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Sound Bites: Audio Reviews

July 27, 1999

``Blues Blues Blues″ (Atlantic) _ Jimmy Rogers’ All-Stars

In tribute to the late Jimmy Rogers, an electric guitar player in Muddy Waters’ first electric band, an array of mega-stars joins Jimmy on this disc. These stars will likely make it the biggest seller of his career, albeit a posthumous one.

OK, so we can bemoan this unfair fact and denounce this album as a gimmick. It is a gimmick. So what? The appearance of star guests on a disc recorded by a working bluesman has become common, and no one has ever drawn the star power that Jimmy Rogers did here: Mick Jagger on three tracks plus Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Jeff Healey, Stephen Stills, blues virtuoso Taj Mahal and Fabulous Thunderbird Kim Wilson.

Hey, take Jimmy out of there and you have one of those 1980s supergroups.

But they didn’t take Jimmy out of there, and more importantly, this is Jimmy’s music, not theirs. The stars do not overpower, they do not even imprint their signatures, as is the case on John Lee Hooker’s all-star recordings.

If anything, the music here is a little low-key for Jimmy, who was aging. And it is a pleasure to listen to the rock millionaires, like Mick on ``Trouble no More″ and the Led-Zep duo on ``Gonna Shoot You Right Down,″ limit themselves to performing as sidemen for Jimmy, not only in tribute but musically.

_ By Ralph Siegel, Associated Press Writer.

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``What It Is″ (Blue Note) _ Jacky Terrasson

Jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson is in search of the perfect groove on ``What It Is,″ a glorious mix of eclectic, rhythm-driven music heavy on percussion, syncopation and humor.

For his fourth album as a leader, Terrasson assembled his largest band yet, including saxophone, flute, harmonica and Cuban vocalist Xiomara Laugart on the Latin-flavored ``Better World.″ Other highlights include Ravel’s ``Bolero″ in seven-eighths time, Pink Floyd’s ``Money″ _ complete with jingling coins _ and the War-like funk of ``Toot-Toot’s Tune.″

That’s not all. The rollicking ``Le Roi Basil″ is worthy of Return to Forever’s best work. And on the hard-driving ``What’s Wrong With You!″, Terrasson and saxophonist Michael Brecker trade frenetic solos, settling on the same chord for 16 bars at a time. As they savor the liberating beat, we can, too.

_ By Steven Wine, Associated Press Writer.

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``You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush″ (Work Group) _ LEN

The big-label debut of LEN represents a viable alternative for hip-hop music fans looking for something different. But beware, LEN’s Bronx rap stylings can leave you wondering where ``influence″ ends and crass borrowing begins.

LEN is an Ontario, Canada-based foursome with a penchant for the past. Listening to the 12-track trip down rap’s memory lane illuminates LEN’s heartfelt affinity for 1980s break-dance anthems. But the group does little to carve out a musical identity of its own.

There’s no subtlety or new beat patterns to the drum machine-laden ``Hot Rod Monster Jam″ or ``Cryptic Souls Crew,″ taken straight from the pages of Afrika Bambaata and the Crash Crew, respectively. It has become all too fashionable lately not only to sample your predecessors, but to blatantly mimic them in shallow attempts to revive past rap glory days.

When they’re not rhyming nostalgic, LEN (D-Rock, DJ Moves, Burger Pimp and Shar) make it their mission to revisit every long-dead style from 1970s easy listening to early 1980s glam rock, even employing Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille on the rote, four-chord ``Feelin’ Alright.″

LEN’s worth a listen if you’ve tired of new rap’s bad-dog braggarts, but these talented kids could have smirked less and produced better.

_ By Ron Harris, Associated Press Writer.

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``Dysfunction″ (Flip/Elektra) _ Staind

As if Korn and Limp Bizkit weren’t enough for the mosh pit faithful, now comes the brooding, thrash debut album ``Dysfunction″ from Staind.

That’s too bad for Korn and Co., because Staind is better.

You don’t just listen to Staind, you endure the band’s pain. This distortion-guitar-driven group grabs the listener by the wrist and drags him down a street of torment and despair.

But Staind’s pain is the listener’s prize.

Lead singer Aaron Lewis’ vocals fuel the fire well. If Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder hadn’t perfected the outcast rock warble first, Lewis would have done it anyway. There’s no stopping Staind’s determination behind the furious drumming of Jon Wysocki and adventurous guitar work from Mike Mushok.

``Just Go″ begins as a slow and tangled guitar crawl and cranks into a powerful piece about insecurities overcome through willpower. ``Home″ describes the fear of loneliness with Lewis’ soulful cries.

``Dysfunction″ is wonderful but dark listening. In the crunch-rock genre littered with halfhearted copycats, Staind stands out with its well-crafted lyrics and unique sense of disparate vision.

These guys deliver, and rock should thank them.

_ By Ron Harris, Associated Press Writer.

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