Rotations 11

Magda Hiller
...nothing but
(independent cassette)

She coos. She croons. She cackles. She croaks. She yowls and howls and growls. She's lilting and lusty and tender and ... damn! There went my thesaurus again. Those things are useless -- always running out of synonyms when you need them most.

The point is, everybody loves Magda. She's a Grove gal from way back with a great sense of humor that often finds its way into her lyrics. She's brassy and sassy and earthy and exuberant (the thesaurus is working again) and you could search a three-county radius and not find anyone with a harsh word to say about her. And once she heats up her pipes she can torch up a ballad that'll melt your mike stand.

So there's a good chance that once you've heard her play live at the Road or the Talkhouse or Blue Steel or any of a hundred other venues with the good sense to book her, you'll want something more substantial to take home. Since Magda's already got a significant other, you might be tempted to settle for her tape. Don't do it! The title is a lie. There's much more to it than just Magda Hiller.

There's her guitar.
-- Todd Anthony
Magda Hiller performs tonight (Thursday) after 9:00 at Blue Steel, 2895 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 672-1227. Admission is free.

Dos Almas
Dos Almas
(SB Records)

In one of those beautifully incongruous television moments, singer-guitarist Kenny Rankin appeared on a Wolfman Jack rock and roll special. "Who were some of your influences?" the DJ asked the crooner. "Joao Gilberto," Rankin answered. "Ha, ha, well, all right," the Wolfman laughed, not a glimmer of recognition crossing his grizzly mug.

For those who know the work of the smooth Brazilian star of the Sixties as well as the cranky American songster, this isn't such a stretch. Those who hear Argentinian singer-songwriter Raul Midon might be reminded of both of these men.

Midon's expressive pipes are what makes Dos Almas such an auspicious debut. Heartache, hope (esperar is one word this gringo recognized often in his songs), and almost unbearable longing combine in Midon's trenchant vocals. Lush, tropical, airy arrangements with shimmery percussion and a bossa beat are well-suited to the frontman's voice, helping to set the overall romantic tone of the album. Most of the original compositions A co-written with saxman John Fournier, who also appears on flute and keys A are midtempo ballads; eight of ten are in Spanish. Both of the English tunes, Jane and Medicine Man, prove the band a tight unit, the first a bittersweet tale of lost love, the second a jazzy, jungly affair with an intriguing rhythm and a hot soprano sax solo courtesy of Fournier.

Catchy hooks abound ("Carmen," "Jane," "Mas cerca de ti") and these songs'll stay with you long after an initial listen (a Spanish-speaking friend tells me the lyrics are "corny," but since when has that ever kept a song off the charts?). Dos Almas is more than radio ready, and with some luck and airplay, Midon could be the next big pebble tossed out of South Florida to make some ripples.

-- Bob Weinberg

Fleet Starbuck
Heroes Heroes
(Suniland Records)

Freddy King, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Bill Doggett are just some of the heroes Brother Starbuck doffs his floppy cap to on his second local release. A followup to the brilliant and quirky True Stories, guitarist-singer Fleetwood and the boys -- Big Al Ferreira belching gritty smoke on sax, Barry Reis providing noirish trumpet, Paul Harris finessing the black and whites -- take you upstairs to Tobacco Road on the live side, and then put you back in the studio for side two.

The finest moments are when the band just blows, as they do on King's frenetic "Sen-Sa-Shun" and a rocked-out version of Williamson's "Shake Your Boogie" (which Fleet learned from Piano Bob, although he presents quite a different take from the barrelhouse version done by Bob and Snowman). A raucous update of Muddy Waters's "Deep Down in Florida," "South Beach Strut" highlights Fleet's distinctive vocals and asphalt-scraping slide (a technique we wish we'd hear him use more often). Also under-utilized here are the lanky frontman's formidable harp skills, which are at least teased on Reed's "Baby What You Want Me to Do." An instrumental version of Starbuck's best song, "Mama Prays," has a spooky, ethereal vibe, and calls more attention to the picker's smooth guitarwork than the original on Stories; Fleet wrote this one to give to B.B. King.

Heroes's centerpiece, the world-weary yet elegant instrumental "Harlem Nocturne," showcases the talents of Big Al and brings to mind every cheap detective flick you've ever seen: rain-slicked streets, flinkering neon, figures striped by venetian blind shadows.

Unquestionably fine, as is the rest of this tape.
-- Bob Weinberg
Fleet Starbuck performs Saturday, July 2, at the Amelia Earhart Jamboree and Review at Greynolds Park, 17530 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach, 595-8042. Admission is free.

 
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