STEINSKI
Nothing to Fear
(Soul Ting)
The man who invented the bootleg mix has an ear that predates the Sugarhill Gang and a borscht-belt sense of humor. He flows records into a linear funk devoid of depth charges, liminal sounds, and other perversities on the cognitive dissonance tip. This radio show turned so-sue-me CD leans heavily on dance-friendly hip hop both commercial and underground, older r&b, and known spoken-word—Eve and Blackalicious, JB's and Marvin Gaye, Marx Brothers and Music Man. What I can't ID I'll live with enjoying. But I would like to know the real-life identity of the rapper who plays the inept role model and whatnot. If Steinski didn't script him, who did? 'Cause he's got a future in situation comedy. A MINUS

PICK HIT

KING SUNNY ADE
The Best of the Classic Years
(Shanachie)
I wonder if the guys who complained Sunny was one of them media hypes are still listening to their Dream Syndicate albums. Maybe they are, the saps. But two decades on the truth is clearly the opposite—though now slightly diminished, he was a titan, one of the great pop musicians of the 20th century. This first stateside attempt to cherry-pick his vinyl outpouring—Ade himself has compiled CDs for his Masterdisc label—mines 1967-74, well before he crowned himself juju king, and although I own many of his African LPs, I'd never heard a cut on it. It's less tuneful than my old favorite The Message and doesn't flow as smoothly as the '80s stuff Chris Blackwell tried to naturalize into the new reggae. Yet thanks in part to ace compiler Randall Grass, it's magnificent through and through: so polymorphous that themes trade off with variations, so light that its guitars seem barely touched by rock sonorities, so percussive that only Nigerians can dance to it. Sweeping a big, ethnically divided country, juju was one of the headiest pop crazes anywhere ever. It was also mother's milk. A PLUS

PICK HIT

BETTYE LAVETTE
A Woman Like Me
(Blues Express)
From Ann Peebles to Etta Jones, there are dozens of great lost soul divas out there, every one collectible and every one overrated. Lavette resurfaced seriously when she shouted her way into Bubbling Brown Sugar and has inspired a reissue boomlet in elderly nations that don't want to bomb Iraq, but buying the product, even from bettyelavette.com, is impossible. That said, I intend to keep trying. The mad genius of this album is producer-songwriter Dennis Walker, who having long ago sculpted Robert Cray as an obsessed adulterer-cuckold now turns three of the bluesman's male-chauvinist classics into painful cries of victimization and, with help from guitarist Alan Mirikitani, crafts a batch of long-suffering miniatures that make the record. But Lavette makes the songs—though she's gritty and loves to testify, she never overdoes it. What's more, she's got the psychological equilibrium to find optimistic material she can put across just as passionately. That's why Walker sequenced the material to move Lavette toward independence—and wrote the strong-willed title track with a woman. A

Dud of the Month

SOLOMON BURKE
Don't Give Up on Me
(Fat Possum/Anti-)
The latest Old Person to forge Honest Music in the teeth of a Youth-Orientated Marketplace has lost his legendary voice, so what's the attraction? An egomaniac's deep insight into the human heart? A fat man's heartwarming ability to ambulate to his throne? Or just New Songs by such Respected Veterans as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Van Morrison, Brian Wilson, Dan Penn, and Bob Dylan—whose praise of himself as a dance musician I'd love to hear him do himself, proving that Burke would have butchered the thing even if he could still sing? B MINUS

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: Out Hud, S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. (Kranky): music machine with its works on the surface, all the better to delight and annoy you ("Dad, There's a Little Phrase Called Too Much Information," "Hair Dude, You're Stepping on My Mystique"); the Black Keys , The Big Come Up (Alive): not Jimi yet, but fast approaching Stevie Ray ("She Said, She Said," "I'll Be Your Man"); DJ Dolores, Contraditório (Stern's Brasil): "mangue electronica" from Recife, so retro-nuevo his (yes, his) band (yes, band) includes ska trombone and a 400-year-old Lusofiddle ("A Dançada Moda," "Adorela"); Tammy Faye Starlite, Used Country Female (Diesel Only): if Jews for Jesus could see the hussy now ("Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan," "I Got Jesus Looking After Me"); Big Beach Boutique II (Southern Fried): if I review this and ignore those remix EPs, you think F. Slim will DJ my daughter's prom? (Lo Fidelity All Stars, "Tied to the Mast"; Fusion Orchestra, "Farfisa"); Saint Etienne, Finisterre (Mantra): "I've been searching for/All the people/I used to turn to/All the people/Who knew the answer/Let's get the feeling again" ("Soft Like Me," "Rock Palast"); Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf (Interscope): would rawk more unremittingly on one's stereo without the transmission interruptions claiming rawk's banned from one's radio ("You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire," "Hangin' Tree"); DJ Vadim, U.S.S.R.: The Art of Listening (Ninja Tune import): the international brotherhood of groovus interruptus (TTC, "L'art d'Ecouter"; Slug, "Edie Brikell"); 2 Many DJ's, As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 2 (Pias import): clever electro mix with artists more interesting than Peaches on it—and Peaches up top ("Polyester, 'J'Aime Regard les Mecs'/Sly and the Family Stone, 'Dance to the Music'/Ready for the World, 'Oh Sheila [A Capella],' " "Skee-Lo, 'I Wish [A Capella]'/Maurice Fulton Presents Stress, 'My Gigolo'/the Breeders, 'Cannonball' "); DJ DB, DB 10 (Breakbeat Science): he was DB before we knew drum 'n' bass's name, and he still believes in, try to remember, "audio and sensory awakening" (Hatiras, "Spaced Invader—High Contrast Remix—J Malik Remix—Optical Remix"; Nasty Habits, "Shadow Boxing [Remix]"); Freaky Flow, Keep It Live (Moonshine Music): drum 'n' bass lives—no doot (DJ Slip, "Ease Yourself"; Freaky Flow, "Here We Go"); Manu Chao, Radio Bemba Sound System (Virgin): live, he sometimes resembles late Steel Pulse more than you'd figure—also the Mighty Mighty Bosstones ("Welcome to Tijuana," "Bongo Bong"); Múm, Now We Are No One (Fat Cat import): Icelandic mood music, you know, only with that elvish charm thing down ("Green Grass of Tunnel," "The Land Between Solar Systems"); FC/Kahuna, Machine Says Yes (Nettwerk America): full and funny techno duo, though the synths do take their clothes off in the middle ("Glitterball," "Machine Says Yes"); Bang on a Can, Classics (Cantaloupe): "a little classical music my friends, 'Cheating, Lying, Stealing' . . . " ("Cheating, Lying, Stealing," "Red Shift").

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