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By Michael Henningsen

JANUARY 24, 2000: 

Sonny Inner Views (Rhino Handmade)

Yes, Sonny Bono. As in Sonny and Cher. As in not the best skier in the world. His only solo album, 1967's Inner Views, is finally available on CD, and with its 11 bonus tracks -- most from singles, three previously unreleased -- it's also a handy collection of Sonny's entire solo career. However, it's the album itself that's the most fascinating.

Long considered one of the most incomprehensible and bizarre albums by any major artist of the '60s, Inner Views is utterly unlike anything else Sonny ever did in his entire career. In a bid to gain the acceptance of the newly-burgeoning underground audience which looked askance at Sonny and Cher's enormously successful singles, Inner Views positively screams "Look, I'm an artist!" in pure 1967 style. There's only five lengthy tracks, with the 13-minute dronefest "I Just Sit There" starting the album off in grand sitar-and-orchestra fashion, like a low-budget Phil Spector on acid. The only possible response to lyrics like "Your mother's cooking sturgeon/Your sister's still a virgin" is a heartfelt "Oh, wow."

After that, the interracial love affair of "I Told My Girl To Go Away," the sweet "I Would Marry You Today" and the already-anachronistic-at-the-time "My Best Friend's Girl Is Out Of Sight" sound positively normal, but nothing can prepare the listener for the onslaught of the legendary "Pammie's On A Bummer." It's eight minutes of classic anti-drug hysteria, with Sonny voyeuristically detailing Pammie's downward spiral into drugs and prostitution in a moralistic but creepily salacious manner over pretty much the same arrangement as "I Just Sit There." It's a mindboggling classic.

The singles which follow are comparatively straightforward, including two versions and a studio outtake of his solo hit "Laugh At Me," and less over-the-top remixes of several album tracks. And some, like an excellent version of Bob Lind's classic "Cheryl's Goin' Home," are actually really good. As always with Rhino, the liner notes and packaging are superlative, and the entire CD is a necessity for any fan of the stranger side of '60s pop.

Inner Views is only available over the Internet through www.rhinohandmade.com, Rhino's new imprint specializing in limited editions of rare and obscure releases. Only 1,500 copies are available, so act quickly, and be sure to check out the other amazing releases on the web site, including a seven-CD (!) boxed set of the Stooges' entire 1970 Fun House sessions.

The Stone Roses The Stone Roses: 10th Anniversary Edition (Silvertone)

OK, so it's easily the best album of the late '80s and an all-time guitar-pop classic, with 12 brilliant songs including the perfect singles "I Wanna Be Adored," "She Bangs the Drums" and "Elephant Stone," the equally magnificent "Waterfall"/"Don't Stop" mirror-image and the amazing eight-minute guitar freakout "I Am the Resurrection." But jeez, how many times can they reissue it? This two-disc version features four bonus tracks, including the post-album single "Fools Gold," all five videos, and new liner notes and packaging. It's the ultimate trainspotter reissue!

If you don't have this album, you just don't care about pop music. Whether you actually need this expensive bells-and-whistles edition depends on your own personal fetishism level. But really, this album's an absolute necessity.

Kent Isola (RCA)

The mid-'90s deluge of brilliant Swedish pop bands has slowed to a trickle lately, but this belated U.S. issue of the debut by Stockholm's Kent is another example of the country's astounding popcraft. You know how Oasis' last album sucked? I mean, even worse than the others? This album is what the Gallaghers were trying to do: guitar-heavy, minor-key pop songs with an equal emphasis on hooks and '70s-style epic orchestral sweep. The difference is that Kent got it right. ELO fans take note.

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