Nothing Major

Deluxe Edition (Alligator)
Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were subtle, Etta James is more so; in his wry, unschooled way, so even was Hound Dog Taylor. The long-reigning blues mama still isn't subtle—cf. the original "Man Size Job" by Ann Peebles, hardly Billie Holiday herself. She's no composer, either. But she owns owns owns the gender-switched Bo Diddley rewrite "I'm a Woman," the Johnny Otis obscurity "Beer Bottle Boogie," two Louis Jordan covers, and, most dramatically and impressively, "Wang Dang Doodle"—play her version, not Wolf's, at my damn funeral, 'cause maybe it'll wake me up. Both Chicago and jump blues are dealt a short hand by the houserocking idea. But except for Hound Dog himself, nobody has made as much of it as this leather-lunged trouper. Finally she has an album that proves it. A MINUS

Pick Hits

(No Label import)
Easily purchased at a St. Marks Place shop that begins with K, the most interesting and enjoyable album so far this year is nothing but music you've heard before, which is not to claim I can effortlessly ID every pop/rap/r&b top or rock/electronica bottom. Most of them, though. Yes, this is that collection of Christina-meets-the-Strokes seizures you've heard tell of, and that one is hardly the big prize, which I would award the Beyoncé-meets-Nirvana "Smells Like Booty" even if the chance to hear "Satisfaction" and "Rockafeller Skank" simultaneously is just as precious. A dubious ethos does prevail, at least on this selection. It's as if the guilty pop pleasure—Eminem, Celine Dion, Salt-n-Pepa, even the rap of "Get Ur Freak On," which once rode the deepest bottom of the millennium—is somehow validated by its juxtaposition to Nirvana, the Clash, the Stones, the Stooges, the fucking Strokes, and for that matter fucking Gary Numan. In theory, I don't approve—how about Iggy on top of RZA or the Bomb Squad? But I also don't believe in feeling guilty about pleasure, and I love this record to pieces. A

My Ride's Here (Artemis)
The frustrated classical composer turned Everlys bandleader was never much of a folkie, and his sense of rhythm has always cried out for timpani. Which is to say that he was made to write rockist art songs the way Albert Einstein was made to make out like Charlie Sheen—which Zevon claims he was and I believe. Zevon's not above touring acoustic to shore up his collateral, but his records come full regalia, with musical input from his big-ticket studio buddies matching the lyrical input of his literary admirers. He's at his best in the fictional-mythic mode that prevails here—e.g., the title tune, in which Jesus Christ, Charlton Heston, and Warren Zevon know what it is to be dead. His Irving Azoff farewell Mutineer in 1995 and his minor-label debut Life'll Kill Ya were honorable mentions of the honorable kind. This step up comes just two years later, making more good new albums total over that span than Neil Young, Lou Reed, Public Enemy, Madonna, or Bob Dylan. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

The Best of Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers (Rounder)
I won't deny Buckwheat Zydeco's blunt punch or Boozoo Chavis's toothless charm. But tell me this squeezeboxing party animal "invented the contemporary zydeco sound" and I'm on the next bus to Biloxi. How do you play the guitar rhythms of "Tighten Up" on accordion? Approximately, but not so's anyone content with such clueless covers of "Boogie Chillun" and, Lord help us, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is going to mind. I'll grant you "Cisco Kid" if you'll admit you have trouble remembering anything self-penned beyond "Give Him Cornbread." What sad things have happened to a mythicized Louisiana working for the Yankee dollar. I've heard less touristic music in a hotel lobby in Abidjan. C PLUS

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: Alan Jackson, Drive (Arista): when did he become human? I missed it—and I heard his roots album many, many times ("Drive [For Daddy Gene]," "Where Were You [When the World Stopped Turning]"); NOFX/Rancid, BYO Split Series/ Volume III (BYO): great masters trade fours (Rancid, "Don't Call Me White"; NOFX, "Olympia WA"); Guy Davis, Give in Kind (Red House): country blues in the spirit of friendship, like John Hurt did it ("Good Liquor," "I Don't Know"); Ballboy, Club Anthems (Manifesto): Edinburgh weed drones and strums his snotty, whimsical, gender-conflicted plaints ("Sex Is Boring," "Donald in the Bushes With a Bag of Glue"); Luna, Romantica (Jetset): in which schemes replace dreams and shadows on the wall head for a fall ("René Is Crying," "Orange Peel"); Cee-Lo, Cee-Lo Green and the Perfect Imperfections (Arista): not only does he sing, he transcends good-versus-evil! ("Live [Right Now]," "Southern Love"); Otis Taylor, White African (Northern Blues): problems in the interrelations of guitar dynamics and racial pride ("My Soul's in Louisiana," "Saint Martha Blues"); TTC, Ceci N'Est Pas un Disque (Big Dada Disques import): grands beats, les gars, et je parie que j'aimerais les paroles aussi ("Les Pauvres Riches," "Pollutions"); Big Bad Love (Nonesuch): when it's sleepy time down Delta way (R.L. Burnside, "Everything Is Broken"; T-Model Ford, "She Asked Me So I Told Her"); Dan the Automator, Wanna Buy a Monkey?: A Mixtape Session (Sequence): the best of Lovage, best of Bobby Digital (Lovage, "Stroker Ace"; Bobby Digital, "The Rhumba"); Otis Taylor, Respect the Dead (Northern Blues): country blues from the other end of the Underground Railroad ("Ten Million Slaves," "Just Live Your Life"); MC Solaar, Cinquíeme As (Fifth Ace) (Elektra): more vowels, more flow, but the title track kicks hard C's ("Le Cinquíeme As," "La Belle et le Bad Boy"); Nappy Roots, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz (Atlantic): direct from the BET cartoon series to you ("Sholiz," "Po' Folks"); Kings County Queens, Big Ideas (Rubric): beneath their warm country-folk exterior lurks bitter urban-folk experience ("Strangers," "Whatchamacallit").

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