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THE GOOD NEWS <br> COMEBACKS BY VETERANS AND THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF WOMEN ARTISTS PROVE THE MUSIC YEAR HAD A LOT TO OFFER

It was a year when rock was tarnished by violence and mayhem, symbolized by the multiple rapes and riot at Woodstock '99. Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid Rock and Eminem emerged as leaders in rock's nasty blend of metal, rap and hip-hop culture and music. Rappers DMX, ODB and Jay-Z were just a few of rappers to glorify misogyny and violence.

But the music year wasn't all negative.

Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails proved that rock could be dangerous and political and still have redeeming value.

Comebacks by Santana, Cher and Paul McCartney were inspirational. Teen pop sensations such as the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees showed they could sing as well as sell records. Ricky Martin became a one-man force for kicking the Latin music craze into high gear.

When it comes to relationships and sexual politics, TLC, Mary J. Blige and Fiona Apple showed women had a lot to say. And any year with a goofy dance hit by Lou Bega called "Mambo No. 5" can't be all bad.

Now for a look at 10 albums that made a major difference in 1999:

1. "The Battle of Los Angeles" by Rage Against the Machine. Rage just may be the '90s version of Led Zeppelin with its hard rock style and blazing guitars. Rage, unlike Zep, adds politics to that sound. Singer Zach de la Rocha gets most of the attention for his political rants, but guitar master Tom Morello provides the music power for this band's blend of metal, funk, rap and rock. "Guerrilla Radio" captures the hard-rocking revolutionary zeal of this album.

2. "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Peppers rediscover their funk. Original guitarist John Frusciante returns to give the band new energy. Lots of R&B, funk and rock in an intoxicating musical blend.

3. "The Fragile" by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor comes back with a double album loaded with mood swings, dark images and bold, artful rock.

4. "Mary" by Mary J. Blige. Like Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige takes hip hop beyond its limits. Blige displays maturity, depth and insight on an album that evocatively details her artistic growth.

5. "Run Devil Run" by Paul McCartney. The old Beatle finds new life with the music of his youth. A truly remarkable rock 'n' roll effort by Sir Paul, filled with stomping beats, hot guitar licks and an ageless passion for music.

6. "Fanmail" by TLC. TLC, like the Supremes, makes soulful, crossover music. "Fanmail" is a watershed album by the troubled trio. The track "No Scrubs" became an anthem that finally put macho hip hoppers and other wise guys in their place.

7. "Back At One" by Brian McKnight. Ex-Buffalonian McKnight's elegant and smooth vocals reach a peak on this CD. The single "Back At One" is a moving song that showcases the singer's range and emotion.

8. "When the Pawn ..." by Fiona Apple. Apple is reminiscent of torch song singers of year's past. She offers a sultry, wounded voice with the feel of a smokey piano bar. Barely in her 20s, she has a musical depth beyond her years.

9. "Midnite Vultures" by Beck. Beck displays his funky side on this wild send-up of hip hop culture.

10. "Beautiful Wreck of the World" by Willie Nile. Buffalo folk/rocker Willie Nile returns after a seven-year layoff with an album jammed with everything from good-time rock to pathos and mourning.

Out and About:

Music is the big attraction at the Kootsie Ball. It's an all-star line-up featuring '60s garage band Question Mark & The Mysterians of "96 Tears" fame. Others on the bill: Outer Circle Orchestra, Billy McEwen, Project R&B Revue, Them Jazzbeards, the Steam Donkeys and the Jump Kings. It starts Friday at 8 p.m. in the Connecticut Street Armory, and includes food and drinks. Tickets are $85, dress is black tie/period costume. Proceeds benefit the Erie County SPCA. For information: 565-2400.

Jazz and rock fusion will be on the menu as Willie and the Reinhardts play Friday at 10 p.m. in Mohawk Place, 47 E. Mohawk St.

The Buffalo Song Project exposes creative music by a variety of artists. Michael Meldrum will perform with a host of musicians including Doty Hall, Pat Kane, Buck Quigley and Michele Costa Saturday at 10 p.m. in Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St.