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  Listen Up! 6/9/03 Listen Up!

Monday, June 9

Various Artists, ďMark Lamarr Presents . . . Duke Reid the Trojan Nuclear Weapon,Ē Trojan Records. Twenty-six rare or previously unreleased cuts from the early years of ska down in Jamaica. The sound is impeccable, the best Iíve ever heard on a collection of this sort. If this is representative of whatís going on with the Trojan reissues, Iím gonna need a lot more of these. You can really hear the New Orleans ríníb influence on some of these cuts, not to mention the very strong presence of ďThe Madison TimeĒ in early 60s Jamaica. Some amazing musicians worked on these records Ė Roland Alphonso on tenor sax, Ernest Ranglin ong guitar, Rico Rodriguez and Don Drummond on trombones, just to name a few of the more familiar ones. Some of these cuts are so obscure they donít even know whoís singing. If you have any interest in ska at all, this is essential.

Bad Company, ďThe Original Bad Company Anthology,Ē Elektra Records. Two CDs of rockíníroll pleasures, with snarling guitars, sinous rhythms, and soulful vocals. Delightful.

Maceo Parker, ďRoots Revisited,Ē Verve Records. Thirteen years have passed since Maceo made his best album under his own name. His reputation made blowing hot and funky with James Brown all those years (and a little bit with P-Funk, though he was often lost in that gang), Parker sat down with the likes of Pee Wee Ellis, Don Pullen, and Bootsy Collins to make a serious jazz album. Well, kind of serious, because itís really much less about improvisation and much more about soul, heart, and feel. Mace plays melodies and riffs, and he makes them sound exciting every time. After this, he did a first rate live album, then fell in with the jam band crowd and started actively trying to sound contemporary. Heís still a force of nature, because no saxophonist is more instantly recognizable, but heís never come near to the perfection of this album again.

Ms. Dynamite, ďA Little Deeper,Ē Interscope Records. I have my contrarian days, you know. Iím pretty open-minded, but sometimes I hear a record so deadly dull I feel the urge to dismiss the entire genre it represents. I completely understand that this isnít fair, but the problems with this record are typical of contemporary ríníb. Because the reliance of this music is so much on beats, and because my own musical biases are naturally in favor of melody, it has required much training for me to accept the not infrequent glories of this field. But, when I hear a record like this, where the beats are pedestrian, and the melodies duller than usual, I begin to wonder if contemporary ríníb isnít aspiring in some weird way to the state of a futuristic Gregorian chant, where just a few notes held for long durations are all the music is allowed. I ainít dancing, thatís for sure.

--Steve Pick

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