As such, You Pay Your Money is more for serious Cockburn followers intent on collecting versions of such lesser-known compositions as "Stolen Land." Those wanting to sample Cockburn's musical genius for the first time would do better exploring his voluminous studio product, and saving the live exposure for the next time he's in town. (** 1/2)

-- Tim Fleck

Bacon Brothers

Californian Peter Case has traveled a long way from his early-'80s punk-pop days with the Plimsouls, and Full Service No Waiting, his sixth release as a solo artist, is his most deeply affecting work to date. With only spare, mostly acoustic instrumentation and a rasp of a voice, Case spins down-to-earth tales that reach deep into the soul of America.

Case has covered this territory before, but never with so much innate wisdom or so many stick-in-your-head melodies. On an update of "Mr. Bojangles" called "Green Blanket (Part 1)," he sings, "Out on the street it isn't so bad / Or all that it's cracked up to be / Some are half crazy others plain stupid / Some there just want to be free."

The sentiment summed up in that lyric, like much of Full Service, is as simple as it is poignant. From the raw, talking-blues "Crooked Mile" to the darkly atmospheric "Drunkard's Harmony" to the twangy country rock of "Beautiful Grind," Case covers a wide range of musical territory. He does so with a shrewd, heartfelt appreciation for America's storytelling roots -- evidence of how greatly his artistry has grown.

The Bacon Brothers -- yes, they are actor Kevin Bacon and his older brother, Michael -- are another story altogether. Forosoco is short for folk, rock, soul and country -- as in the types of music they try to combine in an attempt to come up with something original. But alas, the Bacons are only successful in their ability to be derivative.

Forosoco is full of slick folk rock with bits of C&W twang and blue-eyed soul attached. But with their silly rhyme schemes and pillowy harmonies, all the two come up with is a nostalgic hybrid of America and Loggins and Messina. In "Boys in Bars," the Bacon boys even stoop so low as to crave "those sweet old disco days," while on "Old Guitars" they feel inclined to mention all the folks who inspired them, including James Taylor and Jim Croce (they also manage somehow to misspell both Marvin Gaye and Patsy Cline's last names on the lyrics sheet).

Regardless, the Bacon Brothers are playing huge halls and appearing on late-night TV, while Peter Case, when he tours at all, plays tiny clubs in front of tiny audiences. There is no justice. (Full Service No Waiting, ***; Forosoco, **)

-- Jim Caligiuri

James Iha
Let It Come Down

Who would have thought that there's a sensitive singer/songwriter-type with a heart of creamed corn cowering in the shadow of Billy Corgan's tortured guitar-god genius? Certainly not your average Smashing Pumpkins fan.

Well, believe it. Pumpkins rhythm guitarist James Iha is one lovesick puppy on Let It Come Down, yapping at the heels of relationships past like a Chihuahua in heat. Let this serve as a warning: Iha's solo debut sounds nothing like the reheated glam-grunge histrionics one might have expected from Corgan's quiet, amenable bandmate. Then again, it's no storybook romance.

Plain and simple, Let It Come Down is a modest paean to the '70s-era Top 40 pop Iha grew up on. The early part of that decade was rife with artists who took the standard "I love you, you love me" scenario and transformed it into something more than the sum of its pickup lines. Take Elton John's "Your Song," for instance, or the Raspberries' "Go All the Way." Heck, even David Bowie's cornball tribute to his kid, "Kooks," managed to bring something fresh to the human relations equation. From the sound of it, Iha has heard them all, as Down unloads a crate-load of fizzy, feel-good vibes and sickly sweet sentiment onto its 11 tracks.

Things get off to a promising start with the one-two-three wet smooch of "Be Strong Now," "Sound of Love" and "Beauty." All are saved from their lovey-dovey lyrical content by perky, memorable hooks, simple, assertive 4/4 beats and Iha's unobtrusive vocals, which sound like a cross between Al Stewart and a pubescent Peter Brady. The synthetic strings are a nice touch, lending just the right twinge of melancholia to Iha's simple words of comfort and reassurance. From there on, though, Down descends into a saccharine whirlpool of lovelorn cliches and hookless repetition. It's power pop without the power -- the sort of syrupy self-indulgence Elton John might have succumbed to if he hadn't had Bernie Taupin to keep him in line.

Billy Corgan must have been all smirks when he heard this project. Perhaps he even let out a sigh of relief upon realizing that this mushy-hearted ear candy would pose little threat to the Smashing Pumpkins' future as a band. Indeed, rather than pounding the pavement to promote his new release, Iha is now in the studio with Corgan and bassist D'arcy working on the Pumpkins' upcoming release. What a pushover. (**)

-- Hobart Rowland

CDs are rated on a one to five star scale.

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