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Previewing new albums from Alanis Morissette, Kylie Minogue, Cher, Neil Finn, and more.

'Swept' Away

AlanisAfter years of collaboration and working under the guidance of others, Alanis Morissette has taken full control of her creative destiny on her third Maverick opus, "Under Rug Swept." The collection, which she wrote and produced alone, is her first full-length effort without producer/writer Glenn Ballard, with whom she crafted the influential, mega-selling "Jagged Little Pill" (1995) and "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" (1998). It's an evolution that Morissette says was always part of her overall creative plan.

"It was just a matter of when it would happen organically," she explains. "In truth, I didn't know that this would be the album I did alone." Last year, she took off to Toronto to do some writing without any expectations. "I wound up writing 11 songs in 12 days," she says. "That was my signal that it was time to see where I could go on my own."

Etched with radio accessibility, "Under Rug Swept" manages by turns to be warmly inviting and emotionally challenging. Tracks like "Hands Clean," "Precious Illusions," and "So Unsexy" show Morissette proudly wearing her affection for concise, pure-pop hooks, while more expansive, introspective interludes like "Flinch" and "That Particular Time" are highly skilled both in terms of lyrical content and performance. "Hands Clean" is No. 27 on The Billboard Hot 100 this week; look for Morissette on tour later this spring.

You Give Us 'Fever'

KylieSince making her recording debut 14 years ago, Australian singer/songwriter Kylie Minogue has sold more than 32 million records worldwide. In the process, she's become a phenomenon around the world -- with the exception of the U.S, where superstar success has managed to elude her. The objective of the U.S. release this week of Minogue's eighth studio album, "Fever" -- her third U.S. release and first for Capitol -- is to finally make the artist a household name in America. The set hit No. 1 around the world, as did its first single, "Can't Get You Out of My Head."

"I don't know if I have the drive and enthusiasm to break in America," Minogue admits. "Quite honestly, I don't feel the need to have to tell people how to say my name or discuss [her 1988 No. 5 pop hit] 'The Loco-Motion.' Up until now, I've resigned myself to the fact that America wouldn't be like the rest of the world for me."

But that was then and this is now -- and Minogue realizes this. "I always did follow up my U.S. thoughts, though, with the knowledge that if I did have a runaway hit, it would be rude of me not to go and do what needs to be done," she adds. "I guess I'm nervous that it might actually happen this time. Yes, you could say the pressure's on." A 38-date European tour begins April 26 in Cardiff, Wales.

'Worlds' Apart

NeilFormer Crowded House/Split Enz frontman Neil Finn says the recording of his new live album/DVD, "7 Worlds Collide -- Live at the St. James" (Feb. 26, Nettwerk), was both an experiment with some rather famous friends and a chance to give a little back to his fellow New Zealanders. Culled from an April 2001 five-night stand at the St. James Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand, "7 Worlds" sees Finn joined by such peers/admirers as ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, Lisa Germano, former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and Phil Selway and Ed O'Brien of Radiohead.

Immediately struck by their compatibility with one another, Finn says the group (Marr and O'Brien on guitar, Selway on drums, Steinberg on bass, Germano on keyboards and other instruments, and Marr, Germano, Neil, brother Tim Finn, and Vedder on vocals, with other contributions from Finn's son's group, Betchadupa) learned a "ridiculous" amount of songs -- roughly 30 tracks, including Crowded House, Smiths, Split Enz, Pearl Jam, Finn, and Germano songs, as well as material Neil had recorded with Tim.

Highlights include the group's takes on Finn's own "Anytime," Split Enz's "Take a Walk," the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," and Crowded House's "Weather With You." "I think in terms of variety, you couldn't imagine going out to see a more varied and dynamic show. You never knew what was gonna happen next," Finn says. The artist's latest studio album, "One All," is due May 21 from Nettwerk; a North American tour is in the works for the spring.

The 'Proof' Is In The Pudding

CherWhen Cher entered a London studio to record "(This Is) a Song for the Lonely" last summer, she had no idea that the tune would resonate as intensely as it does during these days of political unrest. "At the time, we still lived in a world of innocence, and all I knew was that this was perhaps one of the best songs I've ever had the opportunity to sing," she says of the guitar-laden dance-pop anthem. "Since the world has changed so dramatically, the lyrics have a different weight. They're heavier, yet they're comforting at the same time."

