Greatest Whatevers

Just because you can spell 'forbearance' correctly doesn't mean you'll get a gold star


AL GREEN
I Can't Stop
(Blue Note)

His midrange less creamy, he shouts a lot and relies on falsetto to make a point. Although Smokey Robinson and Seth Swirsky songs perked up his last pop move, he takes composer's credit for every shining star and pledge of love, generally leaving a share for his new old pal Willie Mitchell, who for his part proves all too willing to put subtlety behind him and get bumptious with the horns. So don't believe kneejerks crying comeback. But don't believe regular jerks whining hype either. Material has never been a big deal for a singer whose arrangements always play second fiddle to his inventions, and that singer has retained plenty of voice and the guile to know what to do with it. Give these performances time and they cohere, not as classy modernizations or returns to a form he never lost, but as artistic statements from someone with no history of taking his talent for granted. New classic: "The Problem Is You," all 6:28 of it. A MINUS


TELEVISION
Live at the Old Waldorf
(Rhino Handmade)

Featuring four fewer songs and a slightly tamer performance than its long-standing ex-bootleg competition The Blow-Up, which sells for just a buck more, it more than compensates with superior sound. If the presence and detail of the vocals plus the definition and muscle of the guitars don't make a Tom Verlaine fan out of that theoretical dude who's always telling you they weren't kickass enough, show him how a real dweeb kicks ass: Take your iPod and go home. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

PHARMACISTS
Hearts of Oak
(Lookout)

He abjures the slick. He honors the hook. He reckons the wages of imperialism. He spells forebears and forbearance correctly in the same sentence. So of course he's an Indie Hope. But his literate lyrics rarely hang together or hit home, and unless you miss Kevin Rowland more than Eileen ever did, his penchant for signifying commitment by vaulting up the scale is an annoying convention at best, an unlistenable tic at worst—namely, yoked to his limited melodic capacity on "Dead Voices," which has Indie Lifer stamped on its copyright notice. B


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

MALI LOLO!: STARS OF MALI
(Smithsonian Folkways)

Use as a sampler, swearing faithfully to explore the artists you glom on to (Oumou Sangare, "Ya La"; Les Escrocs, "Pirates"; Super Rail Band, "Mansa"; Neba Solo, "Vaccination").


THE STROKES
Room on Fire
(RCA)

Narcissism repeats itself ("Between Love and Hate," "What Ever Happened").


THE HANDSOME FAMILY
Singing Bones
(Carrot Top)

Holding the mysteries of death in this old land to a (temporary) draw ("The Bottomless Hole," "Gail With the Golden Hair").


RZA
Birth of a Prince
(Wu-Records/ Sanctuary)

Franchise-holder as franchise, his beats stronger young-and-thug than grown-and-numerological ("Drink, Smoke and Fcuk," "Chi Hung").


CHRIS KNIGHT
The Jealous Kind
(Dualtone)

It's a lot easier to write the wild side than to live it, but not a lot smarter ("The Jealous Kind," "Carla Came Home").


ROD STEWART AS TIME GOES BY
The Great American Songbook Vol. II
(J)

No Sinatra, but also no Ronstadt, plus he knows the difference between Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins ("Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "As Time Goes By").


FRANK BLACK AND THE CATHOLICS
Show Me Your Tears
(SpinArt)

You show me yours and I'll show you mine ("Horrible Day," "Everything Is New").


BABY GRAMPS TRIO
Hossradish
(Grampophone)

Long-winded coot does Dylan, Gershwin, and Davies well enough, plays word games better ("Oxymorons," "Skillet of Snakes").


TULEAR NEVER SLEEPS
(Stern's Africa)

Tsapiky from Madagascar's wild southwest, milder than advertised in true Malagasy fashion (Saïd-Alexis, "Mahareza"; Tsy an-jaza, "Tsy an-jaza andao tsika holy").


THE FUGS
The Fugs Final CD (Part 1)
(Artemis)

Too poetic for anyone who doesn't love Ed Sanders plus too wacky and didactic for proper poetry equals you gotta hear it to believe it ("Septua-genarian in Love," "Advice From the Fugs").


YO LA TENGO
Today Is the Day
(Matador)

Remix, cover, instrumental, great Summer Sun reject, ordinary Summer Sun reject, judicious Summer Sun reject ("Styles of the Times," "Needle of Death").


YO LA TENGO
Merry Christmas From Yo La Tengo
(Egon)

Three Xmas songs you don't know is miracle enow ("Santa Claus Goes Modern," "Rock N Roll Santa").


AESOP ROCK
Bazooka Tooth
(Definitive Jux)

Fathomless beats an adventure, impenetrable lyrics a drag ("Babies With Guns," "Limelighters").


Choice Cuts

TELEVISION "Little Johnny Jewel," "Untitled Instrumental" Marquee Moon (Elektra/Rhino) TELEVISION "Adventure" Adventure (Elektra/Rhino) THE ROGERS SISTERS "Zero Point" THE STROKES "New York City Cops (Live in Iceland)" Yes New York (Wolfgang Morden) BEAVER NELSON "Government-Sanctioned Hayride" Legends of the Super Heroes (Freedom) SULLEN"No Sleep," "All Fall Down" Paint the Moon (Thick)


Duds

COREY HARRIS Mississippi to Mali (Rounder) TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead (Lookout) JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Thieves and Poets (Verve) NAJMAVivid (Mondo Melodia) NEW YORK CITY ROCK N ROLL(Radical) YO LA TENGOThe Sounds of the Sounds of Science (Egon)


Honorable Mention and Choice Cuts in order of preference.


ADDRESSES: Artemis, 130 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10011, artemisrecords.com. Carrot Top, 935 West Chestnut, Suite LL15, Chicago, IL 60622, carrottoprecords.com. DCN, dcn.com. Definitive Jux, 451 Greenwich St., NYC 10014, definitivejux.net. Dualtone, 2105 Elliston Place, 2nd floor, Nashville, TN 37203. Egon, P.O. Box 6028, Hoboken, NJ 07030, yolatengo.com. Fast Horse, c/o Ryko, PO Box 241, Gloucester, MA 01931-0141, rykodisc.com. Grampophone, P.O. Box 82255, Kenmore, WA 98028, babygramps.com. Matador, 625 Broadway, 12th Floor, NYC 10012, matadorrecordss.com. Rhino, Rhino Handmade, rhinohandmade.com. Sanctuary, 369 Lexington Avenue, NYC 10017, sanctuarygroup.com. Smithsonian Folkways, 750 9th Street NW, Suite 4100, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560-0953, folkways.si.edu. SpinArt, P.O. Box 1798, NYC 10156-1798, spinartrecords.com. Stern's Africa, 71 Warren Street, NYC 10007, sternsmusic.com. Voxlox, P.O. Box 22160, Santa Fe, NM 87502, voxlox.net. World Village, c/o Harmonia Mundi, 2037 Granville Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025, harmoniamundi.com.

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