MORRISSEY Ringleader of the Tormentors (Hed Artzi) The artistic rebirth of Morrissey continues on Ringleader of the Tormentor, the followup to his 2004 triumphant comeback You Are the Quarry and last year's electrifying live set - Live at Earls Court. But where do you go from there? Maybe it's a case of too much too soon, because despite some shining moments, Ringleader just doesn't hold up to its predecessor. Which isn't to say that the Moz doesn't deliver, but he does so in a very familiar way. The thrill of hearing one of the most influential post-punk figure's return to form on Quarry has made way for a certain sameness - a plateau which torpedoed the earlier incarnation of his post-Smith's solo career a decade ago. Lyrically, Morrissey never strays too far from his forte - titles like "You Have Killed Me," "Life is a Pigsty," and "The Father Who Must Be Killed," tell longtime followers they're in the comfortable territory of his cutting wit and sad sack articulation. Been there, heard that. But the delicate, hymn-like "Dear God, Please Help Me," with orchestration provided by spaghetti western score legend Ennio Morricone, offers something unexpected - the most blatantly sexual lyrics the notoriously asexual Morrissey has ever offered. Despite failing to reach previous peaks, Ringleader contains its share of highlights. And the album's closer, the almost jaunty, piano-driven "At Last I Am Born" points to the possibility that Morrissey may actually have found a modicum of happiness. A world with Morrissey's music in it is a far better place than one without it, and Ringleader has multitudes of merit, but when I want to hear some of his latter-day masterpieces, I'll turn to Quarry. SONNY & CHER The Beat Goes On - The Best Of (Hed Artzi) Sonny Bono - underrated pop genius? That's the consensus after revisiting Sonny & Cher's greatest hits - 21 tracks covering their 1965-67 heyday. Bono learned his way around the studio as part of the Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector's gang of studio musicians who formed the foundation of all of his early 60s hits. While most people thought of Sonny & Cher as the original hippie novelty act, and Bono as nothing more than buffoonish clown, he actually wrote and produced most of the duo's big tunes - from "Baby Don't Go" to "I Got You Babe" to incredibly astute rap-precursor "The Beat Goes On." Even one of folk rock's greatest protest songs, "Laugh At Me," musically out-Byrds The Byrds and lyrically gives any protest singer a run for his money. Bono's ragged vocals - part Dylan, part Lennon - blended perfectly with Cher's rich, confident voice. Together, they broke new ground that groups like The Mamas & Papas and The Turtles would quickly ape with great success. There was plenty of schlocky filler - even among the greatest hits, but The Beat Goes On offers proof supreme that Bono isn't only the name of U2's singer.