By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
Both tumbled somewhat improbably out of early-Eighties new wave. Both flashed brightly through their respective homeland's cosmos, flared, and burned out. Both relied heavily on other writers' songs. Both left behind one truly transcendent single. Both have new retrospective CDs.
Alison Moyet first came to attention as one half of Brit synth-pop champs Yazoo (with Vince Clarke -- after his stint in Depeche Mode, before he formed Erasure). Her clear, precise, and emotional vocals -- heard here on their Brit hits "Only You," the somber "Winter Kills," and the great "Nobody's Diary" A defined Yaz as much as Clarke's plonky synth and depressive piano. Solo, post-Yaz, Moyet turned to likable, connect-the-dots material -- Top 40 pop slathered with keyboards, songs often saved only by her soulful voice ("Love Resurrection," "Is This Love?" and "Weak in the Presence of Beauty," the latter a shave and a haircut of John Waite's "Missing You"). But the same period also yielded her sole U.S. hit, the remarkable "Invisible," a synthy Lamont Dozier power ballad set to a slow, railroad-hammer beat, with Moyet shifting into diva-victim overdrive (its extended version, not included here, came off even better). With the exception of a satisfying, previously unreleased reading of Ewan MacColl's "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (yes, the Roberta Flack hit), the rest of this package will sate only the most rabid fans.
As for Cyndi Lauper, for a while there -- 1984, to be exact -- she owned the U.S. charts, surfing the infant MTV network with winsome videos that exploited her perky persona, squeaky voice, and glamorous bag-girl shtick. Her solo debut, She's So Unusual, unfurled a peck of hits: the frothy, anthemic "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," the wiggy "She Bop," the torchy "Time After Time," and a cover of the Brains' decade-defining "Money Changes Everything," which Lauper, backed by her chums Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of the Hooters, belted into the cheap seats ("We think we know what we're doin'/We don't know a thing"). It still rattles the rafters eleven years later. Her following albums, filled with lesser material, paled in comparison, although they coughed up a few fine singles ("True Colors," "I Drove All Night"). By 1989, she'd virtually vanished. This greatest-hits CD also includes an okey-dokey, newly recorded version of "I'm Gonna Be Strong," a wonderfully over-the-top smash for Gene Pitney in 1964 and an on-stage Lauper staple since her pre-solo days with the band Blue Angel.
For those not familiar with Guy Clark, a few disclaimers about Dublin Blues: 1) This is not traditional Irish music; and 2) This is not traditional blues music. The record is, however, an outstanding, intelligently written rootsy affair that unfolds its riches with each play.
Teamed again with the amazing Sam Bush (New Grass Revival) on mandolin, and everyone from Nanci Griffith to Emmylou Harris to Rodney Crowell lending harmony support, Clark crafts elegant bluegrass vignettes that feel as comfortable as the old blue work shirt he sings about on the gorgeous "Stuff That Works." But as beautiful as the melodies are, and as accomplished as the musicianship proves, it's Clark's masterly songwriting that lifts Dublin Blues to classic status. Chasing shots of poignancy with tall draughts of humor on the title track, he lists the places he's been, the wonders he's seen: "I have seen the David/I've seen the Mona Lisa, too/I have heard Doc Watson play the Columbus Stockade Blues," but how he just wants to get back to his loved one. On "The Cape," he sings of the wonder of childhood imagination, how important it is never to lose touch with the kid who once jumped off the roof of the garage with a flour sack for a cape: "All these years the people said/He's actin' like a kid/He did not know he could not fly/So he did."
Magnificent and mature acoustic music with a great sense of fun. Stuff that works, indeed.
By Bob Weinberg
I asked a pal of mine if he'd ever heard of Roy Ayers, the legendary vibes player and bandleader who released something like 250,000 records during the Seventies.
"You mean the guy who helped McCarthy terrorize all those communists?" my pal asked. "Or the guy who starred in Jaws?"
Okay, so maybe semi-legendary would be more accurate.
But there's at least a gasping chance that Ayers will earn renewed name recognition with this bodacious 31-song anthology. His riffs already are familiar to anyone who listens to A Tribe Called Quest, or a host of other hip-hoppers who have been mooching off Ayers for years.
This collection presents Ayers in all his spacy, vibed-out glory. What does his music sound like? Depends on what track you listen to. "Pretty Brown Skin" or "Get On Up, Get On Down" are the highest quality funk. "Red Black and Green" is one of the man's many rhythmically inclined jazz jams. "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby" falls more into the troubadour mold.