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And then there's the music. Guitarist-vocalist Shannon and his band the Membership purvey funky blues and bluesy funk, laying down groove-heavy New Orleans-flavored blues and R&B. Shannon's guitar playing is superb, and neither it nor his peculiar vocal style fall into cliche. The songs sound fresh and contemporary without kowtowing to streamlined production standards, and traditional without playing to the NPR crowd.

Shannon's original material is just plain hilarious, especially "My Baby's Been Watching TV" and "If This Ain't the Blues," the latter more or less an excellently played parody of a blues song ("If this ain't the blues / I don't know what in the hell else the blues might be"), or at least the content of a blues song A the poor schmo telling the woeful tale has five blind kids, and when they get their vision back, they run like hell at the sight of their homely old man. Some people might recognize "Boogie Man," the Seventies tune that includes the very definition of funk in a playful bit in which Mem affects a British accent and sniffs, "There seems to be a foul odor emanating from the very bowels of this al-bum," and then answers, as himself, "Shoot, man, don't you know funk when you smell it?/ You must not be from around here!"

The recorded dialogue between Shannon and his passengers -- gamblers, hookers, junkies, tourists (guess who comes across least sympathetically?) -- moves you through the record with telling vignettes, providing a glimpse of the huge heart and humanity of this great talent.

By Bob Weinberg

Various Artists
The '80s: New Wave
(K-tel)

Ah, the K-tel touch. Like funny typos on Chinese restaurant menus. Like garbled Japanese-into-English translations that show up on sundry made-in-Japan pop-cultural bric-a-brac destined for the U.S. market. Check out the following example of the latter, gleaned from some Yu-Yu-Hakusho superheroes stationery, reproduced here with all the grammatical fractures intact: "Shoot the 'REI-GAN' crush the enemy of dark side! YU-YU-HAKUSHO that's the memory of magical battle! We feel the soul burning in my body. heaven is here at top of my finger! Step into the darkness, chase away the evel spirits. follow vs. we,ll guard you against all disaster!" Of course.

With a similarly gnarled sensibility, K-tel attempts to trash-compact Eighties new wave on this ten-track disc, which, in terms of strict chronology, runs from the Flying Lizards' wondrously deadpan 1979 cover (Hello: Eighties, remember?) of Barrett Strong's "Money" to Real Life's 1989 dance-remix version of their '84 hit "Send Me an Angel" (the original, strangely, not good enough to make the cut). Not to put too fine a point on it, but didn't new wave pack it in by 1985? Before Scritti Politti's soulless Michael Jackson rip-off "Perfect Way" (included here)? Before the saccharine Mr. Mister's Top 40 powerless ballad "Broken Wings" (here, too)? Project compiler Gregor Reti chose wisely when he cadged Culture Club's Smokey Robinson-redux "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and Soft Cell's synth-pop cover of Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love." But the Thompson Twins' gag-reflex-inducing "Doctor! Doctor!"? General Public's simpering post-wave "Tenderness"? Ugh. Apparently, heaven is not at the top of Reti's finger

By Michael Yockel

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