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  Listen Up! 1/11/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Jan. 11

Lotte Lenya, "Lenya Sings Weill: The American Theatre Songs," Sony Classical. The version of "September Song" which opens this CD blows me away. Lenya sings it so matter-of-factly, so devoid of sentimentality, that it's like I've heard it for the first time. The other songs, many of which I am hearing for the first time, however, prove more troublesome. That vibrato, so noticeably absent on "September Song" is kind of hard to get used to. So is that German accent. But, she does carry the melodies well. The arrangements are workmanlike, with all the focus on her voice. I've read often enough that Lenya is a genius, but I'm not quite ready to join that train. A very good singer, yes, and the woman who was closest to Weill, to be sure.

Various Artists, "Sofistifunk Vol. 2," Irma Global Village Records. Damn record collectors can't get excited about good music any more, so they have fetishized the dregs of 70s jazz fusion, and get collections of this crap together so we can suffer through them all at once. All right, I'm suffering right now because I really hate the Chick Corea cut that's on right now. A lot of this is just mild, mostly forgettable lite funk beats with meandering improvisation. But, really, why bother reviving this stuff?

Tribe Called Quest, "Beats, Rhymes and Life," Jive Records. While the music bounces along gently and jovially, it never engages like the prime Tribe stuff on the first few records. By this time, they seemed to be on auto-pilot; they could have continued forever making pleasant records that never grabbed you by the throat, or they could split up within a couple more years. They wisely chose the latter course.

Soundtrack, "I Am Sam," I forget which label. Most of these Beatles covers are mediocre, but I truly love the Rufus Wainwright version of "Across the Universe," and I'm very fond of the Aimee Mann and Michael Penn version of "Two of Us."

Tony Toni Tone, "The Best of Tony Toni Tone," Motown Records. These guys made so many great records back in the day, and the best cuts are thrown together right here. Great compilation.

Carole King, "Love Makes the World," Koch Records. I grew up loving Carole King. She wrote some of the best songs of the 60s, she made the first album I ever loved ("Tapestry," released in 1971), and she fell completely off the deep bend by the 80s. This is way better than the hard rock records she did until now. But, it's not particularly good. Nice to see her do "Monday Without You," a masterful song sung by the Wilsons (Carney and Wendy, along with guest Brian) a few years ago on their criminally overlooked record without Phillips.

--Steve Pick



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