If there’s one thing that warms my cynical heart it’s marketing schemes that become dismal failures, largely because of the egos involved. Take Prince, for example–the onetime bigshot who moronically changed his name to that stupid squiggle five years back and then watched his record sales plummet down the Receptacle Formerly Known As The Toilet. Moral: If no one knows what to call you, pretty soon they won’t call you anything at all.
I mention this only because I just came back from the Tower Outlet in Sherman Oaks, where I saw stacks of the Passengers’ album–you know, that one recorded by multi-millionaires U2 and their buddies–stickered cheaply and buried deep in the understock of the movie soundtracks section, where hardly anyone ever looks, filed under “P.” Another round of congratulations to everyone involved–who overestimated the intelligence of record store clerks everywhere, called it Original Soundtracks 1, and saw it instantly fall off the charts, whimpering.
Me? I’m into jazz-rock!
NEIL DIAMOND In My Lifetime (Columbia) There haven’t been many boxed sets that cover such a long stretch of time–from 1958 to the present–as classily as does this 3-CD set from Neil Diamond. An exemplary singer/songwriter who’s managed to hang onto his credibility much longer than most of his peers, Diamond’s recently enjoyed a mini-surge of interest in his career due to being covered by the likes of Urge Overkill and UB40. Lucky him! Featuring both sides of his highly-sought 1963 Columbia Records single debut, and all his hits from the Bang, Uni, and Columbia labels–as well as tracks from The Jazz Singer and The Last Waltz–this marvelous set is, predictably, highlighted by the inclusion of Diamond’s brilliant “not even the chair” lyric from “I Am…I Said.” Like they say–a Diamond “is forever”! 4.5/5
DJ SHADOW Endtroducing… (Mo Wax/FFRR) On the cover of this extremely hip samplefest are a couple of clowns pawing through the well-stocked racks of a record store; that, and the inside inscription “This album reflects a lifetime of vinyl culture,” should tell you everything you need to know. A fascinating listen apparently incorporating every record ever made, this disc should prove one hell of a musical resume should “DJ Shadow” abruptly be sent back in time 300 years and be forced to explain what he does for a living to guys wearing powdered wigs! 4/5
ROTARY CONNECTION Rotary Connection (Chess/MCA) A welcome reissue of a 1967 psychedelic semi-classic, this disc features appearances by two performers who’d later become much better known–singer Minnie Riperton and guitarist Pete Cosey–and is thoroughly but charmingly dated. Covers of three Rolling Stones songs, chorale versions of “Soul Man” and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It,” and a back-cover photo of the group passing around a lit joint–damned if it wasn’t the dawning of the age of Aquarius! Sadly: no nudity! 4/5
BOO HEWERDINE Baptist Hospital (Discovery) Just a word for one of the year’s unsung classics, produced by former Bible-belter Hewerdine. Writer Nick (High Fidelty) Hornby, who penned Hewerdine’s bio, refers to the man’s “kindred Brit-pop spirits Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera and Danny Wilson”–that’s high praise indeed–and he’s not far from wrong. Indeed, Danny Wilson’s Gary Clark pops up on several songs here with his new band King L–returning the favor for Hewerdine, who helped make their own Great Day For Gravity so fab last year. To be bold: The best record by a guy named Boo yet! 4.5/5
ROGER McGUINN Live From Mars (Hollywood) In the horrifying audio vÃ©ritÃ© tradition of Three Dog Night’s Captured Live At The Forum–in which the hapless ’60s combo was snared, chained and repeatedly whipped before a savage and bloodthirsty audience–here Byrds founder McGuinn can be heard singing for perhaps three or four seconds before the harsh, cold atmosphere of Mars brutally sucks his very life from him! Whose idea was this? Ghastly and short! 3/5