The track is the first single from "Living Proof" (due this week from Warner Bros.), the pop icon's follow-up to 1998's global chart-buster, "Believe." Besides the uplifting single, the album features a heartfelt rendition of club diva Amber's hit "Love One Another," as well as the decidedly optimistic, single-worthy jams "A Different Kind of Love Song" and "Real Love." The disco-laced "Music's No Good Without You" is drenched in hypnotic synth lines and computer-savvy vocal effects, while "Love So High" craftily blends futuristic keyboards with earthy acoustic guitars.

"We just chose songs that felt right on an individual basis," she says. "It wasn't until we started to assess the entire album and play with sequencing that we realized that this had subconsciously become an album filled with love and warmth. It was a pleasant surprise, and it's certainly an appropriate time to put some positive energy out into the world."

'Soldier'ing On

CashA new duet between Dave Matthews and Johnny Cash leads Sony's "We Were Soldiers" soundtrack, which also includes new songs from Train ("Fall Out"), Five For Fighting ("The Beautiful), India.Arie ("Good Man"), Mary Chapin Carpenter ("My Dear Old Friend"), and country duo Montgomery Gentry (first single "Didn't I"). The film, which opens March 1 in U.S. theaters, stars Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, and Greg Kinnear in a true story about one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Tracks from Steven Curtis Chapman, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Tammy Cochran, Jars Of Clay, Rascal Flatts, and a duet between Michael McDonald and Jamie O'Neal round out the "We Were Soldiers" track list. "Think about people being separated by war and how hard that is," O'Neal says of "Not So Distant Day." "I like that idea that you're going to be back together if you have faith."

The first single and video from the album will be Montgomery Gentry's "Didn't I," penned by Anthony Smith. Eddie Montgomery says he and Troy Gentry were proud to record something that will remind people of the contributions made by veterans. "When I got behind that microphone and started to sing that song, I started to think about all them guys that I've heard stories from," he says of friends that served in the military. "They still don't get enough respect, to this day."

Additional titles hitting stores this week include:

-- the Interscope debut from acclaimed Texas underground rock act ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, "Source Tags & Codes" (Interscope).

-- a self-titled album from R&B singer/songwriter Montell Jordan (Def Soul).

-- an album of rare tracks and remixes from animated hip-hop collective Gorillaz, "G-Sides" (Virgin).

-- DJ collective X-ecutioners' "Built From Scratch" (Loud), featuring guest spots by Linkin Park, Kool G. Rap, Everlast, M.O.P., Fatman Scoop, and beat-boxer Kenny Muhammed.

-- the soundtrack to the UPN TV series "Roswell" (Nettwerk), with rare tracks from Doves, Ash, Coldplay, Ivy, Dido, and Sarah McLachlan.

-- singer/songwriter Norah Jones' debut album, "Come Away With Me" (Blue Note).

-- Universal's "Global Hits 2002" compilation, featuring tracks from Daft Punk, ATC, Artful Dodger featuring Craig David, and Modjo, among others.

-- Interscope/UTV's "Live and Unreleased From," with tracks from N.W.A., Limp Bizkit, Eminem, Staind, and Nickelback.

-- Wu-Tang Productions Present Killa Beez, "The Sting" (Koch), with tracks featuring Wu principals U-God, Inspectah Deck, the RZA as Bobby Digital, and Ol' Dirty Bastard.

-- new albums from singer/songwriters Lisa Loeb, "Cake & Pie" (A&M); and Louise Goffin, "Sometimes a Circle" (DreamWorks).

-- banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' "Live at the Quick" (Columbia).

-- new sets from modern rock outfits Injected, "Burn It Black" (Island); Phantom Planet, "The Guest" (Epic); and Coarse Of Nature, "Superkala" (Lava/Atlantic).

-- inspirational act Plus One's "Obvious" (Atlantic).

-- a collaborative album from jazz greats Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson, "Meant to Be" (Narada Jazz)

-- U.K. avant-rock combo Clinic's "Walking With Thee" (Domino).

-- R&B act Nappy Roots' "Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz" (Atlantic)

-- R&B vocalist Sharissa's "No Half Steppin'" (Motown).

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