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Lady GaGa

The Fame Monster

Interscope

Buy if you like: Madonna, Britney Spears

With four No. 1 hits spun off The Fame, her late 2008 debut album, Lady GaGa is back with a mini-LP/very long EP in time for the Christmas buying market. The good news is this eight-song release is more than just the standard stopgap collection of album rejects. Lady Gaga slams around the noise on "Teeth," spins out Shakira-like on the Latin-tinged "Alejandro," and slides into overblown '70s rock balladry with "Speechless." Thematically, the record is darker and goofier than its predecessor, from the always-trendy zombies on "Monster" to the dead divas on "Dance in the Dark." But you'll find the kind of propulsive dance numbers that set the radio and clubs on fire — most notably the single "Bad Romance" and the much-ballyhooed collaboration with Beyoncé, "Telephone." On its own or packaged with her debut album, The Fame Monster is nothing but fun. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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The Chesterfield Kings

Live Onstage ... If You Want It

Wicked Cool

Buy if you like: The Rolling Stones, Nuggets box sets

Garage rock revivalists the Chesterfield Kings are a perfect early Stones/Dolls hybrid, unafraid to wear their influences on their sleeves or their bodies. Check out those Carnaby Street coifs and lead singer Greg Prevost's painted-on pants. Even the title of this CD/DVD package is a reference to the Stones' first live LP. But while not that original in sound or style, the Kings are far more than a tribute band. They write great songs and are undeniably entertaining. They epitomize Little Steven Van Zandt's garage-rock ethos, explaining his enthusiasm for bringing them to a wider audience through his Wicked Cool label. The acoustic material — highlighted by the country-blues "Gone" and a cover of Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home" — works as well as the swaggering Jumpin' Jack flashbacks. — Lynne Margolis

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David Bowie

Space Oddity (40th anniversary reissue)

EMI

Buy if you like: T. Rex, Mott the Hoople

The de rigueur anniversary reissue of nearly every album ever made does have its downside. There's a propensity to scrape every corner of the tape vault for extra material that's better left unscraped — particularly when it's as repetitious as some of the bonus content included here. In addition to the remastered album versions, we've got two more versions of "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" and "Memory of a Free Festival." There are also two renditions of "London, Bye, Ta-Ta," a song that didn't make the original album, and the all-important Italian version of "Space Oddity." If these songs were as compelling as Beatles tracks, this might be a good idea. But with the exception of the title tune, this album's importance is mainly as an indicator of Bowie's potential brilliance — which, fortunately, he went on to reveal many times over. — Lynne Margolis

  • Lady GaGa, The Chesterfield Kings, David Bowie

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