January 1999

(in Alphabetical order)

BILLY BRAGG & WILCO "Mermaid Avenue" (Elektra)
In which Britain’s venerable Thinking Man’s Guitarist sets music fifteen of Woody Guthrie’s lost Brooklyn poems …with the ever-able aid of the wonderful- as-ever Wilco, of course. Such is the heartfelt, delicate craftsmanship at work throughout that even guest vocalist Natalie Merchant manages come off appropriately, yet far-from-characteristically, subdued. Remarkable!
[Elektra Entertainment Group, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York NY 10019]

KEN BURKE "Arizona Songs" (Dr. Iguana)
Any album that is at least in part inspired by a dead cat found dangling over a power line certainly deserves be heard by more than just the mightily prolific Burke, his Pumping Piano, and his small ­ yet steadily growing ­ circle of disciples. Had Jimmy Webb been raised in the Louisiana swampland (and recorded for Sun circa ‘56), one would STILL be hard-pressed declare it comparable this dusty li’l off-the-road gem.
[Dr. Iguana Records, PO Box 8, Black Canyon City, AZ 85324]

COWBOY NATION "Cowboy Nation" (Coconut Grove)
After their crazed, decade-long night of ambient noiseworks, not mention all-round anti-rockstar behavior (Blackbird, anyone?), the Brothers Kinman return with a vengeance, Tele’s at the ready, pick up the good work they began two decades ago with their pioneering Rank And File combo. Beware the hundreds upon hundreds of alt.pretenders the neo-Throne-o-Twang operating out thereday: You’d be much better served keep your ears parked well within the confines of this here Cowboy Nation.
[Coconut Grove Records, 940 Lincoln Rd., Suite 308, South Beach, FL 33139]

THE COWSILLS "Global" (Robin)
Bob, John, Susan and Paul remain as buoyantly harmonicday as they did three decades ago, when between those Wilsons and Jacksons they briefly reigned as American Pop’s "First Family of Song." Yes indeed, and unlike nine-and-a-half out of ten misguided "reunion albums" ever foisted upon us, GLOBAL actually achieves the near impossible by creating songs and sounds which rival, and at times actually even SURPASS, those of the band’s past glory days.
[Robin Records, 22647 Ventura Blvd., Suite 516, Woodland Hills, CA 91346]

DUF DAVIS + THE BOOK CLUB "I Hate People… No Exceptions" (Galactic)
The slyly cynical Prince of Princeton, New Jersey returns with a second disc full of rants, raves, and damn near the best song titles since F. Zappa Hisself last issued a (new) elpee. Examples? "Where The Bomb Goes." "How Men Think." "Son Of Celebrity Death Camp" and "Devil Child vs. Evil Babysitter." And guess what? These songs, without fail, actually DO live up to their names!
[The Galactic Recording Co., 51 Grover Ave., Suite 13A, Princeton, NJ 08540] [(609) 921 - 3168]

BOB DYLAN "Live 1966" (Columbia Legacy)
I paused slightly over including a "re-issue" on this year’sp Ten. But how stupid would that be? This concert, though recorded thirty-two (ouch) years ago already, STILL sounds so completely, recklessly, joyously, and most of all DEFIANTLY ahead-of-its-time. In a word (or actually two): REQUIRED LISTENING.
[Columbia Records, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3211]

THE GRIP WEEDS "The Sound Is In You" (Buy or Die)
This furtive foursome, together for over a decade now, FINALLY unleashes the "Revolver" we all sensed they had in ‘em all along. Yessir, these Weeds have seldom sounded ­ or played ­ this assuredly tuneful before AND, believe it or not, they can actually replicate it all On Stageo! Ever once hear those Beatles attempt "Tomorrow Never Knows" outside of Abbey Road? Huh?? Case possibly closed then.
[Buy or Die Compact Discs, 174 Main Street, Hackettstown, NJ 07840]

JEREMY "Pop Heaven" (Jam)
With a title as unpretentiously in-your-face as this, the sounds inside had better be as close candy-coated perfection as possible. Well, I’m happy report, Jeremy Morris and drummist-extrodinaire Dave Dietrich have herein produced 49:52 of expertly played, dreamily sung, and lovingly crafted sounds of the utmost day-glo order. In other words? Why, it’s sheer Pop Heaven, of course!
Jam Records, 3424 Wedgewood Drive, Portage, MI 49024]

JACK PEDLER "Fairyland It Ain’t" (Mutiny)
Veteran of a couple of hundred bands up Canada way, currently busy terrorizing what remains of Manhattan’s anti-folk anti-scene, Jack Pedler AT LAST commits to disc fourteen slices of a life seen (and lived) from the far, far outside looking in. Most definitely NOT for the faint of ear -- or spirit --, this album is destined provide an unwilling if oh-so-necessary soundtrack for SEVERAL millenniums yet come. Go ahead then: Trust in Jack.
[Mutiny Records, Inc., PO Box B, New York, NY 10159-000B]

VARIOUS "Somewhere Down The Road" (Lazy Cat)
Why must a label in far-off Japan succeed in accomplishing what dozens upon dozens of homegrown musical conglomerates continue fail so sorrowfully at? That is, produce an endlessly listenable, ultimately essential compilation of some of the best writing, singing, and playing currently out there upon the jangly underground, then package it allgether with true thought, care, and an undeniable ear for detail. For example: George Usher, Chris von Sneidern, Richard X. Heyman, Agnelli & Rave, The Mockers. All included herein for your listening pleasure. Need I say more?
[Lazy Cat, 1006 Kamisakunobe Takatsu, Kawasaki 213-0034, Japan]






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