-- Ben Greenman

David Coverdale and Jimmy Page

Some of this sounds a lot like David Coverdale auditioning for a singing job with Demonomacy. Give him Brownie points for ambition. And Page? Sounds a lot like Jimmy Page, minus the adventurous songwriting and pure panache of Led Zep. Power chording and growly vocals (even with the requisite ballad and a nod or two to the blues) plus lots of superficial hookiness and an obvious theme of "we want a hit" do not a great rock record make.

It's a safe bet Mr. Whitesnake and Mr. Satan had some fun recording this new album, cutting tracks in Vancouver; Abbey Road in London; Hook City, Nevada; and Miami's Criteria. Too bad listening is not much fun. A great rock record Coverdale and Page did not make.

-- Greg Baker

Nick Scotti
Nick Scotti
(Warner Bros.)

From the tip of his I'm-terse-I'm-fashionable moniker to the tail of his first (and hopefully last) LP, Nick Scotti reeks of the most abysmal sort of pretty-boy folderol. Press material for this Madonna-discovered model-turned-singer (where are the border guards when you need them?) drones on and on about "an impressive roster of musical influences" and "superstar showcase," but the fact of the matter is that it took five production teams and a half dozen songwriters (including Patti Austin, Maxi Priest, Diane Warren, and the Material girl herself) to float ten songs, and that the results are exactly what you'd expect A anemic dance-soul with plenty of padding and the occasional lucky strike (the faux fatback bass carpeting "Slow Down," for instance, or the churchy synths of "Just No Justice"). Scotti has a sizable voice, but his delivery is all pose, nothing that Rick Astley couldn't knock off on his way to has-been rehab, and the flat stab at the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes chestnut "Wake Up Everybody" is about four cents short of a nickel.

To misquote Casey Stengel, talent isn't everything, it's the only thing. Beefcake for boneheads.

-- Ben Greenman

Various Artists
The Beat Generation
(Rhino Word Beat)

For all those whose lives were changed by reading On the Road, this box is for you. And of course the author behind that well-thumbed Beat bible is well-represented, opening Rhino's exhaustive three-disc compilation with a reading that captures the mood and excitement of the movement more than just about anything that follows.

Rhino's approach, although extensive, is too catholic; mixed in with the excellent readings by Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Ken Nordine are dated "novelties" by the likes of Edd "Kookie" Byrnes ("Man, dig this crazy pad!") and yes, even Perry Como, attempting to cash in on the Beat tip. That said, Beat Generation truly is a fascinating look at a subculture that at least produced as much good art as it did cheap rip-offs by bogus Bohemians.

Sure, there's plenty of breast beating and raging against the staid social mores of the Eisenhower era. But what's really interesting is the sense of the sublime the Beats often found in the mundane and absurd, whether in the nonsensical and oh-so-cool lyrics and delivery of Slim Gaillard ("Yip Roc Heresy" is just plain hilarious) or the pleasures of a midnight snack as detailed by jazz poet Ken Nordine. Gaillard and Dizzy Gillespie, who contributes a breathless scat that mimics his remarkable be-bop horn phrasings, represent the roots of both Beat lingo and attitude. They in turn learned from the master of cool, tenor man Lester Young, whose verbiage was so esoteric he practically had his own language. Kerouac's worship of black society, particularly the jazz and blues underground, is fawning to the point of obsequiousness, but there is no question that he found a vitality among blacks sorely missing in repressed white Fifties America. Perhaps we have him to thank for Vanilla Ice.

What Generation needed was a good editor. What's mildly amusing in Babs Gonzales's drug-culture, lingo-laden "Manhattan Fable" makes redundant the later readings of "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Christopher Columbus" that mine similar territories for cheap laughs (i.e., Rump and Chris as beatniks). A long, rambling (mostly pointless) interview with Kerouac by Ben Hecht and long, rambling (but educational) documentaries by veteran newsmen such as Howard K. Smith and Charles Kurault grow tiresome. On the plus side, the jazz tracks are cool in the best sense of the word, and quirky (Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross's "Twisted" is pure nervous paranoia), illustrating the aesthetic of movement and restlessness that the Beats embraced. Although there's plenty to recommend on Generation, it is box sets like this that make "shuffle-play" on the disc player such an attractive option. To paraphrase one of the most Beat characters of all times, Bullwinkle J. Moose: Sometimes a beatnik is just a bum in sunglasses.

-- Bob Weinberg

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