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  Listen Up! 2/22/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Feb. 22

Tanya Donelly, "Beautysleep," 4AD Records. Once she was in Throwing Muses, then she played around in the Breeders, then she led Belly, then she just put out records under her own name. Throughout her career, she has developed a pace with every other record being really good, and every other record being bad. The last one I heard was a few years back, and I really liked it, this one not so much. Donelly is experimenting too much with song structure. I mean, one of her charms is the fact that she obviously never listened much to classic pop music, so she's been able to create truly interesting unusual songs. But, these always play to her strength, which is to rock out a bit. When she slows things down, her little-girl voice is too thin to project any emotion, and the odd-ball rhythms and melodic flailings just get on my nerves. There have been worse records in the world - check out most of her one-time partner Kristin Hersch's solo stuff - but we'll just have to wait til next time for another good one from Donelly. Great guitar work from one-time Zulu Rich Gilbert, though.

Billy Eckstine, "Everything I Have Is Yours," Verve Records. First, let's give it up to the marketing department in charge of promoting Mr. B back in the 40s. Did anybody else have such consistently cool looking picture sleeves and posters? Did anybody else dress so well? Did anybody else have that sardonic half-smile that suggested elegance and detachment at the same time? Now, as to the music. This stuff is from the late 40s, early 50s, just after he stopped leading the very hot bebop band that featured Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. So, the jazz content on the disc I'm listening to right now is very limited. But, his smooth baritone voice is as good an instrument for the balladry of the day as anybody you'd care to name. He sort of floats with the melody, occasionally turning over a passage for extra emotional content, then floating on by with the rest of the song. This music isn't essential, but it's mighty pleasant.

Richard Hell, "Time," Matador Records. I came in at the tail end of this, but it's pretty cool to hear some classic live Voidoids. Pretty sloppy vocals, of course, but the band kicked ass, combining punk energy with furiously twisted guitar playing in ways that nobody else quite picked up on.

--Steve Pick



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