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Consumer Guide

Though I’m pleased to finally figure out Memphis Minnie (skip Columbia’s Hoodoo Lady), you’ll find no new canon candidates in the pre-Christmas list below. Just subpantheon rockers and prerockers as individual as (and subtler than) the soundtrack schlock and rec-room pop contrarians niche-promote.

BOBBY BLAND: Greatest Hits Volume Two–The ABC-Dunhill/MCA Recordings (MCA) Insofar as it’s now dimly believed that blues and soul were the same thing, kinda, perhaps I can rescue B.B. King’s perpetual opposite number from the limbo of name recognition by promoting him as a great soul voice. After all, he did sing gospel before moving down, up, or over to Beale Street, and by the time mean old Don Robey sold him up the river, he was ready for anything–soul, lounge, country, disco, B.B. duets. Be it an aab gem like “Goin’ Down Slow” or generic gold like “Yolanda” or a pop gewgaw like “Love To See You Smile,” he claims these songs with his suave baritone and trademarks them with his unique growl. Never played an instrument, or danced much. Never had to. Proves sophistication has nothing to do with diplomas. A MINUS

SOLOMON BURKE: The Very Best of Solomon Burke (Rhino) From Jerry Wexler to Peter Guralnick and beyond, the authorities who consider this minor hitmaker (five top 40s, none after 1965) the greatest soul singer or something like it delight in his eye for the main chance. Hawking food on tour buses, skipping the playback of his label debut so he can get back to his snow-shoveling concession, he proves soul is as much show business as sincerity or gospel truth. But maybe it’s not so great that he can turn his talent “on and off so easily, seemingly at will.” Maybe the readiness with which the man would sing country or preach pop bespeaks a detachment from music as a calling. These mostly New York­recorded songs, all crafted with Atlantic’s staunch commitment to bottom and hook, rarely create the illusion of necessity. Smooth and commanding, hustling his blarney with humor and grit, he risks remaining just out of reach of your two willing ears. A MINUS

GRANDMASTER FLASH, MELLE MEL & THE FURIOUS FIVE:More of the Best (Rhino) Beyond the extended “Flash to the Beat” and the essential “Wheels of Steel,” these 12 tracks were recorded ’84-’87, when they sounded a little lost. Heard as musical form rather than cultural positioning, however, they flesh out Flash’s beatmastery, grandly intricate yet stone solid, and establish that Melle Mel beat Chuck D to the game–the fire-and-mutant-dogs “World War III” hits like “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” and lays down political science in the bargain. A MINUS

WOODY GUTHRIE: Hard Travelin’: The Asch Recordings Vol. 3 (Smithsonian Folkways) For the words, which suffice. Conjugating “Howdjadoo,” naming fish he’s read about and bugs he knows personally, describing women’s hats from memory, creating a “Hanukkah Dance” for the daughter he calls “my little latke” (pronounced lot-key), his vocation was transmuting the folksy into Americanese. If he also wrote more songs than necessary with the word union in them, his heart was in the right place. Propaganda may be awkward, ineffective, annoying. But that don’t make it wrong. A MINUS

MAMA DON’T ALLOW NO EASY RIDERS HERE (Yazoo) Most Yazoo compilations take egalitarianism too literally, mixing the classic and the generic so that every 78 in the vault stands a fair chance of digitalization. That may happen on this collection of “Piano Rags, Blues & Stomps 1928-35” as well–note that Cow Cow Davenport’s hit “Cow Cow Blues,” which is definitive by definition, “will be included on a later album”–but boogie-woogie is so much more fun than country blues itdoesn’t matter. Beyond the distinct voices–Davenport’s barrelhouse solidity, Arnold Wiley’s quicksilver chromatics, Will Ezell’s playful chopsmanship, Speckled Red’s errant enthusiasm–a single rhythmic idea animates the flow, and just when you’re tired of piano Red opens his mouth and teaches America the dozens. Plus on the ride out we have the lost Oliver Brown classic “Oh You Devil You,” about which we know nothing, including how Harry Smith missed it. A MINUS

