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  Listen Up! 5/7/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, May 7

Various Artists, "Zomba Sampler: Yesterday Today Tomorrow," Jive Records. Leon put on this compilation because he just can't stand the silence. He then accurately enough pointed out it has a little something for no one. It' s actually not terrible, it's just not good. Imagine a collection including "Living in America" by James Brown, and stuff by Billy Ocean, Survivor, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Samanha Fox, Reel Big Fish, Hi-Five, and Aaliyah. It 's all over the map, with nothing but a common label to tie them together. Which would be fine if any of these songs were classics. The best thing on here is "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls, a pleasant little ditty that I've never grown tired of hearing, but which is hardly something to build a compilation around.

Alejandro Escovedo, "By the Hand of the Father: Songs & Stories From an Original Theaterwork," Texas Music Group. It's not really an Escovedo album, but it's his project, and his name that will sell it. He has collaborated on a theatrical work based on the lives of his father and the fathers of his partners. As such, the first thing it reminds me of is Tom Russell's "The Man From God Knows Where." It's interesting that two of the finest singer/songwriters of the modern era should choose to investigate their roots so closely. Escovedo's is, of course, different by virtue of the Mexican heritage of his father. Broadly speaking, though, both records are about assimilation into American society. Escovedo recycles a couple of songs, and writes some new ones; several tunes are very clearly Mexican traditional-styles. Listening to it at work is not the best way to get the subtleties of the words, though. A lot of this material is spoken, rather than sung, and I can't pay attention to really understand what's going on. It sure does sound powerful, though.

--Steve Pick



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