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  Listen Up! 4/22/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Apr. 22

Sheryl Crow, "C'mon, C'mon," A&M Records. Hey, did I mention that I really like this record? Crow's voice is a thing of beauty, revealing the personality of one who has spent her life immersed in pop culture, mostly music, and who understands that emotions are meant to be writ large, and set to delicious melodies.

Emmylou Harris, "Roses in the Snow," Warner Bros. Records. I'm replaying stuff I've listened to recently. This is a gorgeous record, with Emmylou's clear, beautiful tones soaring high over the acoustic instrumentation, and sticking straight to the ideas of the songs, mostly sad ones, but some high-spirited. Ten songs, and every one a small, perfect gem of concept, arrangement, and execution.

The Ohio Players, "Pain," Westbound Records. The early Ohio Players stuff sits in a neat world mixing bits of jazz fusion, acid rock, and funky beats. It's creative and infectious and complicated as all hell.

Kristie Stremel, "All I Really Want," Slewfoot Records. In 1979, if this record had come out, Stremel would have been a radio favorite right alongside Cindy Bullens and Carolyne Mas and Ellen Foley. Not that any of those women ever made any money, but all three had artistic success, and all three support raging fan websites nowadays. Stremel is completely out of fashion right now, playing straight-forward singer-songwriter rock'n'roll with ringing guitars, solid rhythms, and soaring vocals. (Her voice, by the way, is remarkably reminiscent of that woman who used to sing in the Motels back in the 80s.) If, like me, you're genetically predisposed to like that sort of thing, you're gonna be playing this record ofen.

The Magnetic Fields, "69 Love Songs Vol. 3," Merge Records. When I first got the three-CD set of this massive project, I played it obsessively for a month, and have rarely gone back since. Listening to it today, I realize its flaws first. The vocals, mostly by songwriter Stephen Merritt, are dry and limited to a narrow range of low tones that wear thin over time. The rhythms, so often pulled from drum machines, are robotic in ways that at first seem ironically clever, but which also wear thin. The melodies are sometimes less interesting than they at first appeared. Now, I'm completely unable to concentrate on Merritt's greatest strength, the words, which are hilarious, bittersweet, cutting, loving, nasty, and almost every other adjective that could possibly ever come to mind relating to love. And, the best melodies are still pretty cool. There are a world of songs here that should be covered by people who can really sing them. Also, I'm pretty sure if I was at home, without all the noisy distractions here at work, I'd like the other things more again.

The Brought Low, " The Brought Low," Tee Pee Records. Big, outlandish, fat 70s rock guitar riffs, with a swagger to the lead guitar that's way too often missing from contemporary efforts to bring back this style. The singing is a little less powerful than I'd like, but the songs sound okay. I like this a heck of a lot more than the over-rated Fu Manchu.

--Steve Pick



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