sanctified jazz-gospel sound to covers of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" and Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," among others.

TREY ANASTASIO Trey Anastasio (Elektra) The Phish head turns out his first solo effort with funky, horn-laced tunes like "Alive Again" and winding jams like the 11-minute "Last Tube," which should go over swimmingly with Phish fans.

THE LAST WALTZ The Band (Warner Bros./Rhino) The reissued, remastered soundtrack to the 1976 film of the Band's last concert—with guests ranging from Neil Young to Neil Diamond—adds 24 previously unreleased tracks.

  • Contributors:
  • Chuck Arnold,
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Joseph V. Tirella.