JOHNNY MATHIS: The Ultimate Hits Collection (Columbia) “Wonderful! Wonderful!” “It’s Not for Me To Say,” “Chances Are,” “The Twelfth of Never,” “Wild Is the Wind”–no matter what vision of principled glitz Mark Eitzel glimpsed at the master’s feet, those five songs are the substance of Mathis’s legend and legacy. Poised on the cusp of black and white, masculine and feminine, they projected an image of egoless tenderness, an irresistible breath of sensuality that infused the airwaves for the second half of 1957 and kept 1958’s Johnny’s Greatest Hits on the album chart for 490 weeks. By 1960, however, he’d been pimped by Vegas vainglory, flexing his vocal muscle though millions of women yearned only for his touch, and at his all-too-normal worst (“Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet,” arghh) he’s pure beefcake. Yet though you can still buy Greatest Hits (and cheap, too), most of its filler is utterly characterless. This regular-price 18-cut does turn to schlock, but also offers up the young Johnny doing right by standards like “Misty,” “Maria,” and “Stranger in Paradise.” Give him his due–and then use your programming buttons. A MINUS

MEMPHIS MINNIE: Bumble Bee (Indigo import) It’s said this guitar muthuh fuh yuh proves women impacted rural blues as much as the vaudevillian “classic” kind, but there’s only one of her, and her way was to take vaudeville to the country. Citywise entertainment values and picking as brightly declarative as her vocals carry her bawdy canon when it flags in the middle. On the ends you’ll find “Bumble Bee” and “What’s the Matter With the Mill,” “Ice Man,” and “Me and My Chauffeur Blues.” A MINUS

TEDDY PENDERGRASS: Greatest Hits (The Right Stuff) I admit his subtle command of his big gruff tentpole of a voice was soul-schooled. Coming up when he did, that was only to be expected, and Pendergrass was not one to defy expectations–musically and thematically, he had all the imagination of a rubber penis. Seduction was his one great subject, and though he did it as well as it’s ever been done, his sense of sin was so vestigial that even after God disabled him in a car accident he never once feinted toward the pulpit, as any proper soul man would have. In short, he’s the great lost link between Lou Rawls and Keith Sweat–and a truly awesome bullshitter. A MINUS

DEL SHANNON: This Is…Del Shannon (Music Club) The first artist ever to chart Stateside with a Lennon-McCartney song, Shannon is suspended forever in that boy-becomes-man moment when teen-romance tropes unload their frightening burden of existential anxiety. He achieves release with his sole trick, in which minor-key verse gives way to major-key refrain topped by a brief escape into a falsetto that never hints at the feminine. This pop-rock apotheosis he achieved precisely 11 times, which here takes us from “Runaway” to “Stranger in Town.” All are also on Rhino’s slightly pricier 20-song comp. But where the Rhino filler is all carbon-copy follow-ups and failed experiments, the five bonuses here vary the formula without abandoning it, most memorably on–note title–“I Wish I Wasn’t Me Tonight.” Despite Nashville forays and a mysteriously forgotten 1968 concept album called The Further Adventures of Charles Westover, he never matured. When he shot himself in 1990 at 55, he was still claiming five years less, just as he had 30 years before. He left no note. Did he have to? A MINUS

PERCY SLEDGE: The Very Best of Percy Sledge (Rhino) “I love to sing a tearjerker,” he told annotator David Gorman. “Like them ol’ country ballads.” And that sums up this child of nature, who was country not as in Acuff-Rose, but as in going to town means picking up provisions at the general store. Saddled with a classic that transcends soul itself, Mr. Miserable never equaled “When a Man Loves a Woman.” But neither did Mr. Pitiful, whose own songbook could have accommodated half these selections. The reason Otis Redding is an artist while Percy Sledge is a phenomenon is that Redding would have made “Out of Left Field” sound happy, which is how it reads–a trick Sledge couldn’t have conceived with “Happy Song.” A MINUS

