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  Listen Up! 8/28/02 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Aug. 28

Various Artists, ďAfro-Rock Volume One,Ē Evolver Entertainment. This collects 11 cuts from African bands in the 70s. The liner notes arenít always very clear about where in Africa any given recording originated, but the sound is almost always in the Afro-beat style most often associated with Fela Ransome Kuti. No cut here comes close to delivering the intensity of Fela at his best, but the grooves roll and tumble pretty hard, and itís cool to hear the intersection of Western soul and funk with African methods of building long percussive ritualistic music. All these artists are completely unknown to me, but Iím glad to have made their acquaintance.

Def Leppard, ďX,Ē Island Records. Iíve stuck with these guys long past their shelf life because theyíve delivered so many great songs over the years. This new one, however, just may be enough for me to jump off the bandwagon. Oh, there are some signature Def Leppard sounds, mostly in the vocal harmonies, and occasionally in the guitar crunch. But there are songs that may as well have been written by Diane Warren. Def Leppard is supposed to be sticky sweet, thatís part of their charm. But their sweetness needs to be laced with a rockíníroll strut that is all too rare on this record. Iím not sure what their marketing plan for this album could be. Maybe they want to grab the girls who loved them back in high school. These women are in their 30s now, and most likely listening to Dave Matthews or Shania Twain (which is where former Def Lep producer Mutt Lange takes his best material these days), so I guess the plan is to get onto Triple A radio. The songs are bland enough, but their reputation proceeds them, and they will be locked out all over the dial.

--Steve Pick



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