January 31, 2005 12:00 PM

BEYOND THE SEA
Bobby Darin was a terrific pop singer who was also a very good actor. Kevin Spacey, who plays Darin in this movie biography, is a great actor who is also a first-class pop singer. While he’s a gifted mimic, Spacey never seems to be merely imitating the original. In fact, he displays an easier, more naturally swinging style than Darin on tunes like “Mack the Knife.”

RAY
These marvelous songs, all recorded in the ’50s and ’60s, display Ray Charles’s profound musicality and his definitive sense of soul. Cuts such as “Hallelujah I Love Her So” also show the energy and inventiveness of Charles’s band, anchored by the Genius’s own piano and sax man David “Fathead” Newman. Six tracks are live recordings, bringing even more life to this CD.

THE AVIATOR
This disc serves as a lofty introduction to the music that was contemporaneous with Howard Hughes’s life. Most of it is vintage material from musicians such as jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, blues singer Leadbelly and Swing Era star Benny Goodman. But modern-day crooner Rufus Wainwright soars on the ’20s standby “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.”

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
This soundtrack should satisfy hardcore Phantom-philes and maybe even create a few new ones. Emmy Rossum sings Christine with a sublime power, coaxing every nuance of emotion out of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score. And Scotsman Gerard Butler is a touch less bombastic than the most famous Phantom, Michael Crawford.

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