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  Listen Up! 3/5/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Mar 5

George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, "Go Fer Yer Funk," AEM Records. A hodge-podge of assorted mostly unknown recordings from the Clinton gang in the late 70s and early 80s. Most of this is solid funk madness, just the kind of thing you'd expect from the P-Funk gang in their prime. A couple cuts get bogged down with synthesizer experiments that just didn't have the movement and excitement of the full-scale band attacks of classic P-Funk. And there's a pretty terrible instrumental version of "Sunshine of My Love" that is best not experienced at all. But, this makes a solid addition to any library of Clinton magic.

Gato Barbieri/Dollar Brand, "Hamba Khale!," Fuel 2000 Records. Recorded in 1968, this set of four duets from the South African pianist Brand and the Argentinian tenor saxophonist Barbieri are lovely examples of early free jazz experiments. Brand never completely gave up his love of South African folk melodies, which fuels the short title track, with virtually no improvisation. But even when things get rolling between the two (or on the solo portions of the program), there is sometimes a grounding in short motifs taken from his background. Barbieri was building on the screeches taken from the post-Coltrane world in which he lived, and Brand would play subtle little arpeggios beneath him. There is a stateliness to this music, even when it makes a lot of noise. I'm more familiar with Brand, who is pretty much always somewhat stately, so I'm gonna attribute this to him. But, the fact is, both these guys play beautifully here.

Radiohead, "Kid A," Capitol Records. Sometimes I hear recent Radiohead songs and really get into the complex layers of sonic invention. Other times, such as today, I barely notice it's on, realizing only there is some sort of quiet, barely perceptible music in the background.

Tosco, "Suzuki in Dub," !K7 Records. Hey, this is even less perceptible than the Radiohead record. It's just some bass lines taken from dub style reggae, and some synthesizer squiggles played over them. Totally disposable music with no substance, and no immediacy.

Brandy, "Full Moon," Atlantic Records. While some of the backing tracks are mildly interesting, with odd juxtapositions of say, a meandering frenetic run of piano notes against a simple r'n'b drum track, the vocals bring it all down to next to nothing. Brandy doesn't seem too fond of catchy melodies, preferring to sort of chant rhythmically. This can be effective now and again, but a whole album of this stuff wears pretty thin.

Earth Wind & Fire, "Elements of Love: The Ballads," Columbia Legacy. I'll be the first to admit that I prefer the funk jams by EWF over the balladry, but that doesn't mean this is a bad record. Not by any stretch of the imagination, actually. EWF brought just as much harmonic sophistication to their love songs as they did to the party tunes. Melodies of elegance delivered with a sweet touch from the vocalists, and gentle arrangements that really feel like velvet sheets against the skin. (You gotta understand, I really don't like silk all that much.)

--Steve Pick



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