MIRACLE: A CELEBRATION

OF NEW LIFE

Celine Dion and Anne Geddes

A multimedia collaboration between Celine Dion and famed baby photographer Anne Geddes, "Miracle" unfolds exactly as one feared it might: Lots of tender, orchestrally assisted love songs to Children Everywhere. Lots of photos of Dion adoringly cradling infants dressed up as flowers (and once, alarmingly, an acorn squash). Available as a CD or in various book/CD permutations, "Miracle" will likely be regarded as the union of the universe's most precious photographer and its most treacly singer, which, of course, it is, though things could have been a lot worse. Though it hews closely to the formula of a typical Dion album, with big ballads and swelling string sections and lots of emoting, considering the singer's reputation as a slayer of musical subtleties, "Miracle" is admirably restrained.

Despite a stray lullaby or two, including a nicely underplayed -- yes, underplayed -- version of "Brahms' Lullaby," "Miracle" predominantly features songs to, rather than for, children. A cover of John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" sounds pretty syrupy, though only slightly more so than the original; a rendition of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is agreeable, if slight. Most of the rest of the tracks -- about the miracle of life, riding on angels' wings, etc. -- are perfectly respectable, if interchangeable.

Non-fans, new mothers or not, might begin entertaining homicidal thoughts around the time Dion starts singing in French, and whether "Miracle" will appeal to the singer's non-parental audience is harder to say. Even they might have their limits.

-- Allison Stewart

PALOOKAVILLE

Fatboy Slim

If Fatboy Slim is remembered 100 years from now, it will probably be for "Rockafeller Skank," the infectious hit that was everywhere at once for one glorious summer, from the cell phones of passersby to the teen comedy "She's All That."

Whether shadowy Fatboy Svengali Norman Cook will be proud of this achievement, it's hard to say. The fact is, "Rockafeller" may be Fatboy's only shot at posterity.

Not that there's anything wrong with the electronica project's latest recording, "Palookaville." Cook's style is refreshing and specific -- he layers beats and samples and oddball effects over and around a repetitive sample; the trouble is that repetitive samples had better be endlessly entertaining if it's not going to be mind-numbingly annoying.

"Palookaville" has both entertaining and annoying tracks and some in between. It's hard to know what to think of the opener, "Don't Let the Man Get You Down," built around a line from the Canadian group Five-Man Electrical Band: "And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply." It's cute and hooky, but the earnestness is either cringe-inducing or mocking.

The best numbers are raucous, why-not experiments such as a cover of Steve Miller Band's stoner single "The Joker" featuring Bootsy Collins on vocals and the two tracks with vocals by Lateef, "The Journey" and "Wonderful Night."

The booty-shaking jungly thicket of "Jin-Go-Lo-Ba," constructed on top of the Santana single, is party music at its most insistent and enjoyable, but the high fades with blah lounge tracks such as "North West Three" and "Song for Chesh."

Palookaville is a place Fatboy Slim goes when he doesn't know where he wants to end up.

-- Arion Berger