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Hope Springs Eternal

A northern suburb tops our third installment of rating greater Houston's taste in music

Every so often, we like to head over to Amazon.com and check out their "purchase circles." This feature allows you to see what sells particularly well in selected cities, companies and schools. As Amazon puts it, "no matter where you live, work, or go to school, we'll likely have a Purchase Circle for you."

Wherever possible, Amazon concocts two lists for these places -- one that compiles what sells best overall, and a second, more interesting, one that compiles what sells "uniquely well" in that place compared to the rest of the country. That's where you get the surprises. It's like sticking your nose in the collective entertainment centers of whole towns. Let's have a peek, shall we?

Spring

1. Heartworn Highways soundtrack

2. Rock Swings, Paul Anka

3. Los Lonely Boys

4. Verve Remixed, Vol. 2

5. Black & White Night, Roy Orbison

6. What I Really Mean, Robert Earl Keen

7. Ancora, Il Divo

8. High School Musical soundtrack

9. WOW! Hits 2006, various artists

10. Sticky Fingers, the Rolling Stones

11. The Who: The Ultimate Collection

12. It's Time, Michael Bublé

13. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood

14. Il Divo

15. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: Derek and the Dominos

16. Memoirs of a Geisha, Yo-Yo Ma, et. al.

17. Heart: Greatest Hits 1985-1995

18. Pacific Coast Highway, Nils

19. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

20. REO Speedwagon -- The Hits

Spring's always got some killer stuff, and they always stand apart -- they have a bunch of stuff that sells well nowhere else in the area. And if I could grab just one of these stacks of CDs to take on a long car trip, it would be this one. Of course, I would hurl the Bocelli, Heart and High School Musicaldiscs under the wheels of an oncoming tractor-trailer before I hit the beltway.

Houston

1. The Plus and Minus Show, Michael Haaga

2. Para Gloria, Sisters Morales

3. Both Sides, Roger Smith

4. Heartworn Highways soundtrack

5. Will T. Massey

6. 3 'n the Mornin', Pt. 2, DJ Screw

7. The Purest Place, Watermark

8. What I Really Mean, Robert Earl Keen

9. Greatest Hits, Fat Pat

10. Live Across Texas, Roger Creager

11. Anthology, Maze

12. Outdebox, Soulhat

13. The Party Never Ends, Robert Earl Keen

14. Texas Fed, Texas Breed: Redefining Texas Music, Volume 1

15. Lucky Ones, Pat Green

16. Wave on Wave, Pat Green

17. King of Da Ghetto, Z-Ro

18. Three Days, Pat Green

19. Guerilla Warfare, Hot Boy$

Gratifying. At last a record I and damn near I alone championed in print topped some chart somewhere. And have I gone crazy, or does the title track to Pat Green's Wave on Wave sound exactly like Mike and the Mechanics' "The Living Years" or what? As much as I love Haaga, Z-Ro and the Heartworn Highways soundtrack, there's just too much Pat on here for a first-place finish.

Sugar Land

1. 50 Number Ones, George Strait

2. Josh Groban

3. High School Musical soundtrack

4. Strategic Grill Locations, Mitch Hedberg

5. Eagles: The Very Best Of

6. Michael Bublé

7. Hillbilly DeLuxe, Brooks and Dunn

8. The Best of 1980-90, U2

9. All the Right Reasons, Nickelback

10. Closer, Josh Groban

11. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

12. Songbird,Eva Cassidy

13. It's Time, Michael BublŽ

14. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

15. The Long Road Home: The Ultimate John Fogerty / Creedence Collection

16. Getz / Gilberto, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto

17. Feels Like Today, Rascal Flatts

18. Walk the Line soundtrack

19. When I Fall in Love, Chris Botti

20. Possibilities, Herbie Hancock

Like Spring, Sugar Land often has a few surprises, but theirs usually aren't as good. I would probably chunk about a dozen of these out the window -- starting with Rascal Flatts and Nickelback -- on my hypothetical car trip, and I am overly familiar with the Eagles, U2, Cash, Strait and Creedence stuff, so I'd be stuck with the Hedberg, Cassidy, Hancock and Getz/Gilberto when I wanted something new.

There's a lot of soccer-momcore here. What's that, you ask? Middlebrow pop-jazz and/or standards or pop classics usually sung by a hunky young man "with an old soul" or a suave Mediterranean type, here represented by the Botti, Bublé, Bocelli and Groban discs. Romance novels in syrupy song... Katy

1. The Movie Album: Classical Pictures, John Bayless

2. I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems of the Christian Faith

3. Black & White Night, Roy Orbison

4. The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack

5. Mercy Now, Mary Gauthier

6. Arriving, Chris Tomlin & Steven Curtis Chapman

7. High School Musicalsoundtrack

8. One Tree Hill, Volume 2

9. All the Right Reasons, Nickelback

10. WOW! Hits 2006, various artists

11. Modern Day Drifter, Dierks Bentley

12. Behind the Levee, Subdudes

13. The Road and the Radio, Kenny Chesney

14. Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson

15. The Essential Willie Nelson boxed set

16. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

17. Possibilities, Herbie Hancock

18. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

19. Monkey Business, Black Eyed Peas

20. The Joshua Tree, U2

There are always a few "worship music" CDs on Katy's lists -- it seems to be far more of a Bible-thumping burb than most of the others. Both Gauthier and the Subdudes are from Louisiana -- did Katy take in lots of (white) Katrina exiles?

