Picks and Pans Review: Recent Raves

updated 02/27/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/27/2006 01:00AM

The Notorious B.I.G.,Duets: The Final Chapter This deftly executed disc—on which freshly produced tracks pair old Biggie rhymes with new ones by a who's who of hip-hop—shows just why the late rapper remains a vital force.

Beth Orton, Comfort of Strangers Her most stripped-down and accessible effort to date showcases Orton's ability as an instrumentalist, featuring the singer-songwriter on guitar, piano and harmonica.

Jack Johnson, Curious George soundtrack The ever-mellow surfer dude gets in touch with his inner simian on fanciful folk-pop ditties that will have both kiddies and grown-ups happily singing along.

Duncan Sheik, White Limousine On the follow-up to 2002's shimmering Daylight, this underappreciated artist continues to make rich, melodic pop that is at once literate and lovely.

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