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  Listen Up! 9/16/03 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Sept. 16

Everly Brothers, “Stories We Could Tell: The RCA Recordings,” BMG Entertainment. Here are 20 tracks dropped onto a German CD, all taken from the early 70s, when the Everlys had left Warner Brothers Records and hadn’t yet broken up. I’ve never heard any of this before. It’s prime early 70s country rock, following up on the stuff at the tail end of their WB career, and establishing them clearly as contemporaries of Gram Parsons (who had to be flattered if they took anything from him, since one of his best songs was their “Love Hurts.”) These recordings are all produced by Chet Atkins, who plays some great guitar all over this record. This will require further listening to determine if it’s good or if it’s great. But, there’s no way it can be considered anything other than one of those two choices.

David Bowie, “Reality,” ISO Records. Hey, another year, another David Bowie comeback album, another sucker saying it’s his best work since his glory days. Look, his glory days were roughly equivalent to my high school years, and I graduated in 1977. I really don’t expect to ever recapture the magic I had back then with algebra and geometry, so it’s hardly fair to ask Bowie to come up with another “Gene Jenie” or “Suffragette City.” The truth is, after Bowie’s creative genius hit a dry spell, which to be fair was closer to 1980 than 1979, he settled in to become a solid middling singer/songwriter, punctuated by occasional collaborations – “Let’s Dance” and “Earthling” come to mind – which took him outside his comfort zones enough to achieve something considerably more memorable than the bulk of his more or less average work. This one comes out firing hard, with “New Killer Star” and an all-but-unrecognizable remake of Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso.” After these two pumped up rockers – and let’s face it, steroids don’t really add the character that is required to make muscles work – things settle into a genial generic Bowie record. It’s not gonna be unpleasant, but really, if you’re not already a hardcore fanatic, why go out of your way for this stuff?

Outkast, “The Love Below/Speakerboxxx,” Arista Records. I think we’re listening to the first disc, “The Love Below.” This will either completely revolutionize hip hop, or fade away into obscurity. It’s avant-garde hip-hop, with rhythms pulled from everywhere but the James Brown/P-Funk on-the-one axis. Jazz, classical, pop, drum’n’bass, all over the place. I don’t know that anything is gonna make me want to hear it again, but it’s crazy enough to make me hope this leads somewhere. Oddly, now, the weak link may be in the rapping. By opening themselves up to so many disparate ideas, the one thing that still sounds the same is the sing-song voices.

--Steve Pick


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