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SHORT SPINS

Rock/Duran Duran, Astronaut (Epic). It'd be nice to tell you that Duran Duran's long-awaited reunion offered testament to the '80s alt-pop band's enduring appeal. It'd also be a lie. Overproduced and underwritten, "Astronaut" lacks the white pop-funk appeal of "Notorious" and the ghostly new wave/David Sylvian's Japan ethos of the band's "Planet Earth" era. Instead, we get what, with only a few exceptions, sounds like a cheesy pop-metal band covering Duran Duran tunes. A shame, really. Review: 2 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Miers)

Jazz/Dr. Lonnie Smith, Too Damn Hot! (Palmetto). Buffalo-born and bred, the turbaned wizard of the Hammond B-3 has coming into his own as one of the authentic jazz treasures. That will happen as Jimmy Smith has become unreliable and his B-3 cohorts die off. This classic organ quartet stuff -- organ, guitar, rhythm guitar, drums -- is a delightful conjugation of some long-standard organ group tropes, with the likes of guitarists Peter Bernstein, Rodney Jones and drummer Greg Hutchinson. There's nothing quite like the music back at the chicken shack. Review: 3 1/2 stars (Jeff Simon)

Pop-punk/Good Charlotte, The Chronicles of Life and Death (Epic). Pop-punk by numbers. Nothing really wrong with it, but then, "Chronicles of Life and Death" is about as watered-down and safe as punk can get. Aimed squarely at the hearts of teens, and likely to hit its mark. Review: 1 1/2 stars (J.M.)

Punk/Social Distortion, Sex, Love & Rock 'n' Roll (Time Bomb/BMG). It's been eight years since the last outing of Social D, and during that time, leader Mike Ness released a few excellent roots-rock records, and original guitarist Dennis Danell passed away. Not surprisingly, "Sex..." is a more introspective record, lyrically speaking. Morose or self-pitying it isn't, however; just some hard-won maturity married to molten melodic punk. One of the band's finest hours. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.M.)

Blues/Johnny Winter, Second Winter -- Legacy Edition (Columbia Legacy). Winter and his band were at the top of their game here, laying claim to an American form of the heavily amplified blues being made at the time by British supergroups Cream and Led Zeppelin. Many call "Second Winter" the guitarist's brightest moment, and it's easy to see why -- his playing is energetic, wonderfully phrased, biting at one turn, warm and buttery at the next. The inclusion of a bonus disc featuring the Winter Band's full performance from the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 makes this an essential for fans, or for anyone looking for some old-school Texas blues played with a rock 'n' roll attitude. Review: 4 stars (J.M.)

Rock/Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, No Quarter, Remastered (Atlantic). When Plant and Page reunited in 1994, what could have been a cynical revisiting for nostalgia and money's sake turned into high art. The duo revisited and reconfigured its vast catalog, and the results were brilliant, modern and timeless in one fell swoop. Plant was in great form, Page sounded better than ever, and an attitude of fearlessness meant that this was more a "next step" than a reunion. This remastered version of the "No Quarter" album is simply crushing. As good as blues-based rock ever got; and more importantly, emblematic of just how effectively musics from various parts of the world can be married to the blues ethic. Review: 4 stars (J.M.)