Previewing new albums from "American Idol," LeAnn Rimes, the Rolling Stones, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and more.

You're My 'Idol'

PamThe media blitz from Fox's "American Idol" continues with "American Idol: Greatest Moments," due this week from RCA. The single-disc compilation will be the first full-length album featuring songs performed on the show. Alongside four tracks by competition winner Kelly Clarkson and two by runner-up Justin Guarini, the album will feature one song each from the other eight finalists, and a version of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" performed by all 10 of them together.

Steve Lipson (Backstreet Boys, Annie Lennox) produced and compiled the album from performances recorded during the show's final weeks. Finalists Nikki McKibbon, Tamyra Gray, EJay Day, RJ Helton, AJ Gil, Ryan Starr, Christina Christian, and Jim Verraros are all represented.

"Greatest Moments" features both sides of Clarkson's single "A Moment Like This" / "Before Your Love," which rocketed from No. 52 to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 last week. All 10 finalists will hit the road as part of a North American arena tour, beginning Oct. 8 in San Diego.





Pretty And 'Twisted'

PamLeAnn Rimes has grown up in the public eye, and it has not always been easy to watch. After bursting onto the music scene in 1996 at age 13 with a No. 1 country album and two Grammy Awards, her star shone brightly for several years before being overshadowed by a series of lawsuits, domestic squabbles, and trashy tabloid reports. But Rimes, now 20 and recently married, appears to have put those troubles behind her and has emerged as a poised, confident young woman who finally has a strong sense of her own artistic voice -- a voice that is now leaning in a decidedly pop direction.

"Twisted Angel," due this week from Curb Records, is a collection of mature, revealing, and sometimes sexy songs that has Rimes' fingerprints all over it. She executive-produced it, co-wrote four songs, and had input on the other nine. Every song was written especially for her during a "songwriting camp" at the Miami home of writer Desmond Child, who served as one of the album's producers along with Peter Amato and Gregg Pagani.

In the process of creating the album, Rimes says she discovered her own musical style, one she describes as "really soulful. It's a mixture of everything. I've blended urban and rock and a little bit of country on this record. I really made a point not to sound like anyone else. I don't want the album to be so pop that it's going to sound like every other girl out there." First single "Life Goes On" is No. 16 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.





'Lick' It Up

Pam"Forty Licks," due this week from Virgin, marks the first time the Rolling Stones' ABKCO-owned masters (encompassing the band's 1963-1970 London/Decca recordings) and post-ABKCO tracks have co-existed on the same project. Keith Richards says there was no doubt some new material would make the cut, "because [of] this Beatles and Stones sort of thing. The main difference between the Stones and the Beatles, I guess, is that the Stones are still going. So we decided it would be important to have this sort of hint of 'to be continued,' rather than it all just being totally out of the can. At the same time, I wanted [new material], because the boys haven't played together for almost three years."

In addition to driving first single "Don't Stop," the new tracks on "Forty Licks" are "Keys to Your Heart," which Mick Jagger describes as "a soul tune with a sort of Curtis Mayfield [vibe]"; "Stealing My Heart," which the singer says is "more of a 'battle of the bands' thing, with a hook"; and "Losing My Touch," which features Richards on lead vocals. "It's about a guy on the run who's gotta say goodbye," Richards explains, "and he's doesn't really know how to say it."

The new collection is loaded with such classics as "Brown Sugar," "Beast of Burden," "(I Can't Go) Satisfaction," "Gimme Shelter," "Miss You," "Wild Horses," "Shattered," and "Sympathy for the Devil." The Stones' Licks world tour hits New York's Roseland Ballroom tonight (Sept. 30) and is expected to last well into 2003.





'Circle' Gets The Square

PamThirty years ago, a young band of long-haired musicians from the West Coast named the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band teamed with some of country music's legendary veterans to record "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," a landmark project that crossed boundaries and blended generations. That famed circle expands yet again with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III," due this week from Capitol.

Just as they did three decades ago, NGDB has pulled together a gifted group of artists to collaborate on some roots music treasures. The 28-song project features such Circle alumni as Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and Doc Watson alongside younger artists like Alison Krauss and Dwight Yoakam. Other special guests include such bluegrass stalwarts as the Del McCoury Band, bluesman Taj Mahal, Americana chanteuse Iris DeMent, and rocker Tom Petty.

"We had a mark to come up to this time," John McEuen says, acknowledging that he and fellow NGDB members Jeff Hanna, Jimmy Ibbotson, Bob Carpenter, and Jimmie Fadden were mindful of continuing the tradition of musical integrity associated with the two previous "Circle" albums. "We wanted to leave the edges as they were, like human beings playing and singing," Hanna says. "I think we achieved that. I just wish we could have done 40 songs, because we could have recorded with everyone we wanted to."





Additional titles hitting stores this week include:

-- Rapper Xzibit's "Man Vs. Machine" (Loud).

-- An album of B-sides and alternate mixes from Elvis Costello, "Cruel Smile" (Island).

-- Pop/rock act Good Charlotte's "Young and Hopeless" (Epic).

-- Warren Haynes-lead rock outfit Gov't Mule's "The Deep End, Vol. 2" (ATO).

-- Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler's "The Rag Picker's Dream" (Warner Bros.).

-- A concert set from jazz star Diana Krall, "Live in Paris" (Verve), recorded last December at the city's Olympia Theatre.

-- A self-titled album from Norwegian vocalist Sissel and tenor Russell Watson's "Encore" (Decca).

-- New electronica sets from Thievery Corporation ("The Richest Man in Babylon") and Blue States ("Man Mountain") via the Eighteenth Street Lounge label.

-- Modern rock group Stroke 9's "Rip It Off" (Universal).

-- A reissue of New York rock quintet the Strokes' "Is This It" (RCA), bolstered with a bonus DVD featuring uncensored videos for "Last Nite," "Hard To Explain," and "Someday," plus previously un-aired live renditions of "NYC Cops" and "The Modern Age" from a recent MTV2 broadcast of a show in Hollywood, Calif.

-- A&M's "The Very Best Of... Sting & the Police," commemorating the 25th anniversary of the U.K. trio's debut album.

-- A rarities collection from the Flaming Lips, "The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg" (Restless).