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Fall Music Preview: Pop and Rock

Nirvana, Van Halen, Phish, and more have exciting albums out this autumn

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Nirvana
From the Banks of the Muddy Wishkah, Oct. 1

You’re familiar — maybe overly familiar — with Kurt Cobain, the pain-addled voice of his generation, the suicidal poet laureate, the corpse, the god. But do you remember Cobain, the unassuming punk-rocker who seemed to have no greater goal than to combine power pop and primal scream therapy at ear-shattering levels?

You will. ”When something reaches mass culture at the level that Nirvana did,” says Geffen A&R executive Mark Kates, alluding to the Cult of Kurt, ”things become attributed to them that they never even imagined. I think it is important to strip all that away and just listen to the music.” Hence From the Banks of the Muddy Wishkah, a killer 16-song live CD — painstakingly assembled from multitrack recordings and muddy soundboard cassettes alike — that sends Nirvana out on a bang instead of the whimper that was their previous posthumous release, MTV Unplugged in New York.

Wishkah is ”a celebration,” says Kates, who compiled the package with surviving Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl (both have declined to talk to the press). ”Some people see Unplugged as a requiem. I don’t, but if you do, this is the opposite end of the spectrum. The exhilaration of their live shows is something pitifully few people experienced.” Last Time Around Unplugged, 3.4 million copies sold Forecast Better

Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow

No ifs, ands, or buts about it — ”If It Makes You Happy” is doing just that. Many more hooks and hits abound in Crow’s already well-reviewed sophomore effort, and while this follow-up won’t likely rack up as many millions as her debut, Crow’s ditching of her previous collaborators and doing it her way this time will make any multi-platinum award taste sweet enough. Last Time Around Tuesday Night Music Club, 3.8 million. Forecast Worse

Kenny G
The Moment, Oct. 1

More music to drink white wine by from the man with the platinum sax. Duets with Babyface and Toni Braxton show a valiant stab at freshness, but will the known universe really queue up again for more of K. Gorelick’s musical Twinkies? Doubtful. Last Time Around Miracles, 4.7 million Forecast Worse

Chris Isaak
Baja Sessions, Oct. 8

Despite the title and a track list that includes five Isaak faves, this is no live album, nor was it recorded south of the border. Five cover tunes (including ”Only the Lonely”) and three newly penned originals round out the lineup. But the real purpose of this studio set may be a second shot at making an overlooked early tune like ”Dancin”’ a hit. Last Time Around Forever Blue, 740,000 Forecast Better

Counting Crows
Recovering the Satellites, Oct. 15

Adam Duritz has been so ubiquitous on rock radio lately — as the harmony vocalist on the Wallflowers’ ”Sixth Avenue Heartache” — that it’s easy to forget three years have passed since his band’s recording debut. Not to count our Crows before they’re hatched, but a sophomore success — albeit one more moderate than their first — seems probable. Last Time Around August and Everything After, 4.7 million Forecast Worse

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