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  Listen Up! 9/24/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Sept. 24

Earth, Wind & fire, ďElements of Love: The Ballads,Ē Columbia Legacy. I donít care, repackage their classics as many times as you want, these old songs are always welcome in my world. Yeah, Iíd like to mix the ballads with the funk, but itís pretty cool to be able to notice just how exquisite their slow grooves were, how carefully developed were their melodies and riffs even when the purpose was seduction, not revelry. I will always be a sucker for ďAfter the Love Is Gone.Ē

Allison Moorer, ďMiss Fortune,Ē Universal Records. Moorer has a big, deep voice, and an ability to drive it straight down the path bordering deep country and ríníb. Sheís best on ballads, which give her a chance to throw in a little jazzy phrasing. But, the uptempo songs rock along nicely, too, even if her vocals can uncomfortably recall those of Cher in her pre-vocoder days. I like this on first listen much more than the last album, but it will take a few more listens to see if these songs are strong enough to make this as good a record as she will one day make.

Nightmares on Wax, ďMind Elevation,Ē Warp Records. The pretty people are sitting in an explosion of color, a crazy, psychedelicized version of a forest, with lots of extra-powerful reds and violets. Itís like a picnic in a Pink Floyd album cover universe. Donít know what these guys are staring at, but it certainly isnít each other. The girl is in the background, and the bald guy sits with one arm over an upraised knee and the other leaning against the ground behind him, a classic pose of a concert-goer on the grass. I go on at such length about the album cover because it is a fairly enchanting image, and because the music is so deadly dull a collection of computerized bleeps and swooshes and gentle beats that thereís no point talking about whatís inside the package at all.

Anthony Braxton, some title thatís two of those crazy little symbols he loves to come up with, Fuel 2000 Records. Itís 1969, okay, and all across the USA there were avant garde jazz artists trying to reinvent the genre, freely improvising, discovering new uses for old instruments and new instruments for old sounds. Braxton was (and is) one of the greatest improvisers in the game. This quartet Ė Braxton, Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins, and Steve McCall, all on many instruments Ė was obviously having a ball in the studio. At times, they sound a little bluesy, sometimes they circle around a melodic riff a la Ornette Colemanís early work, at other times, they play with sound like itís modeling clay and they canít make up their minds what shape things should take. Itís wild, itís funny, itís surprisingly peaceful (well, not the piece credited to Braxton as composer, which is somewhat more chaotic than the other two cuts). The liner notes are all optimistic about the newness of things. Now, 33 years after the fact, it sounds kinda nostalgic. I used to listen to stuff like this all the time; now I drop it in only on occasion.

Large Professor, ď1st Class,Ē Matador Records. At first, I was a little put off by the Large Profís somewhat laconic rapping style. Not really laconic, just maybe leisurely. He does build up a forceful delivery over the course of the record, but he does it without pushing the beats. He likes to stay behind them a bit. There are some great guest-stars on the album Ė Nas, Q-Tip, and the amazing Busta Rhymes Ė but the Large man is the focus. Well, him and whoever provides some truly astounding rhythm tracks. The cut with Busta loops some sort of Brazilian beat to great effect, and the contrast is very effective between Bustaís mile-a-minute pushing with the Large Profís more measured pulling.

--Steve Pick
   

 

 

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