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  Listen Up! 10/27/03 Listen Up!

Monday, Oct. 27

Cheap Trick, “Special One,” Big3 Records. When I’ve heard this record before, I thought it was a pretty great Cheap Trick record. This morning, however, it sounded like a middling Cheap Trick record. Plenty of pleasures to be had in that, however, not the least of which is trying to remember which Hall and Oates song this mid-tempo catchy ballad was based on, or how many times the Beatles White Album contributes an idea to a Rick Nielsen song. Remember, when you’re gonna steal, steal brazenly, and only steal from the best.

Basement Jaxx, “Kish Kash,” XL Recordings. From the folks who brought you “Where’s Your Head At,” here are 14 more smash hit singles (in my head, anyway). These guys know how to make dance floor grooves simultaneously avant-garde and top 40 ready. I don’t know how they do it, but these songs move! I mean, they slip and slide and grind and bump and jump and howl and hit you in every nook and cranny of the body. Guest vocalists like Meshell Ndegeocello and Siouxsie Sioux lend an element of star power, too. Put this album on shuffle with the latest Outkast, and you won’t believe what can be done with rhythm.

Neil Young, “Greendale,” Reprise Records. I want to like this record, I really do. It’s Neil Young, dammit! And he’s trying something really bold, trying to make a theatrical rock presentation that rocks from start to finish. But, the songs all sound the same, all sound half-developed, as if they were written without any thought given to what the experience of actually listening to them would be. As silly as “Let’s Roll” was as a song, I thought that album had more interesting songs on it than this one. I’ve tried this a few times now, and so far, I find the experience more and more difficult.

Al Green, “I Can’t Stop,” Blue Note Records. Something like 25 years after he last made a record that mattered, Al Green reunites with producer Willie Mitchell and many of the musicians who played on his classic albums, and totally and confidently recreates the same ambience and brilliance that made him a giant in the first place. Now, this is clearly a cynical move, since Al Green has been possessed of the ability to make new records that sound like this all along. But I don’t care. I could get all weighted down thinking about that, or I could just swim in the warmth of these organ chords, swirling underneath that magnificent voice, moaning and shouting and screaming and testifying and exhorting and begging and WANTING! Yes, I said WANTING, because it’s that want, that incandescent state of desire, that made Al Green so magnificent in the first place. And, yes, part of what he wanted was to be loved as a pop singer. He wants it again, he’s smart enough to realize the only way he’ll get any attention is to go back to his roots, and he’s got the chops to do it. I don’t know if there’s any songs on here as good as his classics, but they’re all good enough to be on albums with those classics, and that’s definitely good enough for me.

--Steve Pick


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