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  Listen Up! 3/29/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Mar. 29

Mott the Hoople, "Rock'n'Roll Circus - Live," Angel Air Records. It's so nostalgic to hear live recordings that sound like somebody snuck a cheap tape recorder into the back of the hall. That's the way bootlegs were when I was a lad. This was once a cassette release for a fan club or something, and now it's being given a fancy package, with a slick 20-page booklet. This documents the band right on the verge of stardom, right after "All the Young Dudes" was recorded, but apparently before it was added to their set. Mott the Hoople were a magnificent rock'n'roll band, with power, passion, chops, conviction, and musical ideas to spare. I'll probably never want to play this again - the sound quality really is pretty bad - but the performance is amazing.

Prince Buster, "FABulous Greatest Hits," Sequel Records. Prince Buster made several of the greatest ska records in history. "Madness," "Al Capone," "It' s Burke's Law," "10 Commandments," "Earthquake," "Too Hot," etc. They're all here, and lots more. Working with many of the finest musicians in Jamaica back in the 60s (and starting very early; the classics began in 1963), Buster put his brash personality to play, often simply intoning statements from outlaw characters, or in the case of "10 Commandments," as the worst anti-feminist preacher you've ever met. You don't have to agree with his politics in that song, by the way, to laugh at the absurdity of his words, and to feel the elasticity of the groove. Elasticity is the secret to most of these songs; these beats are joyous, moving all over the place, constantly striving to be original and creative, never locked into recreating anything.

Julia Sets, "An Alternative To Extinction," Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars. Things start off subtlywith "Hale-Bopp," then go off the deep end, in a good way, with the amazing "Prayer For An Illinois Winter," which turns into a 20-minute excursion of shifting guitar textures over a steady drum pattern that eventually turns tribal, all while overtones ring and shimmer and the bass hums low and throbbing. I like this stuff, there's imagination at play, and emotion worn on the sleeves of guitarist/vocalist/writer/mastermind James Weber. I went to lunch before the rest of the EP played.

The Ex, "Joggers & Smoggers," Fist Puppet. Once upon a time, I would have been totally down with this sort of thing, this experimental guitar bass drum noise-fest. Now, I hear the talent in there, but I don't have much patience to sort through it. I still like avant-garde jazz, and the occasional avant-garde rock, but it's harder and harder for me to get into it.

--Steve Pick



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