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  Listen Up! 4/2/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Apr. 2

War, "Why Can't We Be Friends," Avenue Records. These guys were so masterful back in the 70s. You know the hits, and this one has "Low Rider" and "Why Can't Be Friends" shared with the "Best of" collections. In between, they delivered grooves equally sinuous, with some lite jazz soloing, and some heavier Latin influences, and a vibe of eternal sunshine and fun.

Jimi Hendrxi Experience, "Axis: Bold As Love," MCA Records. Hendrix is always thought of as being such an amazing rocker, and such an amazing guitarist, and of course, he was. But the evidence on this record (as on his others) is clear that he was equally an amazing melodicist and arranger. It' s all the melodic touches on his guitar in the background - he was also an amazing user of the multi-track studio - that make these songs stand out. This remains one of the most beautiful records of all time.

Ohio Players, "Fire," Mercury Records. Yeah, the song's called "Fire," but the Ohio Players really kept things to a slow sizzle, a slick simmer, a near-boil. These guys were the ultimate in musical foreplay, keeping you primed and wanting more, stirring up passions and achieving mini-musical climaxes regularly. Ideas kept poring from all directions in this large group, with the groove always remaining as the focus. This album may have been their masterpiece.

. . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead, "Source Tags & Codes," Interscope Records. But why would you want to know them? Aw, I can't really hate these guys, they actually have a slightly melodic (if hardly inventive) approach to aggressive rock that doesn't bother me. But I sure don't see why anybody would get excited by them? Their rhythm section has no kick at all, which is a problem in music so obviously intended to rock hard.

Glenn Lewis, "World Outside My Window," Epic Records. They say he sounds like Stevie Wonder, but that's kind of a distant influence to my ears. More like Blackstreet, I think. Which is pleasant enough, though the songs aren't memorable enough to challenge "No Diggity." Although, I don't know, this does sound like it has more legs than Remy Shand.

Home Town Hero, "Home Town Hero," Maverick Records. There will always be rock bands that just sit there, doing nothing inherently wrong, conforming to the rhythmic and harmonic standards of their specific sub-genre (in this case, I don't know what you'd call it, but it's something harder than your Triple AAA and more melodic than your standard alternative rock), and yet have nothing special about them at all. I guess the singer thinks he's Thom Yorke when he does that falsetto thing in the quiet parts between the screaming aggressive parts. But, I think he's a bar band singer with an inexplicable major label deal.

Radio Birdman, "The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)," Sub Pop Records. Though far from being the best punk/New Wave band of the late 70s, these guys hold up pretty well. They had everything going for them except truly first-rate songs. They took the requisite influences from the Stooges, the Dolls, sixties garage, etc. and added in more than a little Easybeats (from their native Australia). It's so funny to think of how independently all these rock bands all over the globe could mold themselves into something perfectly appropriate to each other. Radio Birdman could play their instruments a little better than most punks of the day, but they couldn't sing any better. It was all about capturing the energy, about making music that understood rock'n'roll to be sexual, danceable, and dangerous.

--Steve Pick
   

 

 

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