Music: Sounds for the Solstice

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(4 of 5)

In Harmony (Sesame Street/Warner Bros.). Various pop stars make the playroom rock, gently of course. The idea —a good one—was to gather some songs for kids and about kids that wouldn't reduce Mom and Dad to a gibbering frenzy. Producers Lucy Simon and David Levine recruited talent as diverse as Bette Midler, James Taylor, the Doobie Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Lindy Waldman and Carly Simon (the co-producer's sister), and let them loose in the realms of whimsy. The results—especially by Taylor, Midler, and Dr. John in a duet with Libby Titus—are easy to take and danceable at any age.

Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (Arista). The Pythons tear through assorted comedy sketches and raise their voices in songs of innocence and experience. Titles include Never Be Rude to an Arab, All Things Dull and Ugly, Farewell to John Denver and Sit on My Face. Ideal for Christmas caroling or breaking the lease.

Donna Summer: The Wanderer (Geffen/Warner Bros.). Donna Summer has ridden out disco, and she is just fine, thanks. This is her best album yet, with intricate melodies that sound like musical handstands and vocals that have the easy undulation of a water bed. The Wanderer is an informal concept album in which Summer's teasing sensuality is used as a point of departure. The album begins with a sexuality that is randy and raggedy at once, eases through various tales of love lost and remembered, and ends with a statement of faith and a hope for redemption. The range of the record is still a little too long for Summer's reach, but The Wanderer demonstrates that she's got the best shot at being the premier woman rocker of the'80s.

Arthur Blythe: Illusions (Columbia).

Just about the hottest alto sax around, Arthur Blythe synthesizes and consolidates the disparate approaches of his first two Columbia albums—the first experimental, following trails laid down by Ornette Coleman, the second closer to the Ellington tradition—and, using two separate combos, fuses them with the white hot heat of his horn. Illusions is a furious exercise in musical release. This man uses his sax like a blowtorch.

Blondie: Autoamerican (Chrysalis).

Catchy pop music of the sort you wish wouldn't catch you. Deborah Harry and the band have a sound that contrives to be both congenial and clammy, like a wet suede coat. In The Tide Is High, their current hit, they sound like a bunch of loaded reggae freaks who wake up in a Mexicali beer joint. As the title implies, this record is a machine-tooled product, but if Detroit had as keen an idea of its market as Blondie, there would be no need for federal subsidies.

Talking Heads: Remain in Light (Sire).

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