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: The Very Best of Dusty Springfield (Mercury) A self-conscious woman in a girl’s world, she found the musical place she deserved only once, when she locked horns with Jerry Wexler for a pop miracle. So Dusty in Memphis is her very best. Her twenties were a little of this and a little of that–’50s pop-folk gone first girl-group, then pop-soul under the clueless tutelage of Englishmen spared self-knowledge by her soaring empathy and breathy grit, which young Brits couldn’t resist. Good for them. A MINUS

BILLY SWAN: The Best of Billy Swan (Epic/Legacy) He barely happened anyway, and he wouldn’t have come close if fellow pros hadn’t thought he was a nice guy–e.g. Elvis, e.g. Kris, e.g. Clyde McPhatter, who had a 1962 smash with a ditty Swan wrote in high school. Much later there was the disarming “I Can Help,” which went to No. 1 just before “Kung Fu Fighting” in 1974. Like Carl Douglas, this mild-mannered rockabilly then dropped from pop sight, but unlike Douglas, he was prepared to pursue his muse where he always had, twixt Memphis and Nashville. Numerous minor country hits ensued, along with at least four albums whose big heart and simple tunes showed up Nashville careerists and “outlaws” for the smarm merchants they were. With his adenoidal pitch and nice guy’s morality, he wouldn’t stand a chance in Nashville today. Withhis nice guy’s empathy, he wouldn’t cut much of a figure in alt-country either. Celebrate his moment.A MINUS

THE ZOMBIES: Odessey & Oracle (Big Beat import) Originally released in 1968, this psychedelic period piece that brackets love songs blithe and bereft with a sweet one about a jailbird (Posdnuous, call your permissions specialist) and a grueling one about a soldier (Chuck D, ditto), suffusing the whole shmear with the moony nostalgia that overtakes twentysomethings when they decide they’re Getting Old. Presynth keybs guide Colin Blunstone’s articulated sigh through arrangements that simulate baroque with backup-vocal shtick, every melody guaranteed. Forget the boxed set if you know it exists, and indulge in one of the nicest things ever to happen to Sgt. Pepper. A MINUS


Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION:

