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May 21, 1997
An Upbeat Melissa  
sophie zelmani
Sophie Zelmani (Columbia 1996) - While she looks and sounds American, 24-year-old Sophie Zelmani hails from Stockholm, Sweden. However, her music, which brings to mind an upbeat Melissa Ethebridge, touches on all the rock classics.

The new album was produced by Lars Halapi, a renowned Swedish musician who also played guitar and pedal steel. With her incisive lyrics, Zelmani brings to mind vintage Bob Dylan. But other influences are readily apparent.

Thus, "A Thousand Times" features a Van Morrison -style (circa Wavelength) horn arrangement, while "You and Him" comes complete with ELO -influenced strings. In addition, "Tell Me You're Joking" includes a J.J. Cale-style guitar lead, while the concluding number, "I'll See You (In Another World)," brings to mind Astral Weeks.

That's a heady list of influences. But Zelmani holds up. Fans of classic rock will groove to Sophie Zelmani.
David Bowie
David Bowie, Earthling (Virgin 1997) - Having triumphantly turned 50 on stage this spring at Madison Square Garden, David Bowie shows no intention of slowing down. Earthling builds on Bowie's continuing marriage of technology and adventurous rhythms, to mixed results.

Which may be because the nine songs on Earthling were developed during Bowie's gigs last year with industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails. Thus, tracks like "Little Wonder," "Telling Lies," and "Battle for Britain" ride Bowie's inimitable vocals amidst powerful guitar thrusts, jarring keyboard flights, and tricky time changes.

The members of the band include Bowie on vocals, guitars, and sax, Reeves Gabrels on guitar and vocals, Zachery Alford on drums, Mark Garson on keyboards, and Gail Ann Dorsey on bass and vocals. Explains Bowie, "By the time of the album, the five of us had bonded as a unit...I wanted to couple my hard-rock band with the melody-driven jungle subtext."

Adds Bowie, "In the last year and a half, we have pretty much perfected the live mixing problems of balancing samples and loops against live playing and singing in a festival situation...The band who turned me onto this was Big Audio Dynamite some years ago: there were two to three minutes of their show when I thought, 'This is the future.' What we are doing now is putting into practice what I knew I wanted then."

I agree with Bowie: Big Audio Dynamite brought an incredible breath of fresh air to pop music. (See The Globe for details.) Unfortunately, Earthling (Bowie's first self-produced album since 1974's classic, Diamond Dogs) doesn't have the same coherency as his last album, Outside. Earthling may work live, but it's hard to follow in repeated listenings. And that's the mark of a solid release.  

Schoolhouse Rock (Kid Rhino 1997) - As a follow-up to last year's Schoolhouse Rock box set, Kid Rhino has released four individual CD's: Grammar Rock, America Rock, Multiplication Rock, and Science Rock. That's a smart marketing move.

The Schoolhouse Rock series aired on Saturday mornings on ABC, and consisted of a series of three-minute animated vignettes that taught about everything from the Preamble to the Constitution to the function of conjunctions.

In small doses, cuts such as "Three is a Magic Number" and "Conjunction Junction" are delightful. But the four-CD set was overwhelming, especially in terms of cost for preschoolers. The individual CD's make a lot of sense, and have good educational value, too.
Monty Python
Monty Python (Arista 1997) - Arista has digitally remastered four Monty Python albums for CD. Long out of print, yet immediately familiar to fans, these CD's have held up well over the years.

Matching Tie and Handkerchief was Monty Python's 1975 recording debut, and features such hilarious sketches as "Bruces" and "Cheese Shop." If you watched the show, then you know (and love) this material.

Monty Python & The Holy Grail is the 1975 album of the soundtrack of the trailer of the film. It was recorded live at the 3:10 showing at the Classic Theatre in Silbury Hill, England. Featuring material from one of the funniest movies ever made, The Holy Grail is a must-own for Python fans.
Monty Python
Live at City Center is a 1976 live recording from the Python's American tour. It too features gems from the TV show, such as "Nudge Nudge," "Pet Shop" and "Lumberjack Song." Yes, that's right, you can have your own recording of the "Lumberjack Song."

Contractual Obligation was the troupe's 1980 swan song. Compared to the prior three releases, it is mildly disappointing, although one cut, "Martyrdom of Saint Victor," is an outstanding religious parody.

A treat for comedy fans everywhere, the Monty Python albums will not disappoint.

-- Randy Krbechek
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