THE DOORS Absolutely Live (Elektra 61972-2). The Doors are already legends, and the band's new release, "Absolutely Live," shows why. These previously unreleased live tracks sound remarkably contemporary. The late Jim Morrison's howling, sexually charged vocal on "Who Do You Love" could easily be a hit on modern-rock radio. Morrison sounds typically demented on the medley of the traditional pop classic "Alabama Song" to go along with a wild "Back Door Man" and the revolutionary fervor of the '60s on "Five to One." The Doors were more than just Morrison. Ray Manzarek on organ, Robby Krieger's stunning guitar work and John Densmore on drums all earned their way into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. The CD provides a glimpse at some of the the Doors' lesser-known songs such as "Build Me a Woman," "Not to Touch the Earth" and "The Hill Dwellers." Morrison also provides some poetry on a CD that, despite a few ragged spots, catches the spirit of the Doors. Rating:*** 1/2
-- Anthony Violanti
LUTHER VANDROSS Your Secret Love (Epic/LV Records EK 67553). Being a true Vandross fan borders on cult worship, but not without cause. Vandross' silky, sultry vocals can wrap around lyrics or soar into gospel, bringing about emotions without vocal antics. For true fans the man can do no wrong, and for them any fresh material satisfies. However, given Vandross' previous high standards, this compact disc has shades of mediocrity. The title cut is upbeat and bouncy, and lyrically the original songs are more complex than most popular music today. But Vandross really doesn't grab listeners until he covers Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and the lounge lizard ballad "Going Out of My Head." The process of "Lutherization," the singer's unique ability to interpet songs and transform them into new experiences for listeners, is magnificent, but a new hit song isn't a bad idea, either. Rating:***
-- Carl Allen
CURTIS MAYFIELD New World Order (Warner Bros. 9 46348-2). Six years after he was paralyzed from the neck down when a lighting tower fell on him, Mayfield, the first African-American artist to make his mark through hit movie soundtracks, is back. Mayfield's high-strung tenor and deft lyrical poetry have always made him stand out. From uplifting gospel-influenced hits like the Impressions' "Keep On Pushing" to the social criticism of "Superfly," Mayfield's status in popular music approaches legend. On this CD, fans can hear that his spirit was never fully enclosed in his unassuming frame. The title song combines hard-hitting inner-city realities with a smooth, sympathetic delivery that gently but firmly strides toward a positive message. It is a track that one can imagine only Mayfield doing, like so many others on this CD. He hasn't lost his ability to inspire and entertain at the same time. Rating:****
DAVID SANBORN Songs From the Night Before (Elektra 61950-2). GROVER WASHINGTON JR. Soulful Strut (Columbia CK-57505). Pop jazz by saxophone specialists in pop jazz. David Sanborn, who might as well have been the inspiration for Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music White Boy," gives us, as always, pretty good R & B that is sometimes even better than that (Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes"). Rating: . I hope Washington's "Soulful Strut" sells zillions of copies so he can go back to real music. He is, after all, the original of what the vastly less talented Kenny G. and Najee etc. became. But his beautiful meltingly soulful sound has been put to far better use as a sideman on recent discs -- Gerry Mulligan's "Dragonfly," the Sondheim disc "Color and Light." This is tooting background music for people with domestic chores to do rather than for people who want to listen to music. Rating:** 1/2
-- Jeff Simon
JOE NICHOLS Joe Nichols (Intersound 9197). I know this sounds like a made-up success story, but here goes. According to his record company, aspiring singer Joe Nichols was working down in the oil pit in one of those 10-minute oil change shops. He was singing to himself one day when a customer heard him. The customer was a member of the country band Shenandoah. The guy from Shenandoah helped Nichols get an audition, etc., etc. Bottom line: Nichols is a very good singer, and this is one of the spicier discs we've heard from a new artist this year. "Independent Girl" and "Wal-Mart Parking Lot" are songs that show this oil-pit poet is a talent to be reckoned with. Rating:****
-- Dan Herbeck
(1) Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix), Los Del Rio (RCA). (2) I Love You Always Forever, Donna Lewis (Atantic). (3) It's All Coming Back to Me Now, Celine Dion (550 Music). (4) No Diggity, Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre (Interscope). (5) Where Do You Go, No Mercy (Arista).
(1) From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, Nirvana (Geffen). (2) Aenima, Tool (Zoo). (3) Falling Into You, Celine Dion (550 Music). (4) The Moment, Kenny G (Arista). (5) Blue, Leann Rimes (Curb).
MODERN ROCK TRACKS
(1) Novocaine for the Soul, Eels (Dreamworks-Geffen). (2) What I Got, Sublime (MCA). (3) Down, 311 (Capricorn-Mercury). (4) I Was Wrong, Social Distortion (550 Music). (5) Burden in My Hand, Soundgarden (A&M).