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (Featuring Teddy Pendergrass), Blue Notes and Ballads (Epic Associated/Legacy): even if Teddy’s not fully himself, Harold’s not half Jerry Butler, and Sharon Paige is Sharon Paige (“If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” “To Be True”); The Box Tops, The Best of the Box Tops: Soul Deep (Arista): Alex Chilton’s first vehicle went deeper than “The Letter” and “Cry Like a Baby,” but I won’t fib about how deep until “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” makes CD (“I Met Her in Church,” “Choo Choo Train”); Tanya Tucker, Super Hits (Columbia): adding “Greener Than the Grass (We Laid On)” to the kiddie-porn Greatest Hits, a boon; replacing the rape-Gothic “No Man’s Land” with “You Are So Beautiful,” an obscenity (“Would You Lay With Me [in a Field of Stone],” “The Man That Turned My Mama On”); XTC, Upsy Daisy Assortment (Geffen): the best songs come from the best albums, an inconvenience (“Grass,” “Making Plans for Nigel,” “Dear God”); Memphis Minnie, Queen of the Blues (Columbia/Legacy): pretty much past her prime, but not so’s she’s ready to admit it (“He’s in the Ring,” “Call the Fire Wagon,” “New Orleans Stop Time”); Ray Charles, Ray Charles and Betty Carter/Dedicated to You (Rhino): 12 Ella & Louis bids with Betty, 12 songs to women whose names he’s long since forgotten (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Takes Two To Tango”); Rufus Thomas, The Best of Rufus Thomas: Do the Funky Somethin’ (Rhino): rock’s most literal link to minstrelsy (“Walking the Dog,” “Do the Funky Penguin [Part I],” “Somebody Stole My Dog”); Joe Simon, Music in My Bones: The Best of Joe Simon (Rhino): he did teen, he did soul, he did country, he did disco, and after the hits stopped coming he hit the pulpit (“Moon Walk Part 1,” “The Chokin’ Kind”); The Jimmy Castor Bunch, The Best of the Jimmy Castor Bunch (Rhino): not a one-joke band–a two-joke band (“Troglodyte [Cave Man],” “Bertha Butt Boogie,” “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You”); Woody Guthrie, Muleskinner Blues: The Asch Recordings Vol. 2 (Smithsonian Folkways): knew a good tune when he stole it, no great shakes at singing them (“Muleskinner Blues,” “Rubber Dolly”); James Brown’s Original Funky Divas (Polydor): give the ladies some! Now give ’em some more! One more time now! Don’t stop ’til they get enough! (Lyn Collins, “Think [About It]”; Marva Whitney, “Unwind Yourself”); Ray Price, Super Hits (Columbia): honky tonk Iglesias (“Crazy Arms,” “City Lights”); Madness, Total Madness (Geffen): original white ska band, not to be confused with the Jam except maybe over the telephone (“One Step Beyond,” “Our House”); Lesley Gore, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows: The Best of Lesley Gore (Rhino): depressingly boy-identified for a protofeminist icon (“You Don’t Own Me,” “It’s My Party”); Paul Kossoff, Blue Blue Soul: The Best of Paul Kossoff 1969-76 (Music Club): lesser guitar god, solo when he wasn’t Free, suffered slowly, died twice (“The Worm,” “Molten Gold”).

ADDRESSES:

Music Club, c/o Koch, 2 Tri-Harbor Court, Port Washington, NY 11050; Smithsonian Folkways, 955 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 2600, Washington, DC 20560; Yazoo, c/o Shanachie, 37 East Clinton Street, Newton, NJ 07860.

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Consumer Guide

Three genuine debut albums make the cut–and that’s not counting solo spinoff Killah Priest, or Dock Boggs. Like Boggs when he hit the studio, Mary Lou Lord, Chris Knight, and Smash Mouth are all around 30. They’ve had time to figure out what they want to do in there. And dissimilar though they are, all convey compassion. Unlike Dock Boggs.

THE APPLES IN STEREO: Tone Soul Evolution (Sire) Robert Schneider’s second pass at homemade Beatles conquers his embarrassment over how much he adores this stuff. Stripped of sonic camouflage, the songs are consistently pretty, fanciful, and slight, as clear as existential questions can be. Half a dozen ways he wonders whether he can lose himself forever in this music–and by so doing, find himself. You don’t have to believe in harmony to grant him the right to try. A MINUS

DOCK BOGGS: Country Blues (Revenant) As careful perusal of Greil Marcus’s liner essay reveals, Boggs’s legend is based on just eight traditional songs. He cut them in New York in 1927, and there’s no better demonstration of how good they are than the four he laid down in Chicago in 1929. In New York he’s so full of beans he can scarcely contain himself. If on the one hand he’s truly enacting these dark-to-grisly tales, on the other hand they can’t touch him; it’s Waiting for Godot, in which the intrinsic excitement of creation subsumes all incidental pessimism, plus “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” in which one’s imminent conquest of the world infuses the humblest ditty with an exhilaration that carries all before it. Where Marcus hears an acceptance of death, I hear intimations of immortality–bitter laughter and defiant cunning, sap rising and blood flowing, meanness and exuberance and sarcasm and deviltry, a refusal to succumb to
consequences. Two years later, on leave from the mining town he now senses he’ll never escape, Boggs is the image of fatalistic impassivity, as dull as the lyrics he’s been handed by the wannabe label owner who underwrote his trip to the city. Soon he would give
in to his wife and stop playing for 30 years. A MINUS

