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  Listen Up! 1/7/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Jan. 7

Blue Mitchell, "Out of the Blue," OJC Records. A fairly obscure, yet remarkably brilliant album recorded in late 1958 and featuring Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor sax, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers or Sam Jones on bass, and Art Blakey on drums. The musicians complement each other perfectly. Mitchell plays a very light, very melodic trumpet; Golson blows deeper and harder on tenor, and attacks the rhythms while Mitchell rides them. Kelly's piano is bouncing chords in between the constantly swinging bass lines and drums. This record doesn't explode, but it hooks you in from the git-go, and doesn't let up. Great improvs on a cool version of "When the Saints Go Marching In," too.

Various Artists, "Hank Williams Timeless," Lost Highway Records. I still get all excited when I see a tribute album come in, as long as there are any artists on the record that I like. This one has a high hit-to-miss ratio in that department. Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Johnny Cash fall squarely on any list of artists I really dig; Sheryl Crow, Mark Knopfler, Hank III, and Ryan Adams have all impressed me from time to time. That leaves only Keb' Mo' and Beck as dark horses. So, like I say, I went into this with high expectations, and, as with so many tributes before, I come out of it with very few musical revelations. There are pleasant moments on here, to be sure. Dylan's "I Can' t Get You Off Of My Mind" rides the same joi de studio that his latest album "Love and Theft" has. Keb' Mo' actually sounds pretty entranced by "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Petty jumps his way through "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)." Only Beck out and out fails with his lazy-ass rendition of "Your Cheatin' Heart" (cause he's so ironic, see), though Mark Knopfler does sort of snooze through "Lost on the River." The one true piece of brilliance comes courtesy of Lucinda Williams, who understands that "Cold, Cold Heart" should send chills up and down the spine, that it is a song of extreme passion and suffering and pain and, most importantly, hope.

Happy Mondays, "Pills 'N' Thrills and Bellyaches," Elektra Records. The truly amazing thing about this totally innocuous record is how big a deal people made of it at the time of its release some dozen or more years ago. The rhythms, which seemed so au courant at the time, are stodgy. The tunes are barely developed. The singing is Brit-pop average. The energy is non-existent. Nothing bothers me about this, nothing interests me about it.

Dave Edmunds, "A Pile of Rock Live," Castle Music. So here's one of the great nice guys of rock, the kind of guy who doesn't excel at anything more than conveying a love and warmth and enthusiasm for good old fashioned rock' n'roll virtues and values. The liner notes don't say when this was recorded, but it could just as well have documented a live concert from virtually any night in the last 25 years; there's no song newer than 1980 or so. Geraint Watkins, long-time piano playing sidekick, is on board, as is Billy Bremner, one-time cohort in Rockpile, Edmunds great band of the late 70s with Nick Lowe. The songs are great - "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock'n'Roll," "Crawling From the Wreckage," "Lady Madonna". The band is playing in the pocket and working up a sweat. The result is pure rock'n'roll joy.

--Steve Pick



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