POP : Do You Hear What We Hear? : Prick up your antlers: Calendar's annual recordings guide is here to help you sift through the year's notable pop, jazz, classical, children's and holiday music--and the best of the box sets. : Separating Best Bets From Lumps of Coal

Calendar's pop staff surveys 40 of the nation's most popular or critically acclaimed albums :

*** SHERYL CROW, "Tuesday Night Music Club," A&M.; This pop singer-songwriter sings with the seductive quirkiness of Rickie Lee Jones, and her country-influenced debut album is full of odbball gems.

*** 1/2 DIONNE FARRIS, "Wild Seed--Wild Flower," Columbia. In an eclectic style encompassing folk, light funk, pop and gospel, the ex-Arrested Development member sings insightful songs with social and philosophical themes.

* 1/2 LUTHER VANDROSS, "Songs," Epic. Vandross covers a great list of mostly pop and R&B; ballads and strikes out on almost all of them. He never alters his style or approaches the material in an innovative way.

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Murder Was the Case," Death Row/Interscope. The three cuts on this soundtrack that feature Snoop Doggy Dogg are so-so; the hard-driving Dr. Dre-Ice Cube collaboration "Natural Born Killaz" is the best cut.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended) and four stars (excellent). A rating of five stars is reserved for reissues or retrospectives.

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