ANI DiFRANCO: Little Plastic Castles (Righteous Babe) Here’s hoping she gets used to fame, a theme the coolest new-famous are now canny enough to sidestep or caricature. But DiFranco doesn’t have much use for ordinary standards of cool, which is one reason she retains such a lock on her corner of fame, and for the nonce, she can do no wrong. Always underlying the bull-session eloquence of her words, which constitutes a hook no matter the message, is the supple, seductive, self-amused musicality that puts all her recent records across. A typical touch here is her choice of world-jazz-ambient trumpeter Jon Hassell to decorate the 14-minute spoken-word finale “Pulse”: “you crawled into my bed/like some sort of giant insect/and I found myself spellbound/at the sight of you there/beautiful and grotesque/and all the rest of that bug stuff.” “That bug stuff”–who else would dare it? A MINUS

CESARIA EVORA: Cabo Verde (Nonesuch) Having mysteriously resisted the reigning world-music diva since I encountered her in a quiet Paris club a decade ago, I found a clue in the translation of “Mar e morada de sodade”: “The Sea Is the Home of Nostalgia.” Usually sodade, the equivalent of “soul” for Evora’s morna style, is rendered “sadness” or “longing,” terms that disguise the self-pity beneath its dignity–a self-pity that’s easier to take out in the open. Rather more than on her renowned U.S. debut (which I like better now that I’ve heard her better), that self-pity is mitigated by the somewhat swifter flow of the grooves, a speed achieved at no loss of her fundamental fluidity. And I note that the two drop-dead melodies, both taken medium-fast and one featuring an utterly easeful James Carter, counsel confidently against despair and complacency. A MINUS

FAT BEATS & BRASTRAPS: CLASSICS (Rhino) “The rules of the game are simple and plain/ Turn on the microphone and recite your name,” claims the great lost Sparky-D over some break-beats and an audacious two-note Louie Shelton loop. And beyond the two stone classics, Roxanne Shante’s “Have a Nice Day” and the Real Roxanne’s “Bang Zoom (Let’s Go-Go),” that innocence encapsulates the casual charm and enduring artistic value of this early femme rap comp. It’s innocent when Shante lays out the perils of the street on the rare “Runaway,” when young Latifah skanks the Meters, when LeShaun d/b/a 2 Much serves up the lovingly lubricious “Wild Thang” for the ineluctably lustful L.L. Cool J, when the great lost Ice Cream Tee disses “male chauvinists” without thinking twice. Historically and musically, the Sequence and Salt-n-Pepa are missed. But this proves what a great girls school the old school could have been. A MINUS

ORUC GUVENC AND TUMATA: Rivers of One (Interworld) Nobody believes I honestly like this Turkish med-school professor cum New Age spellbinder until I actually pop in Oceans of Remembrance, in which he and his little trio chant the names of God for an hour of unassuming ecstasy. Showcasing the Sufi healing music that Guvenc rediscovered, this one’s somewhat less transcendent–longer on flute with minimal vocals, although I dig how assuredly Gulten Uralli pours the water that sets the beat. It comprises three improvisations on the rast makam, a tonality said to promote “inner calmness.” As someone who regularly endangers his immune system with electric music, I find this therapeutic at bedtime, and sincerely hope the follow-up moves on to the hicaz makam, which “protects and strengthens the urogenital system.” A MINUS

KILLAH PRIEST: Heavy Mental (Geffen) Shaolin mystagogy meets millenarian panic in music for the end time. And though the album may be paranoid, that doesn’t mean nobody’s out to get it–just like any other product of the projects. “Science projects,” Priest calls them, amid biblical citations, images of crucifixion, 2001 fantasies, warp-speed verbal drive-bys, and this Inspirational Verse: “I roam the earth’s surface/Snatching purses/Allergic/To Catholic churches/What’s the purpose?/Religious worship/Is worthless.” Preach, killah. A MINUS

