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  Listen Up! 7/1/02 Listen Up!

Monday, July 1

Superdrag, “Last Call For Vitriol,” Arena Rock Recording Co. I wanted to play this again because it sounded so good yesterday. It still sounds good today, albeit even more derivative than I originally thought. That’s alright. I’ll settle for a band of decent musicians who listen to the Who and the Beatles and a whole lot of other great rock bands of the past.

Nelly, “Nellyville,” Universal Records. Aw, you can’t help but like the guy. He always sounds so playful, like he’s just messing around with these twisting rhythms pouring out of his mouth like a water fountain being played with by a little kid. Some words go in long arcs, then the next few are quick little spurts, then longer, shorter, etc. He’s got a trademark style that dozens of others have already aped, and none have bettered. This album has stronger rhythm tracks than his debut did, which means you can move your body to some of these songs as well as just smile at the vocals. He’s no lyrical genius, but Leon pointed to a great line in the already inescapable “Hot In Herre” (produced by the brilliant Neptunes), “I’m just kidding/Unless you’ll do it.”

Various Artists, “Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro,” Astor Place. I’ve never seen this before today, but it came out apparently back in 1997, the year Nyro passed away. There are a number of pleasant little cuts here – Phoebe Snow’s “Time and Love,” Beth Neilsen Chapman’s “Stoney End,” and Patty Larkin’s delicious “Poverty Train” – as well as a couple disposable, misguided, or confused efforts. But, there are three reasons to do what you gotta do to track this down. Rosanne Cash does a magnificent “Save the Country,” revealing an aptitude for Nyro’s elastic melodies that should have been obvious to any fan of her early 90s records. The Roches do a joyous job on “Wedding Bell Blues,” and any time you can get the Roche sisters together on a song of joy, you should be happy. But, most importantly of all, Sweet Honey in the Rock transcend the original brilliance of “And When I Die” with a five-part polyrhythmic, polyphonic assault. It’s as good a reason to be glad you’re alive as anything I’ve heard lately, and I’ve been very glad to be alive this year.

--Steve Pick



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