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  Listen Up! 7/2/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, July 2

The J.B.’s, “Funky Good Time: The Anthology,” Polydor Records. Eight years ago, this compilation may have been state of the art, but it’s a testament to how my expectations have changed for remastered CDs that I find this a little less than perfect. Not that the music isn’t great, because these rare classics, almost all instrumentals, from James Brown’s sidemen back in the late 60s and early 70s will always have the power to start a balls-out party in my head. Unstoppable grooves, full body English, Maceo’s searing alto, Fred Wesley’s slippery trombone, and those guitar licks! These guys could do no wrong. Now somebody get in there and remaster this again. I don’t want to have to keep turning the stereo up.

Earl King, “Street Parade,” Fuel 2000 Records. Earl King backed by the Meters? Sounds good to me. This is a 1972 recording that didn’t see the light of any release day until the 80s, and then only in England. This is hard soul music with propulsive New Orleans r’n’b grooves. I can’t imagine why it hasn’t been available before, but it’s a welcome addition to King’s varied discography.

Green Day, “International Super Hits!,” Reprise Records. I remember the late Mike Story, working here in the early 90s, telling me, “Green Day are gonna be the next Beatles. Just wait until their album ‘Dookie’ comes out. You’ll see.” I remember making fun of him when the album hit the stores, and didn’t sell much right away. I remember the days when an album could come out, not sell right away, and then suddenly take off to Beatles-level popularity. I remember really hating that record, because the hooks are so obvious, and that singer has a three-note range which drove me crazy. I remember eventually coming to terms with a few songs here and there as radio-friendly pop/punk that transcends the limitations of these musicians talents. I remember not really caring ever one way or the other whether this band sells records. But, whenever I remember Mike, a truly great guy, I think of his prediction of Green Day’s success, and I’m glad he really knew what he was talking about.

Beyonce, “Dangerously In Love,” Columbia Records. For the most part, there’s nothing dangerous about this record, and nothing particularly lovely about it. More like a pleasant way to while away an afternoon, flirting a little bit with the kind of beauty that makes you wonder how much personality is really there. Look at the pictures. Of course, Beyonce has lovely skin and hair, but there’s not much else to distinguish herself from a manikin. Musically, I don’t see much difference. She sounds fine, just not engaged beyond the technical exercises at her feet. Except, that is, for the delirious delights of “Crazy In Love,” the first single which features a guest appearance by Jay-Z. This record bumps and pops and cracks and seduces. All the rest of the songs assume you’re already in love with Beyonce, not because of her work in Destiny’s Child or in movies, but because she simply exists in the world. “Crazy In Love,” however, makes no such assumption, and its groove gives you the ride of the summer. Oh, to be driving down the highway in a convertible with this masterpiece wailing away at high volume!

--Steve Pick

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