Young Jeezy, "The Recession" (Def Jam)

Young Jeezy long ago established himself as "the snowman" with his sly raps and grimly silly T-shirts. If his album "Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101" didn't do enough to reference cocaine, his appearance on Gucci Mane's "Icy" did the trick. But the chill was apparent, too, in Jeezy's icily repetitive music.

Jeezy's cold streak has finally thawed. He puts the same dedication into political and social landscapes as he once did thugs and drugs, using a denser sound with riveting rhythms -- perfect for the nervous tension he has allowed into the lyrics of "Recession."

Jeezy shows fear and loathing toward President Bush throughout, and has nothing but (heavy-handed) praise for Barack Obama on "My President." Even when club life rears its thuggish head ("Put On" with Kanye West), Jeezy is more pragmatic than dramatic. Finally, he's having an outing that's sexy and fun rather than discordant and deadly.



Brian Wilson, "That Lucky Old Sun" (Capitol/EMI)

Anytime Wilson delivers a new album, there's cause for celebration. He has come back far from the depths of depression and addiction after it once seemed we would never again hear from that extraordinarily creative soul.

In 2004, Wilson stunned the musical world by completing his nearly 40-year-old lost masterpiece "Smile." It was vibrant, musically complex, accessible but sophisticated.

Trying to match it now is simply impossible. But Wilson deserves credit for trying, crafting new music within an old framework that is enjoyable if not as artistically spellbinding as his previous accomplishments.

That in a nutshell is what we have with "That Lucky Old Sun," a completely enjoyable splash of California fun, draped in sunshine harmonies, colorful arrangements and the occasional odd narrative courtesy of longtime Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks.

On first listen, all the elements of the songwriter's classic works can be found here: the lush arrangements, distinctive harmonies and the sense of eternal innocence that flows through the lyrics of songs such as "Forever She'll Be My Surfer Girl." But there's also a sense of forced retro-writing, as on the well-orchestrated yet ultimately thin "Oxygen to the Brain," "Morning Beat" and a few others. Parks' relatively brief spoken-word contributions narrated by Wilson fail to fit as well with the music as they did decades ago.

Wilson's voice is not what it was, but cuts such as the lovely "Midnight's Another Day" are well-suited to his more limited range. And for every letdown such as "Mexican Girl," there's a song such as the retro "California Role" that's impossible to resist.