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  Listen Up! 3/15/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Mar. 15

Small Faces, "All Or Nothing," Sony Music Special Products. Every once in a while, Small Faces music gets reissued, doesn't sell, then goes out of print again. This disc came out ten years ago, collecting lots of rarities, b-sides, singles, album tracks, and live cuts that weren't on the regular Small Faces albums (which are hard enough to find). While there are certainly a few cuts here that sound like some talented guys having a goof in the studio, many of these rank with the band's best work. Steve Marriot's soulful vocals, and Ronnie Lane's more prosaic counterpoint, and the powerful melodies, and the flowing keyboards of Ian McLagan, and the propulsive drumming of Kenny Jones - it's all so damn good.

Staple Singers, "Bealtitude," Stax Records. This is the record that made them huge thirty years ago, containing "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There." As Lew put it, there's nobody more upful than the Staple Singers. Mavis just sings her guts out, Pops is an effective foil (and a great guitarist, though that's not as apparent on this record, full of Stax funk). The songs are fun, if occasionally quirky. You can't resist this stuff.

Wilson Pickett, "Wilson Pickett's Greatest Hits," Atlantic Records. Cut for cut, there is more funk, more passion, more soul, more groove, more power, more energy in this CD than in most anything you could name. It's got the overly familiar - I really don't need to ever hear "Mustang Sally" again, though that's more the fault of horrible cover versions rather than the classic original - and the more rarely heard - including "Sugar Sugar," the fabulous version of the Archies hit. You know what I always say about this guy; Pickett is so Wicked I named my cat after him. (That would be Wilson Pick.)

Lester Young, "Jammin' the Blues: Film Soundtrack and More," Definitive Records. Let's just say it's live performances from Lester Young accompanied by the likes of Harry Edison, Barney Kessel, Illionois Jacquet, Jo Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, and more. Yeah, it's cool. Young swings so solidly, with such a slick tone to his tenor. Some of these songs sound relaxed and comfortable, others pump and push and propel dancers. Everything is a delight.

Luna, "Romantica," Jetset Records. This will be out in April. It's more of the same from Luna, probably harder rocking and more diverse than some, definitely more interesting than the last one, and well worth the attention of any fans of guitar pop/trance division (you know, like the Feelies with less repetition, or Television with fewer solos and no jazz influence, or I don't know, like Luna!). As usual, I will have to hear this a few times to see if it grows on me, but it sounds fine this time.

Pretenders, "Get Close," Sire Records. The Pretenders worst album sounds better than it did to me the last time I played it (which was probably in something like 1987, less than a year after it came out), but still remains far and away a major disappointment in an otherwise magnificent career. By this time, the "band" was augmented or more often replaced by studio musicians, so this is really more like a Chrissie Hynde goes for the contemporary 80s production gold project. Some of it actually kind of works, like "Tradition of Love," which melds a far-Eastern feel to Hynde's mostly wordless vocal pyrotechnics and Robbie McIntosh's flowing guitar solo. And, of course "Don't Get Me Wrong" will always be a masterpiece, as will the incandescent, beautiful "Hymn to Her," written by someone who as far as I know never wrote another song that anybody heard outside her family, some old friend of Hynde's.

The Beautiful South, "Painting It Red," Ark21 Records. To paraphrase my compatriot Steve Scariano, "These guys are still around? Who knew?" This band never did anything that made me sit up and pay attention before, so I'm not surprised that this one is a real snoozefest, too. Seventeen songs, and they all just kind of glide along at a mid-tempo pace with very repetitive and limited melodies. There are two singers, a bland male tenor, and a more interesting female alto. When they sing together, you get a nice little yin/yang thing happening, but that's not enough to make the record worth hearing.

--Steve Pick



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