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  Listen Up! 3/18/03 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Mar. 18

Bad Company, “The ‘Original’ Bad Company Anthology,” Elektra Records. For some people, Bad Company earned undying enmity because it was built around two key members of indisputably better rock bands, Free and Mott the Hoople. Paul Rodgers had been the singer of the former, and Mick Ralphs the guitarist of the latter. But some of us weren’t cool enough to know that back when we first heard songs like “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock Steady.” So, I think of these guys with nothing but warm nostalgia. I haven’t actually sat down to listen to Bad Company in years, and let me tell you, this stuff holds up. Great hard rock riffs, and Rodgers majestic, soulful vocals, what’s not to like? The first disc has all the hits, and the second looks likely to document the decline (though I’m only playing the first one today). The surprise is all the album cuts I didn’t hear the first time around. Lots of great rock’n’roll in here.

The Blackbyrds, “Greatest Hits,” Fantasy Records. Donald Byrd, the very talented jazz trumpeter, produced this r’n’b band back in the 70s. The big hit was “Walking in Rhythm,” but there was a lot more where that came from. It’s lite funk, with an emphasis on melody and harmony more than the beats. Not to say you can’t dance to this, because you can. This stuff wears well after all these years. When it came out I was not into it at all, and it only started hitting me recently.

Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, “L.A.M.F. Revisited,” Receiver Records Limited. Junkie rock at its finest, the Heartbreakers took the balls-to-the-wall attitude of the New York Dolls (from whence came Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan) and the Ramones, and simply rocked their asses off. Songs were basic rock’n’roll structures, often lifted straight from early 60s models, but revved up to fit the punk rock ethos of the day (which was late 1970s). I’ve always preferred Thunders’ first solo album, “So Alone,” because it revealed much more of his heart and soul alongside the rush to experience power and speed. But, oh, the power and speed of this record! It’s still pretty great.

Various Artists, “Artist’s Choice: Rolling Stones Music That Matters to Them,” Hear Music. This series may have the most prosaic title ever given to a great idea, but that doesn’t mess with the quality of the finished product. There isn’t anything on this album I haven’t known and loved for years, but the average Stones fan is gonna be in for a lot of new discoveries. James Brown, Al Green, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Earl Bostic, Andre Williams, Sly & the Family Stone, the Itals, Sade, Aretha Franklin, the Isley Brothers, Muddy Waters again, and the Beach Boys. That’s what I call a compilation. And most of these masters are represented by songs not immediately obvious. A great mix tape.

--Steve Pick

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