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  Listen Up! 2/15/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Feb. 15

Mystikal, "Tarantula," Jive Records. I can't believe I haven't had a chance to hear this yet; it came out in late 2001. It's terrific. Mystikal is the only rapper who sounds like a preacher. Not that there's anything he says that would ever come out of a preacher's mouth, but he has the cadence of the Southern black churches in his voice. This album is way better than the last one, even if there's no single song as maniacally catchy as "Shake Ya Ass." The rhythms are constantly moving, and Mystikal is bouncing off the rhythmic walls. What words I can make out are at least as funny as anything I've ever heard form Rudy Ray Moore.

Gil Evans, "The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix," Bluebird Records. This strange item has been brought back into print after a number of years absence. It came out originally in 1974, and the idea was for Evans to put together jazz arrangements of Hendrix classics. Some of this has dated badly, and sounds like Starsky and Hutch background music, albeit with melodies you may be familiar with. Some of it is downright weird, with Evans employing all sorts of freaky sounds to spice up his arrangements. Ah, the era of early synthesizers. And some of it is downright beautiful, especially "Up From the Skies" and "Castles Made of Sand," where the jazz players deliver the tunes as if they were precious jewels, rather than attempts to turn overdriven guitar sounds into big band tones.

Steely Dan, "Aja," MCA Records. The last Steely Dan record before they broke up (only to reform again a couple years ago) was not their best, but it certainly holds up fine. The hits are magnificent, the rest of the stuff slightly less catchy. These guys knew their way around melodies and hooks, and always played with what was expected. You never got formula from Steely Dan.

Earth Wind & Fire, "Faces," Columbia Records. From about the same time as "Aja," EWF had better grooves (they slid where Steely Dan slunked), and songs almost as clever. Good solid record that I hadn't heard much before.

Ramblin' Jack Elliott, "Bill Durham Sacks & Railroad Tracks," Collector's Choice Music. Lew says this is the greatest country music record ever made. I say it's an average troubadour wandering the streets of Greenwich Village, soaking up Bob Dylan and Tim Hardin songs, and singing with passion about as far as his limited vocal range and guitar style will take him. Yeah, I might slide a dollar into his guitar case if I saw him out on the street, but that would include the ability to walk away before the insane reverberating laughter kicked in. (Seriously, that's in the middle of one of the tracks, some sort of acid thing, I guess.)

Stan Getz - Chet Baker, "Stan Meets Chet," Verve Records. I don't know. Maybe the rhythm section is uninspired. They certainly are competent, but they don't exude personality. Maybe it's just that Getz and Baker are always inconsistent. Maybe I'm just not thrilled by Baker's sub-Miles spattering of notes, or Getz's long improvisations that seem to circle around ideas. Or maybe this just wasn't recorded all that well. I don't know. I really don't know.

--Steve Pick



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