Another nice feature is the restoration of the show's original orchestrations, which were found in a warehouse the day before recording began. Daring and imaginative, they reinforce the music's biting edge and disabuse us of the notion that romance has a place in this show. Best of all, Rodgers's music and Hart's lyrics are the cream of American musical theater. Although Joey Evans isn't a likable person, the role inspired the duo to write songs that stick in your head, even as they stick in your throat.

By Raymond Tuttle

Various Artists
Funkmaster Flex Presents the Mix Tape
Volume 1: 60 Minutes of Funk

Rappers are to tape-assembling DJs as painters are to gallery curators. That is, while rappers create original works (in this case, songs), DJs decide which of those works to present (or, in this case, to manipulate) via their underground "mix tapes." Both conceptually and technically, there is an art to the mix tape: Using scratches, dubs, and musical overlays, DJs link the best moments from the best songs into a unified and cohesive whole, making for a very long hip-hop odyssey. A great mix tape will be three things at once: a compilation of the finest new and old hip-hop, a rarities collection featuring previously unreleased tracks from top artists, and a live album that captures the spirit of a bouncing DJ-driven house party.

Until now these tapes were sold on the streets of New York City and other hip-hop meccas for about ten dollars a pop. With 60 Minutes of Funk -- the first ever major-label mix tape, and on CD, no less -- RCA uses its superior distribution network to offer the joys of these hip-hop hodgepodges to people outside the inner cities. Recorded in one continuous take by popular New York DJ Funkmaster Flex, 60 Minutes fuses classic tracks such as L.L. Cool J's "Rock the Bells" and A Tribe Called Quest's "Award Tour" with in-studio improv by Fugees, Method Man, and Keith Murray, plus other hip-hop miscellany, including DJ Kool's "20 Minute Workout" and a "Speech" by KRS-One, and then ties it all together with Flex's own cutups and shout-outs. By including only the most relentless beats and craziest rhymes, Flex makes hip-hop that's all about having a party -- the way it's rarely heard these days, but the way it was always meant to be.

By Roni Sarig

Corey Harris
Between Midnight and Day

Every so often you hear an album by an unknown bluesman and you wonder, "Where the hell did he come from?" Corey Harris is that kind of bluesman. He's from Denver, but he sounds more like the proud son of the Mississippi Delta. His debut album, Between Midnight and Day, was recorded nearly two years ago in Springfield, Virginia, yet it has the ambiance of a late-night session cut in the backroom of a deep South roadhouse in the Thirties. Harris was only 25 when he made this album, but his knowing vocals belie his age, while his amazing bottleneck slide-guitar playing recalls the greatest acoustic guitar masters of the pre-war era.

Although his work carries you back to a halcyon time in blues history, Harris is no revivalist. Like Keb' Mo', another young player with Delta dirt in his blood, Harris effortlessly weaves his own compositions into a set of blues staples written by legends such as Muddy Waters and Charley Patton. By the time he closes the album with an intense reading of Elmore James's "It Hurts Me Too," you'll hear Harris originals such as "Bound to Miss Me" and "Between Midnight and Day" as worthy successors to the masterworks he covers on this remarkable set.

By John Floyd

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