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  Listen Up! 2/20/04 Listen Up!

Friday, Feb. 20

The Rolling Stones, “Got Live If You Want It!” Abkco Records. I always dismissed this early live Stones album, mostly on account of I couldn’t take the screaming girls. Now, I don’t think I’ve listened to it in over 20 years, so I don’t really know for sure if this 2002 reissue cleans up the music at the expense of the screams, or if I just overestimated the memory of all those girls going crazy. Either way, you can hear plenty, and you get this amazing document of the Stones at the earliest stages of their world domination, when they were still innocent enough to think this might not last. In other words, they sound so young and excited by it all. There are almost as many covers as Jagger/Richards originals in this set, and I’m most amazed by the tenderness with which Jagger sings Otis Redding’s then recent “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” It’s amazing because he was still too young to begin to understand the sentiment of the song, and yet he convinces us that even for a guy who was becoming used to sex being as available as chewing gum, it was still possible to be hurt. Yep, it’s also amazing because it’s coming from the same guy who opens the set (or at least the album) with the ultra misogynist “Under My Thumb.” These performances are raw and exhilarating, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so damn long to realize this.

Terry Allen, “Juarez,” Sugar Hill Records. We go back to 1976, and the debut album of the world’s only performance artist/sculpter/Texas singer/songwriter. This is being reissued by Sugar Hill in the very near future, but I’m not sure of the date. Dave Alvin’s liner notes rank this album with Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” and Randy Newman’s “Good Old Boys,” which is some pretty good company to keep, even if I think he’s exaggerating. Of course, I’m at work, so I can’t pay attention to the lyrics, which is a pretty big part of Allen’s work. I suspect that’s where the comparisons become more apt. At any rate, the music is pleasant enough on its own, albeit rather sparsely laid out. Allen’s vocals aren’t pretty, but they’re familiar enough to me by now that I can’t complain about them. He carries his tunes, which is more than you can say for a lot of people. His piano playing is always a lot stiffer rhythmically than I’d like, but again, familiarity at this point renders this criticism moot. There are some occasional acoustic guitar accompaniments which add some interest to the bare bones of these songs. As I understand it, the album is pretty much a connected piece, telling the tale of a couple of people taking a trip. That would explain the occasional spoken word interjections which are a bit jarring when you’re not paying attention. I’m gonna take this album home and pay closer attention to it one of these days.

Dizzee Rascal, “Boy In Da Corner,” Matador Records. After a few casual listens around the store, I no longer feel exactly nervous when all these jittery hyper-speed rhythms start spinning. I’m still more of an admirer of Rascal’s skills than an enjoyer of them. The guy is pulling off some fairly complicated raps against some even more complicated beats. A couple of the hooks are starting to sink into me, especially “Jus A Rascal,” but I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a fan.

--Steve Pick

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