Consumer Guide

Normally at this time of year my poll-watching duties alert me to missed goodies. But except for the Dud of the Month, this CG is pure odds and ends, and as African as any in years.

AIR Moon Safari (Source/Caroline) Ooh how much I wanted to hate this moist piece of patisserie–how much I did hate it, initially. And as a rock yeoman I direct postrock chauvinists to Simon Jeffes's Brian Eno-sponsored Penguin Cafe Orchestra, whose similar (albeit unamplified) hipster kitsch can now be found in the New Age bin. This is what comes of taking mood music seriously. In the meantime, however, the comfy- funk bass, space-age sound effects, and moments of cool femme treacle are good-humored enough to win over even an old-ager who remembers when lounge was actually worth hating. A MINUS

CADALLACA Introducing Cadallaca (K) There's a Cadallaca interview in which Corin Tucker confuses the Ronettes with the Shirelles, and even if it was a "put-on," as young people say, that's all you need know about how much this side project has to do with classic girl groups and the rest of that rot. It's just a song sluice for an irrepressible talent—somewhat gentler and less conflict-purging, with Sarah Dougher's organ replacing Carrie Brownstein's guitar. The one noir period piece is the one misstep; elsewhere they imagine 1942 and dis a booker and invent new romance tropes the way they would in any other band. I love Brownstein. But Tucker could end up eclipsing Polly Jean Harvey herself if that was the way she thought about the world. And one of her strengths is that it isn't. A

Pick Hit: Lobi Traore
Pick Hit: Lobi Traore

CUBA NOW (Hemisphere) I prefer son to other salsa cousins because horn arrangements annoy me—even when they have more jam than the Cherry Poppin' Daddies'. I work on this prejudice, primarily to accommodate my clave-loving in-house adviser, who plucked this item out of the confusion of Cuban comps we've sampled during the current fad. Sucked in, as who wouldn't be, by the off-kilter montuno of NG La Banda's lead "El Tragico," she ignored the blare and voted with her hips. Grooves struggle against surface clutter throughout. Usually they win. A MINUS

ALPHA YAYA DIALLO The Message (Wicklow) Canadians—presumably white Canadians, although with all the slave-owner names up there one can't be sure—in an Afro whatever band? A guarantee of New Age blandness if ever I've patted my foot, and when the Celtic fiddle comes in I get the urge to slaughter a whale. Yet somehow this Guinéean guitarist-vocalist parses the link between pan-African beats- manship and world-music eternal return, evoking now soukous, now chimurenga, now the cyclical structures if not koras of Sahel griots and hunters. Soothing, mostly—yet provocative enough to make you cry out loud when you least expect it. A MINUS

BUDDY GUY & JUNIOR WELLS Last Time Around—Live at Legends (Silvertone) They last performed together in 1993, half a decade before Wells died, and they fit like an old pair of shoes, picking up on cues that haven't even been delivered yet. The first "What'd I Say," a highlight twice, takes off on the clicks, moans, squeals, hoots, and chicken squawks Wells cuts into Guy's vocal, and again and again classic titles from their book and everyone else's are adjusted to accommodate classic lines from the universe of blues readymades. Take this as a passport to that universe, but don't expect anyone to sell you a map. A MINUS

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE BBC Sessions (Experience Hendrix/MCA) An essential exhumation of the only rock artist I'm convinced merits them (I'll finish with the Springsteen box soon, honest). But despite the one-minute "Sunshine of My Love" and other oddments from his mercurial top-of-the-pops career, anyone who owns Rykodisc's one-CD 1988 version, off the market now that the good guys control the catalogue, has the essentials. There's a whiff of completism coming off the definitive Hendrix reissue program—the usual mix of profit maximization and hero worship, certain to separate the fans from the scholars pretty quick. The rationalization being, I guess, that six is nine—the fans are scholars already. B PLUS

BADAR ALI KHAN Lost in Qawwali II (Worldly/Triloka) Yankee yobs like you and me might reasonably wonder how the hell much more Sufi devotional music we need, and absent this Nusrat cousin's extraordinary, volume-one-leading, elsewhere uselessly and here curiously remixed great hit "Trance," the answer may well be none. Nevertheless, direct comparison with Caroline's honorable, vintage, budget-double Supreme Collection Volume 1 underlines the younger Khan's distinction. To put it in yob terms that would make any radio programmer snort, he's marginally hookier. If you love the first one and want a little more, then you'll like this. And barring unforeseen developments, that will be that. A MINUS

THE KINLEYS Just Between You and Me (Epic) So womanly they seem almost kinky, harmonizing twin sisters explore a range of Nashville life choices—crazy in love or desperate to get back there, lazing around or sleeping around or pondering separations that put mere breaking up in existential perspective. Sound pretty relevant to me. Young or old, married or single, straight or gay, janitor or schoolteacher or constitutional lawyer or championship computer nerd, most people I meet lead emotional lives like these, and the songs get stronger as they go along. In "Contradictions" two mothers let their kids go and the first kid is older than the second mother. Then they go out on "Dance in the Boat," which rocks same. A MINUS

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