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  Listen Up! 6/28/02 Listen Up!

Friday, June 28

Various Artists, “Totally Hits 2002,”Warner Music Group and BMG Records. I love these hits compilations. They’re a great way to get a bunch of radio pop smashes without having to sit through often mediocre albums. But, the problem is, they always break down into a good times, bad times situation. There are the dance, r’n’b, hip-hop, and pop cuts, which are almost always at least listenable and frequently brilliant. Then there are the rockist songs, which are almost always interminable. Bombast rules kids today just as it did in the 70s, but at least Styx and Kansas put some degree of musical interest in between their pompousness. That can’t be said for the Calling or Default, that’s for sure. Buy this, play the first seven cuts, six of which are stunning, then skip up to the last four songs, three of which are right up there with the best. Although, there’s something to be said for the experience of hearing P.O.D., one of the worst white rap rock groups in history, so you should probably at least expose yourself to the middle cuts.

Dolly Parton, “Halos & Horns,” Sugar Hill Records. This is the fourth straight good-to-great record from Dolly Parton in a row. If it doesn’t quite hit the consistent standards of last year’s brilliant “Little Sparrow,” that’s mostly ‘cause “If” and “Stairway to Heaven” aren’t as perfect rock songs as “Shine” or “Seven Bridges Road.” Though damned if she doesn’t make “If” into a spritely bluegrass tune, with her harmonized vocals on the chorus able to send chills up and down the spine. The best songs on this one are a lot of fun. “These Old Bones,” where she double-tracks a duet with herself as her mother, is a hoot. “I’m Gone” is a blast of a song about a woman leaving a bad man. “Shattered Image” and “Sugar Hill” are more serious, but they’re gorgeous tunes. “Hello God” is probably the best post 9/11 song I’ve heard, as it asks questions rather than assumes a moral certainty. Parton is singing as well as she ever has in her life, and these days she sounds so relaxed, so free to go in whatever direction she feels like going. Twenty-plus years of making bad pop/country records made her so much money she can now spend the rest of her life being artistically satisfied.

Superdrag, “Last Call For Vitriol,” Arena Rock Recording Co. I can never remember which of the many bands whose name begins with “Super” is which. I do know this rocks along quite nicely, with solid four-square rhythms propelling dirty guitar chords chugging along under swell, multi-tracked melodic vocals. Alright, I would love to hear more diverse melodies, more interesting chord changes, maybe an occasional bass or drum idea that I haven’t heard 40 million times before. (I should say that they do have interesting chords, but not always interesting changes, if that makes any sense.) But, they do the Beatles basics very well, and they have some sort of secret ingredient in the delivery that makes me like this more than I can defend it. Lew pointed out an obvious rhyme scheme in one of the songs, to which I can only respond, “What? These songs have lyrics?” They don’t compel me to hear the words, just the sounds of voices enjoying themselves delivering rock’n’roll music to the people.

Will Smith, “Born to Reign,” Columbia Records. Born to be derivative of far more talented rappers, born to work with lame rhythms, born to have a beautiful wife, who, as Leon pointed out, may be in the video of their otherwise lame duet.

--Steve Pick
   

 

 

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