BRUCE HORNSBY; "Hot House" (BMG/RCA). * * * 1/2
On his latest release, Grammy Award-winner Bruce Hornsby continues an all-star tradition that started with 1993's "Harbor Lights" - an album that featured Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Jerry Garcia, Bonnie Raitt, Phil Collins and Fishbone guitarist John Bigham.
The guests on "Hot House" include not only a returning Garcia and Metheny, but Bela Fleck, Chaka Khan, Levi Little and David Hollister. Yet, as on "Harbor Lights," the guests are not the main reason to get this album. It all winds down to pianist/songwriter Horns-by himself.
Riding his ever-expanding style of jazz, bluegrass and rock, Horns-by has managed to grasp a musical versatility that seems to elude others. Shifting from night-club jazz ("Spider Fingers") to Southern-style epic ballads ("White Wheeled Limousine") to urban blues ("Big Rumble"), Hornsby doesn't miss a thump - though the chorus on "Big Rumble," a song about the idolization of American sports figures, sounds a little too much like David Essex's 1974 hit "Rock On."
Hornsby is also a gifted storyteller. A nostalgic trip to a high school reunion is shuffled out during "The Longest Night," while the whodunit mystery of "Country Doctor" comes to life through invigorating arrangements.
Without a doubt the man is a musician's musician who loves to touch and jam with a criss-cross of musical styles.
ALISON MOYET; "Singles" (Columbia). * * *
Reaching deep into a collection of recordings that span more than 11 years, Alison Moyet has compiled 16 previously released cuts with four unreleased selections as "Singles."
Though known only in certain modern music circles in the United States, Moyet became a platinum-selling artist in Europe during the 1980s. And most of her commercially accessible work is featured on this album.
Opening with a fresh, moody and previously unreleased version of "The First Time I Saw Your Face," the album immediately takes listeners on a dynamic trip into their emotions.
"Singles" includes the '80s modern-pop sound of "Love Resurrection," "All Cried Out" and "Invisible" from her debut "Alf," as well as the near-gothic "Falling," the soft-techno "Whispering Your Name," "Getting Into Something" and the neo-epic "Ode to Boy II," from her 1994 album "Es-sex."
Moyet's husky voice takes on different personas as she belts out the bouncy, wanton "Nobody's Diary" and drops to an eerie and vampirish approach on "Winter Kills."
"That Ole Devil Called Love," one of the previously unreleased cuts, has a champagne-bubble jazz feel. Another new selection, "Solid Wood," ends the album with a modern pop-rock feel.
The album flows relatively well. Moyet's voice is the thread that ties all the diverse styles together in one neat package.