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  Listen Up! 1/8/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Jan. 8

Tribe Called Quest, "Midnight Marauders," Jive Records. It always sounds great to hear some old Tribe Called Quest music. The grooves are unstoppable, the raps are ingenious.

Average White Band, "Cut the Cake," Atlantic Records. Of course, I prefer the instrumentals, mostly because the vocals are so overwhelmingly the average part of the band. The syncopated funk is always present, though, and if the songs aren't always up to the standards of the beats, they're good enough to fill a dance floor. And, my God, I'd forgotten how great "If I Ever Lose This Heaven" is.

Madonna, "Music," Dreamworks. Hey, I love this record. Not as much as "Ray of Light" but I love this record. Wish Papa Ray hadn't taken it off for some dub. Not that I don't like dub, but it's not as much delight as Madonna.

Some dub CD that had King Tubby's name in the title. Papa Ray took it off when I wasn't looking. It really was pretty nice, despite my comments on the previous CD. Nothing earth-shattering, of course, but those 70s reggae grooves do hit the spot.

Sun Ra, "Angels and Demons at Play / The Nubians of Plutonia," Evidence Records. Consumer tip: There is no such thing as an album with Sun Ra's name on the cover that isn't worth the time it will take to listen to it, or frankly, the money it will cost you to own it. They are all at the very minimum good, and many are downright great. This one collects two albums originally recorded in the late 50s, and the music is loads of fun. Lots of percussion, heavy on the tympani. Unique big band and smaller group voicings, lots of intriguing harmonies. The music pulses and undulates, gets entirely under your skin. Second consumer note: For those of you afraid of freak-out music, this stuff is way more normal than Ra would later get. I'm not saying it's exactly familiar, because he was constantly inventing and seeking the new. But, it's less likely to scare neophytes than other records might be.

Jane Bunnett, "Alma De Santiago," Blue Note Records. A great Latin jazz album that echoes some of the voicings, not to mention the percussion sounds, of the Sun Ra record we just heard. But, of course, all the rhythms and all the melodies/riffs are straight outta Cuba.

--Steve Pick



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