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Jimmy Scott
Lost and Found
(Atlantic/Rhino)

They're a select group, a handful of singers that can pull up emotion and hurt so palpable that it's almost painful to listen to, but you want to listen anyway: Billie Holiday, Neil Young, Otis Redding, come immediately to mind. Add to their number an overlooked crooner named Jimmy Scott.

As in Little Jimmy Scott, the quirky R&B singer of the Fifties, who's best known for his sweet, otherworldly falsetto on such tunes as "A Rage in Harlem" (featured in the Eddie Murphy flick of the same name), and more recently for lending a surreal majesty to Lou Reed's stunning "Power and Glory" from the album Magic and Loss. Turns out that Scott is also a remarkable jazz singer as ably displayed on Lost and Found, sides recorded in the late Sixties but never released due to label wranglings and the misplacement of the master tapes (a liner note from the album producer, who found them buried beneath a pile in his garage, warns what happens when you don't just say no). Had the tapes been released back then, they very well may have rocked the jazz world. Or they may have been dismissed by audiences seeking the electric noodlings so popular at the time. The renaissance of traditional jazz and the re-emergence of lush balladry, however, make Lost a very timely release for the Nineties.

In fact, lush doesn't begin to describe the songs collected here. Scott is totally unhurried, floating his vocalese atop subdued and gorgeous settings provided by a stellar group of jazz veterans. The phrasing of the balladeer is unique, emulating the patterns of Miles Davis or Coleman Hawkins at their most languorous. Every word, every phrase is sung for maximum visceral impact, never over the top, but always sounding on the verge of breakdown. Popular standards such as a slow and lovely "For Once in My Life" and a heartbreaking version of "Unchained Melody" are mixed with some obscure gems, such as the poignant "Folks Who Live on the Hill," which wouldn't have sounded out of place on one of Dexter Gordon's quieter albums, and features resonant bass notes and light brush drumming.

Jimmy Scott is a true original; he doesn't really sound like anyone (maybe if Smokey Robinson cut some jazz sides...). Some may be troubled upon hearing a voice that's vague genderwise A he's no Joe Williams A but the emotions engendered here are universal enough to make even the stoniest listener put chin in hand and heave a sigh.

-- Bob Weinberg

American Music Club
Mercury
(Reprise)

The monkey went wild on-stage, singing love songs. Then gratitude walks into the CD player and the piano plays. That's the kind of thing that happens here.

Trapped in a room on Sixth Street. Slapping a laughing face that's drunk on applause. Time passes like a joy. Maybe I'm almost there.

Turn me into another Great American Zombie. Curse the sky. Please don't bring me back. Your beauty is just a slap in the face. Forget Hollywood.

What Godzilla said to God when his name wasn't found in the Book of Life. What can come around 52 secrets. The slide guitar whorls.

So far down A like an ant on your map. Listen to the sound the air makes when you fall. The bass booms.

Hanging by a thread, blown around like sand. Give me a place to stand. Give me a body bag and a dangerous, empty life. What this world needs me for but an apology for an accident. Mr. Ed eating his way in hay, too weak for my taste. The toms beat.

Learn how to disappear in the silk and in the spotlight. He sings like a thief.

A scarecrow looking for a barn fire to sleep on. All of heaven's 10,000 whores afraid to leave me breathing. Hide somewhere. Take a left. Or a right.

Will you find this? You must find this.
-- Rat Bastard Falestra

Dr. Dre
The Chronic
(Interscope)

Those bluntin' bad boys from Cypress Hill have swung wide the door for weed-friendly art, and while some might say it's about time the 'erb came out of the smoke-filled closet, others are already backlashing against buds. Not N.W.A. grad Dr. Dre. The inset of his latest boldly boasts a reefer-leaf image over which the song titles are printed. Welcome to the bandwagon, Doc.

Dre even goes so far as to pay respect to the demon weed in "The Roach." Unfortunately, aside from that puff piece, Dre seems content to rehash (ahem) the same old gangsta topics he and his N.W.A. homeys first made popular. In fact, this record's brightest spot comes courtesy of guest vocalist Snoop, who you've probably heard on the album's hit single, "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang."

Anyway, The Chronic goes far in its efforts to prove Dr. Dre hasn't lost his way with hard-ass, pumpin', gangsta gang-bangin' tunes. Nonetheless, I still prefer his work with N.W.A. United we stand, divided we fall.

-- Joey Seeman

John Campbell
Howlin' Mercy
(Elektra)

Beneath the bandages, John Campbell was scarred, the victim of a disfiguring car accident. To get him through this rough period of convalescence, the adolescent Campbell listened to the blues, drawing strength from the raw emotion and pain expressed by artists such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, guys who knew a thing or two about suffering. "The blues is a healer," sang Hooker, and in a cathartic way it was for Campbell, whose scars went far deeper than the skin.

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