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Hamilton Jordan Jr.'s Top 3 CDS

Ion Dissonance, Breathing Is Irrelevant (Willowtip) -- Newcomers burst out of the gates with a unique, groove-laden robotic grind.

Pelican, Australasia (Hydrahead) -- Rumbles ominously like the shifting of the Earth's plates, with a serene beauty amongst the overtones.

Nasum, Helvete (Relapse) -- Classy, succinct and punishing, Helvete cuts the fat and slickly perfects third-generation grind-core.

Gregory Nicoll's Top 3 CDS

The Anacondas, The Anacondas (Sonic Rendez Vous) -- "Absinth" joins "Tequila" as a great liquor-themed dancefloor-packin' rock tune.

Various Artists, Guitar Ace -- Link Wray Tribute (MuSick) -- A long-overdue salute to the Father of the Power Chord.

The Queers, Acid Beaters (Stardumb) -- An explosion of sweet, chewy bubblegum-flavored punk/pop/rock.

Ronda Penrice's Top 3 CDS

R. Kelly, Chocolate Factory (Jive) -- Soulful, emotionally drenched, sexy and raw, R. Kelly proves he rules contemporary R&B.

OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (Arista) -- Big Boi and Dre are best together. But of the two discs, The Love Below is the most innovative.

Luther Vandross Live Radio City Music Hall 2003 (J) -- Recorded months before Vandross' illness, Luther's voice is at its best.

Al Kaufman's Top 3 cds

Lucinda Williams, World Without Tears (Lost Highway) -- Simply the greatest American songwriter living today.

Erin McKeown, Grand (Nettwerk) -- Beautifully brings '50s Hollywood into the 21st century.

Starlight Mints, Built on Squares (PIAS) -- If Tom Waits had a kid who listened to a lot of XTC.

Bryan Powell's Top 2 cds

Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Unclassified (Warner Bros.) -- Imagine Jimi Hendrix playing steel guitar, with a dose of Sly Stone funk.

Led Zeppelin, How the West Was Won (Atlantic) -- Three worthy and long-overdue discs of live Zep, from 1972 shows in California.

Mark Gresham's Top 3 cds

Dale Warland Singers, Argento: Walden Pond (Gothic) -- A tribute to the Warland Singer's reputation and the dean of Minnesota composers, Dominick Argento.

Oregon Symphony, Svoboda: Orchestral Works (Albany) -- Includes Toms Svoboda's "Overture of the Season" and "Symphony No. 1."

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Rorem: Three Symphonies (Naxos) -- This budget label recording is a Grammy nominee for Best Classical Album.

Hal Horowitz's Top 3 cds

The Jayhawks, Rainy Day Music (American) -- Shimmering Americana melodies and sparkling Byrds-like harmonies.

Paul Westerberg, Come Feel Me Tremble (Vagrant) -- This boozy, joyfully sloppy album is a ragged return to form.

Warren Zevon, The Wind (Artemis) -- Zevon's most personal, passionate and intense ruminations on life, love and mortality.

James Kelly's Top 3 cds

VA, Livin', Lovin', Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers (Universal). -- Perfect collection of duets honoring country's best brother act.

Marty Stuart, Country Music (Columbia) -- Blends classic and contemporary songs, with the best pedal steel playing heard in years.

Michael Franti & Spearhead, Everyone Deserves Music (BooBoo Wax Music). Great melodies, thoughtful words and a fine funky groove.

Justin Robertson's Top 3 cds

Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (Arista) -- Hip-hop's Sandinista -- over-reaching, devilishly uneven and defiantly ambitious.

Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day (East/West) -- The most vivid and intense human-interest songs this side of Nebraska-era Springsteen.

Yo La Tengo, Summer Sun/Today Is the Day EP (Matador) -- Two more crown jewels in an impressive indie-rock back catalog.

Kevin Forest Moreau's Top 3 cds

The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site (Epitaph) -- Literate, metaphorical, insistently melodic indie pop.

Matthew Ryan, Regret Over the Wires (Hybrid) -- Overlooked singer/songwriter crafts stirring updates of lost-love lament and protest songs.

Al Green, I Can't Stop (Blue Note) -- Pleading R&B crooners take note: Why beg for lovin' when you've got charisma like this?

Lee Smith's Top 3 cds

Swimming Pool Q's, Royal Academy of Reality (Bar None) -- A masterpiece of pop, rock and space travel; the pinnacle of a stellar career.

Tywanna Jo Baskette, Fancy Blue (Terminus) -- Wonderfully offbeat singer/songwriter crafts beautifully innocent, raw and weird tunes.

The Bangles, Doll Revolution (Koch) -- First album since '88 for the pop quartet features crafty songs and refreshingly unforced performances.

David Peisner's Top 3 cds

1. Joe Henry, Tiny Voices (Anti-/Epitaph) -- Joe Henry makes the smoky, bruised, literate record he's been working toward for some time now.

2. The Libertines, Up the Bracket (Rough Trade) -- Snotty, stupid and not the Strokes, this is a truly vibrant jolt of 11th-generation punk-pop.

3. My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves (ATO) -- A spacey distillation of well- chosen classic rock influences ought not to sound so damn amazing.

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