Holiday Gift Guide : Calendar’s little helpers offer suggestions in pop, jazz, holiday, family and classical music, plus videos, computer games and books. (Good news: They’re easy to wrap.) : POP MUSIC
* * * THE ROLLING STONES, “Stripped,” Virgin. This sort-of-live, mainly acoustic collection has warmth, personality and musical engagement. The revival of minor gems such as “The Spider and the Fly” and “I’m Free” is one of the album’s great rewards.
* * * 1/2 THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” Virgin. Things can get unwieldy, but the music’s sweep and vulnerability make Billy Corgan seem like today’s most worthy heir to Brian Wilson. Yields the sense of epic quest that comes with life’s major transitions.
* * * STEVIE WONDER, “Natural Wonder,” Motown. Wonder really perks up here, delivering more than the required run-through of his classics. The performances don’t yield any bolts of revelation but are uniformly genuine and spirited, without a trace of complacency.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (f a ir), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).