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  Listen Up! 10/1/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Oct. 1

Steve Miller Band, “Young Hearts: Complete Greatest Hits,” Capitol Records. I will begin by acknowledging that never once have I listened to a Steve Miller Band album released between the years 1971 and 1983. Those early ones with Boz Scaggs are pretty cool, and that “Circle of Love” album in the mid 80s had some nice stuff. In between, I never had to bother listening to the records, because every time I turned on the radio, I stood a fair chance of hearing one of his hits. Eight songs into this collection, and I’m waiting for something to pop up that hasn’t been completely ingrained into my system. As fond as I am of these songs, the production is a little bland, with all the instruments rounded off to a blunt, safe edge, with almost no blending or bleeding across each other. So, when you listen to this newly mastered CD, you get even more separation and not enough crispness. But, really, you can’t argue with the tunes. Pop schlock of the highest order, all hooks and 70s rock beats. Steve Miller made the records that fueled a million cover bands, the ones that played all the high school dances back in the day, and now hold court in countless bars in suburban areas around the country.

Taj Mahal & the Hula Blues, “Hanapepe Dream,” Tone-Cool Records. Taj Mahal has never been as good as I think he should be, for some reason. He’s one of those guys who clearly has talent, who has an enormous knowledge of musical genres and styles, and yet he rarely puts it all together in a way that makes me shake my head in awe and wonderment. More often, I sort of nod politely in his direction, and move on. Well, this new album, with some level of Hawaain influence wedded to blues and reggae, is getting a slightly more vigorous nod than usual. I’m pausing to listen to it, rather than ripping it off in dismay and searching for something that will knock me out. And, hey, who doesn’t need another version of “Stagger Lee”?

--Steve Pick


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