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  Listen Up! 12/26/02 Listen Up!

Thursday, Dec. 26

MC Paul Barman, “Paullelujah!,” Coup d’Etat Entertainment. This guy’s crazy brilliant. There’s no reason for the form of hip-hop to be limited to the African-American style we all know, but this guy is one of the few I’ve heard to absolutely master the game without even thinking for one second that he should “keep it real” as we know it. He’s illin’ like the Illiad, to cite one random line of genius to jump out at me from this spiraling stew of verbal dexterity. I think it could take a few dozen listens to get everything he has to say. And, hey, the music’s a hoot, too, sampling all sorts of things that you haven’t heard sampled before, and always to great effect.

Orchestra Baobab, “Specialist in All Styles,” World Circuit/Nonesuch. This band’s 20-year-old recordings sold well enough last year to encourage them to get back together and rerecord their greatest hits. Odds are, you don’t know these hits well enough to compare them to the originals. I certainly don’t. I do know this is beautiful music, rhumba rhythms that flow all over the body, rippling guitars, sinuous vocal melodies. I dare you to resist this stuff.

Lou Reed, “The Raven,” Sire Records. Lester Bangs will rise from the dead and wreak his revenge, I’m sure. Because nothing Lou Reed ever did, not “Metal Machine Music,” not “Berlin,” not that live album where he cussed out the crowd, was ever as half-baked and just plain awful as this. Oh, the story parts are as good or better than any book-on-tape you’d ever want to hear. But, then he starts bellowing “These are the stories of Edgar Allen Poe/Not exactly the boy next door,” and I become embarrassed to have ever heard of either Reed or Poe. Of course, Reed assures me that if I haven’t heard of him, I’m deaf, dumb, or blind. Sorry, I forget what that rhymes with. There is a lot of talent working on this record, and some of it may actually pay off – I’m writing this while listening to track six – but I can’t imagine anyone will ever want to listen to this thing twice. And that’s assuming I make it all the way to the end of a TWO-disc set.

--Steve Pick



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