Hail Fellow Well Set

TIN HAT TRIO
The Rodeo Eroded
(Ropeadope)
This rodeo features a new event: bandwagon riding. Gallic-not-Polonian accordion still dominates, as accordions will. But Willie Nelson replaces Tom Waits on guest vocal, a dobro chimes in, and that's no violin, it's a fiddle. In short, Euro-avant background jazz configured to stroke bluegrass dabblers and beguile their dinner guests. B PLUS

YOHIMBE BROTHERS
Front End Lifter
(Ropeadope)
Wailing and wah-wahing and noisemaking atop a usually bass-enhanced pulse (Doug Wimbish is a close personal friend), Vernon Reid's avant-gardisms prove a wilder and more inventive foil to DJ Logic's grooves and samples than Casey Benjamin's modal funk saxophone, which symbolizes jazz all over Logic's own Anomaly. The Yohimbes' groove never falls beneath the standard of good drum'n'bass/trip-hop/whatchamacallit, and often rises well above it. Nigerian club icon Wunmi takes over one track. On another, Slick Rick and Greg Tate trade raps even up. A MINUS


PICK HIT

YOUSSOU N'DOUR
Nothing's in Vain (Coono du réér)
(Nonesuch)
Missing any metallic mbalax edge as Jean-Philippe Rykiel squished around in the background, I mistook this for a variation on the fusion compromises of N'Dour's Columbia years. In fact it's an acoustic roots move—hardly a conceptual coup, only often they work. As I've said before and will say again, Super Étoile are the best band in the world. But their function on record is to showcase a heroic voice that gains stature from its willingness to serve the band. Here the voice just serves the songs—the melodies are the most fetching of N'Dour's career, and the roots he embraces include a Parisian chanson he floats through trailing accordion and percussion. First time he reached one of those English-language homilies he always founders on, I cringed. But here "so much to do and so much to give today" are words to live by. A


PICK HIT

ORCHESTRA BAOBAB
Specialist in All Styles
(Nonesuch)
Cut 30 years after they formed and 15 yearsafter they hung up their tumba and timbales, this Nick Gold reunion party is the ideal introduction to Baobab's relaxed mastery of American instruments, Cuban rhythms, and Senegalese form-and-content. Barthelemy Attisso's guitar is surer than when he was a big bandleader, Issa Cissoko's saxophone slyer than when he was a crazy kid. The four remakes from Bamba and On Verra Ça are richer and mellower, not just as recordings, where money helped, but performances—Attisso must have missed that guitar he stashed to go off and lawyer in Togo. And when Youssou N'Dour and Ibrahim Ferrer conjoin on the same track, Afro-Cuban is made flesh and goes to heaven. A


Dud of the Month

DEFINING TECH
(Orbisonic)
As reactive and exclusionary as loungecore, tech-pop/electroclash/etc. is above all for club snobs, and for such a "fuckable" music (sez Fader) gives off no telltale whiff of mucous membrane. Imagewise, these guys and gals are way too jaded for kiss-me-I'm-ironic—they all sound like their idea of memorable sex involves cumming into a wine glass. I can remember when New Robotics like Spandau Ballet were touted as the future of pop avant, and while tech synths do have more rebop to them, so does the average boy-group ballad. As for the song form some praise, where's the movement's "Cars," its "Warm Leatherette"? Where's the auteur who can write 'em both? C MINUS

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: Salif Keita, Moffou (Universal): doing his duty to Malian beauty ("Yamore," "Madan"); Burnt Sugar, That Depends on What You Know: The Sirens Return: Keep It Real 'Til It Flatlines (Trugroid): atmosphere gathers fitfully into song (and rap), then disperses beautifully ("[Bas] Kiss," "Two Bass Blipsch"); the Ökrös Ensemble, I Left My Sweet Homeland (Rounder): Transylvanian laments and jumping dances via hot violins and a cymbalon that sounds like a player piano ("Csabai [Mezóség] Keserves, Szökös, Ritka és Súrú Magyar," "Cigány Csinger Álák"); Rod Stewart, It Had to Be You . . . The Great American Songbook (J): he'll do anything to make her come—even hold her hand and gaze into her eyes ("Every Time We Say Goodbye," "The Nearness of You"); Wayne Kramer, Adult World (MuscleTone): declaiming his songpoems to (and like) a rock and roll beat ("Nelson Algren Stopped By," "Great Big Amp"); Mali Music (Astralwerks): Toumani Diabate and Afel Bacoum make better ethnotechno with Damon Albarn than they could have with Byrne & Eno, or by themselves ("The Djembe," "Bamako City"); the Kills, Black Rooster (Dim Mak): blue talk and bluer sounds for the young at heart ("Black Rooster [Fuck and Fight]," "Cat Claw"); Sahara Hot Nights, Jennie Bomb (Jetset): alright alright keep up the speed girls ("Alright Alright [Here's My Fist Where's the Fight?]," "Keep Up the Speed"); Sue Foley, Where the Action Is . . . (Shanachie): dirty old rock and roll gal ("Where the Action Is," "Stupid Girl"); Cuisine Non-Stop (Luaka Bop): often clever if you like that sort of thing, only after a dozen plays je still ne sais exactly quoi kind of thing it is (La Tordue, "Les Lolos"; Lo'Jo, "Brulé la Méche"); Organic Grooves, Black Cherry (Aum Fidelity): Brooklyn DJs remix William Parker-Hamid Drake jazz for groove, mood, and tiny profit ("Gold Weave," "All Be[Tween]"); Badenya: Manden Jaliya in New York City (Smithsonian Folkways): "Manden jaliya" means "Manding griots," "in New York City" means they live here, and despite what you fear they distinguish themselves (Bah Bailo, "Keme Burema"; Super Manden, "Kinzan"); Robert Plant, Dreamland (Universal): gonna give you every inch of my erectile dysfunction ("One More Cup of Coffee," "Darkness, Darkness").

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