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  Listen Up! 11/10/03 Listen Up!

Monday, Nov. 10

Various Artists, “Festival in Havana,” Milestone Records. This interesting album was recorded in Cuba in 1955, at the tail end of the old regime. It’s not the commercialized Cuban music we’re all so familiar with, but rather the folkish roots of same, rumbas and congas played straight. There is a trumpet, but that’s the only concession to the big band sounds we know so well. Lots of massed vocal harmonies, lots of percussion, some gorgeous melodies. As I said, it’s an interesting record. It offers pleasure, and knowledge, but frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever ask to hear it again. It just doesn’t lift me up the way so much Cuban music can do.

Various Artists, “Now That’s What I Call Music! 14,” Capitol/Columbia/Universal Records. The latest installment of this series collects 20 more pop hits, and shows once again there’s a lot of vibrant action down on the Top 40 end of the radio dial. The best thing about these albums is the fact you can actually tell who is performing the songs you’ve heard dozens of times on the radio. Why is it commercial radio refuses to identify artists and songs any more? Does this action take away from the opportunity to make some stupid joke about sex or politics? Oh, well, as usual, the first half of this album is wehre all the best stuff is. Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” leads off, as it deserves to do, and there are some great cuts from Mya (“My Love is Like . . . Wo”; sometimes the titles alone tell you all you need to know), Lumidee (“Never Leave You (uh ooh, uh ooh!) great title, and a sample from the classic “Iko Iko”), Murphy Lee (“Wat Da Hook Gon Be,” easily my fave from this St. Louis hip-hopper), R. Kelly (“Thoia Thoing” yet another great title, and a monster beat), and Bow Wow (“Let’s Get Down”). Eventually, the ballads slow things down, and then abourt ¾ of the way through the record, the rock songs take over. Nobody really wants to hear the top selling rock songs of today, do they? I mean, I can hear some talent in Fountains of Wayne, but Good Charlotte, the Ataris, Nickelback, 3 Doors Down? Yuck!

Mars Volta, “De-Loused in the Comatorium,” Universal Records. What the heck is wrong with these kids? Do they realize how ridiculous it is to try to imitate Rush, Budgie, Triumvirate, and that ilk? Do they realize they aren’t even as good as the musicians they want to emulate, even if there was a good reason to emulate them? Why the hell would anybody want a record that sounds like an outtake from Angel’s “Tower” album, when the original has been known to send grown rock fans screaming in terror or laughing uncontrollably until they have convulsions? I normally don’t care when people like things I don’t like, but there were some pretty major cultural wars fought twenty-five years ago to try to eliminate this sort of thing, and it saddens me to see it’s coming back.

--Steve Pick


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