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  Listen Up! 7/4/03 Listen Up!

Friday, July 4

Susheela Raman, “Love Trap,” Narada World. Raman has a beautiful, full-bodied voice, and she’s mastered its dynamics, giving her the ability to sing equally well at all volume levels. She’s interested in a variety of international musics, mostly middle Eastern, Indian, and English, which pretty much guarantees anybody anywhere who listens to her will find something exotic in the mix. I like this record, but I can’t lose myself in it. It’s a hair above background music, thanks to her vocals and some decent melodies. I do wish the arrangements were a little richer. No, I wish they were a lot richer. They hold this record down to a level it deserves to transcend.

Throw Rag, “Desert Shores,” BYO Records. Here’s some old-school punk rock that would probably have kicked some butt opening for the Clash or the Sex Pistols back in the late 70s. Pleasant enough stuff, with a real feel for that hard-edged 70s rock’n’roll groove, and a storehouse of classic chord progressions to fall back on whenever writing a new song becomes too hard. There is a nice sloppy cover of “Please Don’t Touch,” a song I remember from the Pirates, but which was probably a cover when they did it in 1977. I’m not saying I’ll ever want to hear it again, but I won’t take it off if somebody puts it on.

Geri Halliwell, “Scream If You Wanna Go Faster,” EMI Records. This came out two years ago, but somehow it escaped my notice. While I was a big Spice Girls supporter, and I’m fond of Melanie C’s first solo record, I’m not so crazy as to need to hear every single post Spice release. Besides, Geri was the first to leave, the John Lennon and Yoko Ono of the group, wrapped into one. That said, this is better than it should be, worse than it needs to be. Halliwell has a lot of personality on talk shows, but not so much as a singer. Her version of “It’s Raining Men” sounds like an audition for “American Idol,” and frankly, I’m not sure she’d get on with it. She’s not exactly getting first-rate collaborators now that she’s not such a big deal. And, when did she get so skinny? She’s obviously working out, to judge from the muscle tone on her pictures, but she was always the bigger, cute Spice Girl.

The Aerovons, “Resurrection,” RPM Records. Debby Mykles just told me this is almost Rutles-like, and yeah, that nails it. This is like an alternate universe Beatles in 1966, probably at the beginning of the year. Actually, these guys were apparently St. Louis’s hottest band at the time, and they managed to get to England to record this record that never got released until now. (See a recent issue of MOJO for details.) The result is pleasant, Beatlesesque pop, with some studio experimentation that was pretty wild for the time, though far more commonplace now that we’ve heard post Beatles-bands do it a million times. An intriguing oddity for fans of pop music history. They had all the chops to be big, but they didn’t make it. Possibly this had something to do with the fact that none of these songs leaps out of the speakers and screams “HIT.” Or possibly it was just politics and bad luck.

--Steve Pick

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