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  Listen Up! 2/20/02 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Feb. 20

Tom Verlaine, "The Miller's Tale," Virgin Records. First, alas, I must report this two-disc set is no longer available, which is a damn shame, because this is magnificent. One disc is all studio cuts from throughout his career. The other disc is a glorious live concert, almost in its entirety from 1982. Tom Verlaine fans (including me, because I'm just borrowing this from Steve Scariano) now have something to hunt down, because we all must own this. For the rest of you, understand this: Tom Verlaine, whether solo or as the leader of Television, has made some of the finest rock music of the last 25 years. Songwriting of majesty, reach, imagination, brilliance, obliqueness, and power. And, let's talk about his guitar playing. Lots of rock guitarists have built their careers on taking the blues and transforming it into rock. Verlaine is one of the few who did the same for jazz. His solos have all the power of rock, all the rhythmic invention and force of rock, and all the harmonic and melodic delirium of jazz. He develops his solos from so many building blocks, flying past the chords, building up the melody, building up the passion, reaching crescendos of unbelievable beauty, and then crashing back into the riffs that started it all.

Sonny Clark, "Sonny's Crib," Blue Note Records. This one is more in-your-face, and a little less immediately interesting than "Cool Struttin," the Clark album I raved about a couple weeks ago. But, it's pretty damn great, nonetheless. Here's the line-up: Donald Byrd on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Clark on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. Mostly, these guys just felt like burning at furious tempos that September day of 1957 when they got together to record this stuff. Everybody plays beautifully, the songs are delightful, whether standards or Clark originals, and if you can't tap your foot to this stuff, you probably don't have the use of your legs.

Little Charlie & the Nightcats, "That's Big!," Alligator Records. These guys have been steadily and reliably churning out decent blues for something like fifteen years now. Every one of their records is better than the average blues bar band record. None of them is magnificent, either. Really, a group for which the phrase, "It's all good" would seem to have been invented.

Darkthrone, "Preparing For War," Peaceville Records. Some goofy ass dark-metal band with an old-school punk rock guitar sound, and some nasty growling vocals that are supposed to scare us or something. If I was 12, I might like this.

--Steve Pick



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