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Influences vary, from Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band (especially evident Hostile, Mass.

For those reasons, The Red Light District is the best work of the Atlanta rapper's career so far.

Greatest Palace Music isnt so much an apology for the earlier, often roughshod quality recordings as it is another curious, intriguing addition to Oldhams redoubtable body of work.

Ludacris: The Red Light District Def Jam South, 2004 Rating: 3.8 Astute Shaking Through regulars might recall that this writer took Ludacris to task last year for indulging in ugly, lowest-common-denominator posturing on Chicken -N- Beer.

Elton John: Peachtree Road Universal, 2004 Rating: 3.7 At his current level of media recognition, Elton John could easily set his musical career on "coast" -- and an argument can be made that he's done so for many years.

But with Peachtree Road, John once again admirably sets out to make a strong album filled with solid, durable tunes, continuing in the vein of (and improving upon) 2001's Songs From the West Coast, instead of simply issuing a piece of product studded with one or two hopeful hits. The opening "Weight of the World" is too slow setting a tone, and "Too Many Tears" settles for cheap emotional button-pushing, tritely evoking the deaths of John F. But elsewhere, John -- aided by longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin -- delivers some of his best material in at least a decade, made all the stronger by its refusal to conform to modern-day radio format standards in hopes of scoring an "I'm Still Standing"-sized hit.

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