Try as I might to find a place in my heart for the local stuff that's crossed my desk in the many weeks since I last reviewed any South Florida music, my ears -- and heart, for that matter -- keep taking me back to one disc. The Best of Paul Kelly (Warner Archives) is an outstanding collection of the Miami native's sterling soul hits from the pre-disco era of the early Seventies, all of which have been out of print for years. From the 1970 breakthrough hit "Stealin' in the Name of the Lord" to the cuts lifted from Hogtied & Collared, his overlooked 1974 masterpiece, The Best of Paul Kelly establishes him as one of the great overlooked vocalists from a golden age loaded with them.
But that was then and, for better or worse, this is now. Below is a hodgepodge of CDs and EPs for your consideration, a few of which made it easy to spend a little time away from Paul Kelly. If you want to send something for review here, address it to me at New Times, Box 011591, Miami, FL 33101. No guarantees when or if it'll be reviewed.
Vacant Andys, Anodyne (Fiddler Records EP). Saw this Boca Raton quartet at Cheers a few months back and pegged them as a heavier sort of Superchunk. This three-song EP (not to be confused, I'm sure, with the Uncle Tupelo album of the same name) tells me that I was right, although they kick out the punky-pop jams here with a bit more nuance, if not subtlety, than they did that night at Cheers. Whatever the case, it's a fine slab: "Loaded Words" is a dense construction built around a darting bass line by Dan Bonebrake and a yelped vocal that underlines the disillusionment and anger in the lyric. (Is that disillusionment I hear? Sometimes it's hard to tell.) On the flip side you get "Hokey" and "Square Pegs," two fairly straightforward punk burners squeezed together. "Hokey" is anything but, and "Square Pegs" is even better, thanks in no small part to the slick pop-trivia reference to Lenny and the Squigtones, whose album -- believe it or not -- I once owned. (Fiddler Records, 205 Shore Dr. South, Miami, FL 33133. email@example.com)
Resolution, Bluefacejazzassgrooveholisticfunkfiasco (Prolific Decibel CD). Mike Rogers is a guitar-playing, alto-sax-wailing dynamo from Naples who writes as good as he produces. Although funk-metal hybrids like his usually trigger my gag reflex, the second album by Rogers's Resolution (sorry but I'm not writing out that title again) is a stunning stomper that funks and rocks with compassion, determination, and soul. A songwriter who obviously gives a damn about the world around him, Rogers makes his ideology clear in "Ripped Off" ("I ain't singing from my own grave/I'm not pushing up no daisies/I'm just speaking from what my mind says"), then surveys the reality and consequences of gangsta life ("Lil' Peanut," "Neighborhood Kids") and prays in "Cut 'N' Paste" for a better future (because, as he rightly puts it, "this funky place is paralyzed"). Through it all, the band (rounded out by bass whiz Hector Rivera and drummer Ray Stewart) just roars, producing a molten groove that -- despite what I said a bit earlier about that gag reflex -- makes me want to rethink my prejudice regarding all things funky-metallic. (Resolution, 3610 First Ave. NW, Naples, FL 34120)
Jump n' Jive, I'm a Dirty Bird (DRP CD). This South Florida retro-swing quintet gets extra points for keeping the covers to a minimum on its debut disc. Resisting the temptation to clog the thing with a bunch of half-baked Benny Goodman and Louis Prima, Jump n' Jive includes seven originals on this twelve-song set, all written by keyboardist/vocalist/bandleader Dale Powers (an aural dead ringer, by the way, for Randy Newman). Those points don't count for much, though, since Powers's lyrical concerns are typified by the unfortunate, ultra-dumb "Are Those Things Really Real," which I bet money is a centerpiece during the band's live sets and which I bet even more money makes drunk fortysomethings laugh themselves goofy as they twirl and spin to Jump n' Jive's jumping but jivey jive. (DPR, 561-745-8140)
Saleem, In My Dreams (Pro-Fusion CD). Decent outing from a sensitive singer/songwriter who, judging from the evidence gathered here, dreams of being Sting. Funny thing, dreams. To others they can be nightmares. (Pro-Fusion, P.O. Box 110225, Miami, FL 33111)
The Butter Club, Junkies & Heroes (Slow Jam CD). Sorry, kids, the title doesn't refer to Johnny Thunders, Kurt Cobain, or whoever your favorite needle man may be, although you may want to shoot a little smack before you hunker down with the debut disc by this perpetually dour sextet. Actually, that's not entirely fair: Although Rhett O'Neil's jaundiced, cynical, ultimately romantic songs are anything but upbeat, they're perfect for the thoughtful, acoustic-based treatment they receive on Junkies & Heroes. And that's a good thing, for if the Butter Club favored loud guitars, AOR backbeats, and rock-opera bombast, lines like "don't need a lot of money/Don't need a fancy car/With a bit of care and footwork/you know we could get quite far" would be fatal. (Slow Jam Records, 25 E. Ninth Court, Miami, FL 33010.)
funkygreendogs, getfiredup (Twisted/MCA CD). Since nearly every techno song ever created is built around the same damn beat, the good stuff can be discerned only by studying what's going on around that beat. The dance montages assembled by Miami's lower-case/run-on-crazed duo funkygreendogs (Ralph Falcon and Oscar Gaetan) work occasionally inspired variations on the house themes established years ago by DJs in Chicago, not to mention Big Apple groundbreakers such as Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker, who basically created this electro genre with the help of Kraftwerk. What you learn from one spin through getfiredup is that funkygreendogs have a secret weapon -- namely, vocalist Pamela Williams, who brings gospel-diva soul to the keyboard squiggles and synth blasts that inform this fairly impressive debut. And if they only seldom rise above the dance-floor fodder you hear thumping and bumping all over South Beach, the artfully arranged "theway" and "firedup!" sound, for now at least, like dance fodder for the ages. (Twisted, 250 E. Houston St., suite 9K, New York, NY 10002)
-- By John Floyd
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