Cypress

1. High School Musical soundtrack

2. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

3. At San Quentin, Johnny Cash

4. Grey's Anatomy soundtrack

5. Singalongs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, Jack Johnson

6. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Arctic Monkeys

7. Greatest Hits, Volume 2, Tim McGraw

8. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

9. The Essential Johnny Cash

10. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood

11. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt

12. Celtic Woman

13. In Between Dreams, Jack Johnson

14. It's Time, Michael Bublé

15. Ancora, Il Divo

A list like this just underlines what a music business genius American Idol's Simon Cowell truly is. (Note I said "music business" and not "music.") For one thing, both the Underwood and Il Divo CDs are products wholly or in part of his devising, and for another, you get the idea that he studied lists like these before he conceived of Idol. Few if any American record execs know the listening tastes of the American suburbs as well as Cowell. He is the King of Soccer-momcore.

League City

1. Doobie Brothers Greatest Hits

2. Bob Seger -- Greatest Hits

3. High School Musical soundtrack

4. The Greatest Songs of the Fifties, Barry Manilow

5. Walk the Line soundtrack

6. It's Time, Michael Bublé

7. Michael Bublé

8. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

9. In Between Dreams, Jack Johnson

10. Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson

11. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt

If the one-two punch at the top of the LC's list is any indication, down there they like their rockers bearded and old. It's near Galveston Bay, so the Doobies' comp makes sense for Yacht Rock outings, but why Seger? Elsewhere, you get the usual nod to Cash, and more soccer-momcore.

Missouri City

1. Buzz Buzz, Laurie Berkner

2. Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield

3. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Arctic Monkeys

4. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall

5. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

6. It's Time, Michael Bublé

7. Walk the Line soundtrack

8. High School Musical soundtrack

Berkner's CD is children's music. The only real standouts are Monk and the Monkeys. (Does Mo City have lots of UK expats?)

Bellaire

1. Elton John Greatest Hits, 1970-2002

2. From Under the Cork Tree, Fall Out Boy

3. Jersey Boys cast recording

4. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt

5. Singalongs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, Jack Johnson

6. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

7. Walk the Line soundtrack

Bellaire's always been a wusscore hub. And what is wusscore, you ask? Lame soft rock by guys like Blunt, Johnson, John Mayer and Dave Matthews, of the type favored by wealthy college and high school kids of both genders. Muzak for Bubble Boys and Girls.

Humble

1. All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison

2. The Best of Bread

3. Timeless, Martina McBride

4. Ricky Nelson -- His Greatest Hits

5. Paint the Sky with Stars -- Enya's Greatest Hits

6. Crash soundtrack

7. Celtic Woman

8. High School Musical soundtrack

9. One Tree Hill, Volume 2

10. X&Y, Coldplay

11. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

12. Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson

13. Get Lifted, John Legend

14. Wreck of the Day, Anna Nalick

15. Michael Bublé

16. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt

17. Il Divo

18. Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Tim McGraw

Humble is well acquainted with the raw power of really smooth music. If you had to navigate the Eastex Freeway every day of your life, you'd probably feel the same way. What's the deal with the Bread revival up there? Pretty wack list after No. 2.

Pearland

1. All the Right Reasons, Nickelback

2. See You on the Other Side, Korn

3. Eagles: The Very Best Of boxed set

4. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt

5. Baby Einstein Lullaby Classics

6. Singalongs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, Jack Johnson

7. For Me It's You, Train

8. High School Musical

9. American Idiot, Green Day

10. Eye to the Telescope, KT Tunstall

11. Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson

12. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood

13. Celtic Woman

14. Andrea Bocelli -- Amore

15. Brokeback Mountain soundtrack

16. The Breakthrough, Mary J. Blige

17. It's Time, Michael Bublé

Holy Mother of God, what a ghastly, abysmal, dreadful heap of crap. City of Pearland! Hang your head in shame! Any town where there are unusually high numbers of Korn and Nickelback listeners terrifies me, and then you've got both wusscore and soccer-momcore in strength. Surprising to see the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack on the list, and not just because we didn't know they swung that way down there. It's just astonishing to see something with as much good music on it (Willie, Emmylou, Steve Earle, Rufus Wainwright) selling well in Pearland.

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