September 17, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

TORI AMOS to venus and back

What was originally conceived as a B-sides record became a double CD — featuring a live disc and new studio album — after Amos hit one of her visionary writing spells. ”These songs need to live in their own world as a sound, as a shape,” she says of the tracks, which swerve from earthy to ethereal. As for the live disc? ”I wanted a live record out before I need to have oxygen by the side of the stage.” (Sept. 21)

BROOKS & DUNN Tight Rope

The title comes from a rodeo term, not the circus, but chances are that recording B&D’s sixth studio album wasn’t quite as dangerous as bull riding. While new producer Byron Gallimore (Faith Hill) gives them an edgier sound, the material takes no greater risk than a broken heart. (Sept. 21)

CHRIS CORNELL Euphoria Morning

Who knew the former Soundgarden singer was so … sensitive? After years of rocking with maximum prejudice, Cornell wanted his solo debut to demonstrate ”a lot of vulnerability,” he said. Though he hasn’t exactly traded his flannel shirt for a felt beret, Seattle’s second-favorite howler seems to have forsaken grunge for a hard-hitting singer-songwriter style, with attenuated guitars and a few tunes that feature an unprecedented Lennon & McCartney flava. (Sept. 21)


Trent Reznor may have taken two years to make a record, but he wasn’t exactly slacking off. The Fragile CD, which delivers more than 100 minutes of music spread over 23 typically indelicate Nine Inch Nails lullabies (see ”Starf—ers, Inc.”), sounds like a well-honed challenge to such heavy-duty upstarts as Limp Bizkit and Korn. ”It was all about not being afraid,” said Reznor. If this is fragile, we’re Hustler. (Sept. 21)


It looks as if Babs’ nuptials to James Brolin have brought out the lover girl in her. Working with a clutch of control-room heavyweights (David Foster, Arif Mardin, and Tony Brown), everyone’s favorite Clintonite dusts off romantic standards from Jule Styne and the Gershwins. ”Obviously, love songs have taken on new meaning for her,” says Foster. ”She has a whole new take on love songs ’cause she’s living it.” (Sept. 21)

GARTH BROOKS In … The Life of Chris Gaines

It’s either a bold creative leap or loopy ego massage. Regardless, country-music Uberstar Garth Brooks’ first rock album recorded by his alter ego Chris Gaines will surely test the loyalty of the singer’s nation-state of fans, who may not cotton to his Springsteenesque rave-ups. Still, the entertainment value in the cover alone — which features Brooks/Gaines sporting a wig and a soul patch — should compensate for any artistic shortcomings.


The great salsero, who has sold millions of records singing modern salsa, is the latest Latin star to test the crossover waters. For his first solo English-language album, Anthony hired hotshot R&B producers Cory Rooney and Rodney Jerkins, recording a dance-floor anthem (”I Need to Know”) targeted at Ricky ravers and Lopez lovers alike. Just don’t call it a sellout. ”I’m not into jumping on bandwagons,” says Anthony. ”I’m very serious about what I do.” (Sept. 28)

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