Shuffering and Shmiling

Below note 10 releases by or associated with Fela Kuti, a total that the truly mad will observe falls short of the entirety of MCA's massive and welcome reissue promotion. The missing found their resting place in the file I call Limbo: Coffin for the Head of State/Unknown Soldier(keyb vamp-till-ready), V.I.P./Authority Stealing(six-minute speech-speech), and Yellow Fever/Na Poi(simply not good enough).


Blackalicious
Nia (Quannum Projects)
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Like all underground hip-hop whether it admits it or not, this is not aimed at le DMX fan moyen intellectuel.Like all underground hip-hop whether it admits it or not, it's for musos—predominantly white and Asian beat aesthetes whose racial impulses risk awkwardness and worse no matter how objectively progressive their tastes and ideas. But that doesn't mean the scene isn't good for plenty of sharp rhymes and rhythms, or that this West Coast crew aren't better than that. Not because they refuse to "contribute to genocide" by faking gangsta "reality," although that's nice, but because they refuse to contribute to the pleasureless us-versus-them of the old-school ethos. As philosophy, their spirituality is icky. As music, it's profusely generous, overflowing with tribal chants and doo-wop choruses and easygoing basslines. They're "r&b" without a wet rhyme in 74 minutes. They actually seem capable of a hit. And if, as usual, that actuality is theoretical, soundtrack scouts should at least remember they're around. A MINUS

James Carter
Chasin' the Gypsy(Atlantic)
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Sonically and conceptually, audacity is Carter's m.o. He always makes sure you know he's in the room. So on this bow to Django—an attention-getting device in itself, of course—he grabs hold of Reinhardt's famed "Nuages" with a totally inappropriate bass saxophone and never lets go. Does the European proud, too—even on soprano Carter is a gutty presence, overlaying just enough raunch for anyone who's always found the tributee a touch quiet. With two well-schooled moderns taking what are no longer lead lines on guitar and Regina Carter a more muscular Stéphane Grappelli, this is the spirit marriage a tribute should be. It swings like a horse thief, parlays Fransay, and adores the melody. A

Clem Snide
Your Favorite Music(Sire)
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Too doleful and detached to be as compassionate as he feels he should be, Eef Barzelay turns his best impulses into slow tunes with homely words that express concern without quite holding together or committing him to anything. Don't think he'll "die for your sins"—"Take it easy or you'll hurt yourself" is as far as Eef'll go. Maybe he'd cheer up if he rechristened himself John Doe. B PLUS

Eddie Cochran
Somethin' Else: The Fine Lookin' Hits of Eddie Cochran(Razor & Tie)
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Because he was worshiped in England, where he died in a car crash, this hot-picking Hollywood rockabilly was overrated in a pop world that had never heard of Charlie Feathers. But after punk, Brits forgot him, and soon his legend was reduced to "Summertime Blues" and "Somethin' Else," so that these 20 two-minute songs comprise his first decent U.S. CD. I always found his catalog thin, but boy-pop puts it in perspective; it would be rich to hear some teen tycoon singing, "I want my own Coupe de Ville/Make my dad pay the bill." The essence of nominally rebellious male adolescence and as such, more redolent than Charlie Feathers. A MINUS

Come On
New York City 1976-80(Heliocentric)
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Who were these guys? There were five of them, including a female guitarist—neatniks all, favoring white shirts, black pants, short hair. Half of this belated testament was recorded CBGB 1978, a final track Hurrah, both places I frequented. But I'd never heard of them, and when I checked with New York Rocker's Andy Schwartz, he recalled only the name. On the evidence of these 16 homages to early Talking Heads, we were missing something: the halting yet propulsive, arty yet catchy ejaculations of the uptight nerd as subversive geek. A five-year-old sex fiend joins a suburban tennis player exposing her underthings joins somebody's kitchen floor joins the incendiary "Old People": "Get out in the streets/Turn over cars/Elbow young people/Set garbage on fire." Not important, obviously—we did fine without them. Lotsa laughs, though. B PLUS

Grandaddy
The Sophtware Slump(V2)
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One thing I like about Jason Lytle is that I usually know what he's talking about. If he calls one "Broken Household Appliance National Forest," that's what it's about, to go with the booklet pix of dead keyboards in the gravelly dirt. Computer keyboards, that is—final image is a guy in a cowboy hat carrying a Casio into the sunset, and if you don't take the cowboy part literally (think last frontier, not Gunsmoke) that's pretty much what the music is like. It's the end of the day, you're sitting in your house in the exurbs feeling kind of sad for reasons you don't fully understand, although you do wish your humanoid pal Jed was still around. So you make up tunes that feel as blurry as you do. So you aim toward the sky and rise high today, fly away, far away from pain. A MINUS

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