CHRIS KNIGHT (Decca) This being Nashville, of course they claim his secret is reality, but I say it’s literature. He’s a writer pure and simple, schooled in the economical everyday; if he’d grown up in California instead of Kentucky, he’d have tried his hand at sitcoms. I love the way he finds a pungent trope and tops it–drives his truck to Timbuktu and then lies down on a bed of nails. The music is spare enough to signify reality, and big enough to heighten it. A MINUS

MARY LOU LORD: Got No Shadow (Work) Only indie perverts would hyperventilate over Lord’s breathy voice, which needs every booster jet mind can devise or money can buy. And only indie perverts would object to her long-aborning major-label debut, where she gets the help she needs. The production is Amy Rigby–style neotraditionalism, with Roger McGuinn rippling under one flowing surge just to mark the concept, and, overcoming her fondness for Nick Saloman (Bevis Frond, don’t you know anything?), she makes the most of covers from
elizabeth Cotten to Freedy Johnston. Equally impressive, every once in a while she finds the gumption to eke out a song so winsomely
conceived and solidly constructed it belongs in the canon she adores. Sometimes Saloman even helps–the cowritten lead track is a hummer worthy of Stuart Musgrove (Belle and Sebastian, don’t you know anything at all?). A MINUS

PRIMAL SCREAM: Vanishing Point (Reprise) As someone who saw the title film stoned in 1971, and loved it, I agree that this is one of the few putatively psychedelic albums ever to evoke the distractible ecstasy of actual psychedelic experience, flitting from detail to fascinating, ultimately meaningless detail. Crucially, the moods and referents that flash past are anchored by tunes and sounds so simple a zonked zombie can relate to them. But as someone not altogether dismissive of the cofeature, Panic in Needle Park (Charles Theater on Avenue B, you could look it up), I must also note that, pace the highly apposite Stones rip that takes the trip back to
earth, “medication” has never killed a hole that didn’t come back gaping the next morning–a corny truth that renders this an achievement best admired from a sane distance. B PLUS

BONNIE RAITT: Fundamental (Capitol) I’d rest easier claiming this album sounds like middle-aged sex–creaky, caring, not shy about adjusting its groove–if it weren’t for the other thing it sounds like, which is the debut album she cut with a bunch of folkie eccentrics when she was 21. So just say it sounds like Bonnie Raitt, old before her time as always. Songwise it’s a little less consistent than Luck of the Draw, but now that miracle worker Don Was has withdrawn I can’t believe how relieved I am he’s gone. Finally there’s some mess to go with her slide–Tchad Blake’s kind of mess, in which junk is recycled into decor and everybody leaves coffee cups on the speaker cases. Some of them come from Starbucks. Some are straight out the vending machine. Some are Fiestaware originals. A MINUS

SMASH MOUTH: Fush Yu Mang (Interscope) By calculation or osmosis, this unrad agglomeration of semiprofessional entertainers puts bells on the humorous humanism of ska twice removed. As you’d figure, the key is songs, most of them by late-arriving guitarist Greg Camp, whose hardcore links are even more theoretical than his bandmates’. His fondly ignorant take on the hippie moment could be Bertrand Russell by pop standards, and having survived one little sure shot that wasn’t (a War cover, how progressive),
Interscope is finally getting behind the album-opening “Flo.” I couldn’t swear radio is ready for a cheerful ditty begging the title lesbian to take the singer’s girlfriend back. But the world is. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

ERIC CLAPTON: Pilgrim (Reprise) Actually, Lord, there’s been a misunderstanding. Remember when we said it was OK for You to sing? What we meant was…well, first we just wanted You to get rid of Jack Bruce. Then it was more like, Don’t be shy, Sonny Boy Williamson didn’t have that much range either. But never, never, never did we say, You have the right if George Benson does. Or, You could be the next Phil Collins. Or, Guitars are for sound effects anyway. Really, God. That wasn’t the idea at all. C PLUS


Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION:

B.B. King, Deuces Wild (MCA): best cameos of an albumful: Tracy Chapman, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton (“The Thrill Is Gone,” “Paying the
Cost To Be the Boss,” “Rock Me Baby”); Loudon Wainwright IIILittle Ship (Charisma Records America, Inc.): jape, jape against the dying of the light (“Four Mirrors,” “So Damn Happy”); George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, Live and Kickin’ (Intersound): more funky than fresh, their best live one withal (“Flashlight,” “Cosmic Slop”); ChumbawambaTubthumper (Republic/Universal): tub as platform, tub as cornucopia, tub as slop bucket (“Tubthumping,” “Amnesia”); Fat Beats & Brastraps: New MCs (Rhino): “Unknown MCs” may be the truth, but that don’t make it justice (Nonchalant, “5 O’Clock”; Sha-Key, “Soulsville”); Rakim, The 18th Letter: The Book of Life (Universal): the canon has a clarity the comeback can’t match (“When I’m Flowin’,” “It’s Been a Long Time”); Bascom Lamar LunsfordBallads, Banjo Tunes, and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina (Smithsonian/Folkways): as imperious as Odetta, and he’s got a right (“On a Bright and Summer’s Morning,” “Old Mountain Dew”); DJ Shadow, Preemptive Strike (Mo Wax/FFRR): his best here was better the first time (“In/Flux,” “Organ Donor [Extended Overhaul]”); Madonna, Ray of Light (Maverick/Warner Bros.): pretty sensual for pop enlightenment, thank God (“Skin,” “Candy Perfume Girl”); Cappadonna, The Pillage (Razor Sharp/Epic Street): “Wu-Tang Productions Presents” (“Milk the Cow,” “Run”); Robbie Fulks, South Mouth (Bloodshot): in the great tradition of Dwight “Little Man Whose Name Is Saul” Yoakam (and Steve “Jap Guitar” Earle), he vows to deliver Nashville from the dread “faggot in a hat” (“Dirty-Mouthed Flo,” “Fuck This Town”); Fat Beats & Brastraps: Battle Rhymes & Posse Cuts (Rhino): bitch-bitch-bitch and brother-brother-brother (Shante, “Big Mama”; Roxanne Shante vs. Sparky Dee, “Round 1 [Uncensored]”); All Saints (London): self-created prefab (“Trapped,” “If You Want To Party”); Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Friends of Mine (HighTone): hootenannies, they useta call ’em (“Walls of Red Wing,” “Me and Billy the Kid”).

CHOICE CUTS:

Dorsey Dixon, “Babies in the Mill,” “I Saw the Wood,” “Weave Room Blues” (Babies in the Mill, HMG); Blur, “Song 2” (Blur, Virgin); James Taylor, “Line ‘Em Up,” “Walking My Baby Back Home” (Hourglass, Columbia); Boyz II Men, “The Girl in the Life Magazine” (Evolution, Motown).

Duds:

Susanna Baca (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.); Solomon BurkeThe Definition of Soul (Pointblank); Dance Hall Crashers, Honey
I’m Homely
(MCA); the Mavericks, Trampoline (MCA Nashville); Rammstein, Sehnsucht (Slash); LeAnn RimesYou Light Up My Life (Curb).

Addresses:

Bloodshot, 912 West Addison Street, Chicago IL 60613; HighTone, 220 4th Street #101, Oakland CA 94607; Intersound, Box 1724, Roswell GA 30077; Interworld, RD3 Box 395A, Brattleboro VT 05301; Revenant, PO Box 198732, Nashville TN 37219-8732; Righteous Babe, Box 95, Ellicott Station, Buffalo NY 14205; Smithsonian/Folkways, 955 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 2600, Washington DC 20560.