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Curve
Cuckoo
(Charisma/EMI)
By J.C. Herz

From the first howl of guitars screaming for mercy, this album is nothing less than industrial orgy music. Techno-guru/Nine Inch Nails producer Flood has whipped Curve's lethal melodic hooks into a cavernous production and filled it with Toni Halliday's murderously sexy ice-pick of a voice. "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus," for instance, is a blast of shifting pistons and pounding steampipe release valves and Toni cooing like some kind of gothic Marilyn Monroe. She cuts in with a slice of inhalation (fffhhh...), and then her sharp synthetic breath becomes the piston noises, throws your brain into a blender, and turns the knob up to frappe. And it's not even the best track on the album. That distinction belongs to "Superblaster," a song that defies rational description, the kind of track that converts the usually articulate British music press into a bunch of monosyllabic zombies ("Breath. Fear. Relief. Storm. Night. Madness. Sex. Color. Bang. What's the use of pretending?").

Indeed, this is the type of seductive, well-produced album that triggers fawning paroxysms. Hard to pinpoint why, it's just the...the macabre cascade of shiny knives and beating hearts, intent, controlled, deadly, delicate, dripping, fiery, and a thousand other adjectives. Froth, froth, froth, aaaarrrgghh...helllppp meee!

Various artists
Jazz 'Round Midnight A Ballads
(Verve)
By Bob Weinberg

Can you have too much sex? Too much chocolate? If your answer to either question is "Are you kidding?" you may enjoy Verve's compilation of some of the lushest, most romantic music ever recorded. For those who feel that you can get too much of a good thing, caveat emptor.

There's certainly nothing wrong with the selections. Culled from the deep Verve catalogue, 'Round Midnight contains a pantheon of jazz artists performing during the fertile years of the Fifties and early Sixties. Cuts like Ella Fitzgerald's languid, bittersweet read of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" -- backed by sympathetic and subdued orchestration -- and Stan Getz's heartaching tenor sax glide through "Detour Ahead" demonstrate a remarkable, almost self-conscious sense of taste on the part of compilers (not surprising, given that the effort was supervised by chief Woodstock-schmoozer Michael Lang). And then there's Duke's great saxmen: altoist Johnny Hodges blowing a slow blues on "I Got it Bad (and That Ain't Good)" and tenorman Ben Webster caressing a breathy "There Is No Greater Love." Sound good so far? Okay, add tracks by Dinah Washington ("My Old Flame"), Mel Torme ("Born to Be Blue"), and Sarah Vaughan ("Someone to Watch Over Me"), all in peak form.

Beautiful stuff, borderline sublime in some cases, to be sure. But there's no relief from the relief, no edges to make you appreciate the smoother stuff. An example of the problem endemic throughout is the title track. As performed by pianist Bill Evans in a trio setting, the classic Thelonious Monk tune is reduced to magnificent lounge fare, with no danger or tension as in versions by Miles Davis or Monk himself. Or take Clifford Brown's unabashedly romantic "What's New." You might forgive the saccharine strings behind Clifford's blue brass if he had just barreled through a hot number right before it. But the tone of the compilation is unrelentingly sentimental, making many of the tracks redundant. Cats like Hodges and Webster could rock the house when they got going, whether with the Duke or on solo projects, priming listeners all the more for the lovely ballad that would inevitably follow.

Perhaps like any ballad compilation, 'Round Midnight is all climax and no foreplay. Which may appeal to some listeners.

Rodney O & Joe Cooley
FAk New York
(Psychotic Records)
By Greg Baker
Gee, I thought it was Compton we were supposed to fuck.

These old dogs don't settle for the one-hitter. Unlike Tim Dog, they carry the hyper hype beats and sense of urgency through a whole LP. (No dis intended, Tim, although if you New Yorkers and Californians are incited to fight some more it won't bother me.) Rodney and Joe are real pros coming up with fresh approaches to both inflection and its backing. Half party, half hardcore. Check it. Even if you live in Miami.

 
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