Something Old, Something Old

Listening to radio lately is like a nightmare where you're back in high school. On Boyz II Men's inescapable cover of "In the Still of the Nite," only Nathan Morris's gospel-style melisma gives the Five Satins' 1956 doo-wop dinosaur a semblance of life. Still less escapable, at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, is Whitney Houston's knockoff of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which seems to drag on for about an hour.

But aging rock fans can take heart. Roy Orbison's posthumous King of Hearts sounds fresher than most albums by the living. His eerie voice (made eerier by his mushy s's; did he need Poli-Grip?) is transplanted onto tracks produced by Don Was, Robbie Robertson and Orbison's fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne. k.d. lang's slick duetizing on "Crying" is a small price to pay for the neo-Everly rockabilly of "Heartbreak Radio" and the pure Orbisonian melodrama of "Wild Hearts Run Out of Time."

Even more appealing is Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, by the ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist-not necessarily because it's better but because old fogies can now say they like something by a Guns N' Roses guy. We promise: there's nothing here more fearsome than a Ramones-like cover of Toots and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop." Mostly the Hounds sound like the Stones: Stones keyboardists Nicky Hopkins and Ian McLagan, a guest shot by Ron Wood himself, and tastier Keith Richards-style guitar than Richards delivers on his own recent solo album "Main Offender." Stradlin can't sing, but in the same charming way Richards can't. So forget "Main Offender," Wood's solo album "Slide On This," even those Stones wanna-bes the Black Crowes: this is the knockoff of the year. Accept no substitutes.