If there were a rock-music Mt. Rushmore, carving Cheap Trick's faces on it wouldn't be a bad idea. It's been 24 years since Robert Romanus sang the band's praises in Fast Times At Ridgemont High ("The magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsenā€¦") and its virtues remain the same. It's a can't-miss live act that's remained true to the spirit of rock and roll, the occasional power-ballad cash-in aside. Admittedly, the qualities that make it an institution also keep its albums surprise-free, but that isn't always a bad thing. The new Rockford (Big3) delivers, however predictably. Even "Perfect Stranger," co-written and co-produced by hitmaker-for-hire Linda Perry, sounds like Cheap Trick. And that's a fine thing to sound likeā€¦ B

One of the strongest albums from a different kind of power-pop institution, Matthew Sweet, is getting the deluxe reissue treatment, and deservedly so. Released in 1991, Girlfriend (Columbia) found Sweet discovering his heartbroken, deceptively vulnerable songwriting voice and joining it to the brutally melodic guitar heroics of Richard Lloyd (Television) and Robert Quine (Lou Reed). The two-disc "Legacy Edition" adds rarities from the era and Good Friend, an album-length collection of alternate versions released to radio stations at the timeā€¦ A

The received wisdom on Charley Pride goes like this: As a black country star, he played it strictly middle-of-the-road to avoid upsetting a primarily white audience that was reluctant to accept a black star at any time, much less during the turbulent '60s. But the truth is that Pride didn't play it any safer than most white performers, and sang as well as the best of them. The new two-disc The Essential Charley Pride (RCA/Legacy) makes an excellent case for his career, rolling out one distinctive country hit after anotherā€¦ A

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Pride started out wanting to play baseball, but an injury threw him off his game. Ditto Jim Reeves, whose countrypolitan sound did a lot to move country away from its roots during a career sadly truncated by a plane crash. Ultimately, that shift toward smoothness and strings might not have been such a good thing, but unlike many of his imitators, Reeves turned it into a style rather than a crutch, as the excellent two-disc anthology The Essential Jim Reeves (RCA/Legacy) proves. A