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Wall Of Sound

Pop Svengali Glen Ballard has a knack for offering deft assistance to his clients — Alanis Morissette and Aerosmith among them — stopping just short of overworking their music. With groove-meister Dave Matthews, the producer has achieved the seemingly impossible: Ballard convinced the king of arena folk to ditch his acoustic guitar in favor of the electric variety, thus revealing an edge to Matthews' music that had only been hinted at in the past.

On Everyday, the Dave Matthews Band's fourth studio album, Ballard's production, arrangements, and co-writing duties have massaged the 12 songs into a searing rock album. Between the success of Matthews' electric guitar licks and Ballard's R-O-C-K formula, they have crafted an infectious album that offers plenty of ear candy for longtime fans and a fair amount of ammunition against those who smirk at Matthews' hold over both frat boys and swooning young women.

Everyday opens with its discordant, psychedelic first single, "I Did It," as appealing a song as he's ever written, whose chorus remains embedded in one's head after the first listen. Matthews sings with a knowing smile, "I'm mixing up a bunch of magic stuff/ A potion that will rock the boat …" And while that grand statement may not apply in whole to Everyday, there is plenty to like even while smacking yourself in the head for falling prey to Ballard's hit-factory pop talents.

Unlike the live version of the Dave Matthews Band, which meanders and jams through its hits onstage like a tighter Grateful Dead, the songs of Everyday are short, sweet, and to the point. Except for a few grand exceptions ("Fool to Think," in particular), the songs of Everyday are also light on the jazzy folk-rock that defined the band's early days. In their place are headphone love songs like the tortured "The Space Between" and "Sleep to Dream Her," a Dylan-esque lilt that highlights Boyd Tinsley's impassioned violin work and LeRoi Moore's saxophone. And calling in a favor from Carlos Santana (on whose Supernatural Dave Matthews appears), the guitar legend offers his trademark style to "Mother Father," which otherwise would sink under the overwrought weight of Matthews' political, environmental, and social questioning.

Dave Matthews doesn't reinvent himself regularly, la U2 or R.E.M, but he continues to move forward and mature as an artist. And while Ballard's omnipotence on this album may rouse the suspicions of longtime fans — particularly in light of the backseat that the "Band" takes to Matthews on this record — his presence undeniably enhances the music. On "So Right," a song that seamlessly blends the Dave Matthews of today with that of yesterday, he sings, "Tomorrow we may die, but tonight we're dancing in the faint light." The guy has simple desires, and they work for the masses. After all, doesn't everyone want to dance in the faint light for a while?