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September 3, 1997

Send Me Blue Roses

Lida HusikLida Husik, Fly Stereo Phonic (Alias 1997) - There's something likeable about Lida Husik. On her fifth solo disk (and first for Alias Records), Lida strides head first into alterna-pop.

Lida was raised in Washington, D.C., but now lives in New York City. A multi-instrumentalist from an early age, Lida plays violin, piano, guitar, and drums. Following stints in a couple of punk bands, Lida decided to explore a solo career.

While her last album, Joy Ride, was low key (influenced by the death of her father), Fly Stereo Phonic is more uptempo with psychedelic dream-pop influences. Lida handles vocals, guitars and hammond organ, and is joined by Charles Steck on bass and The Rummager on drums and percussion.

Lida should be a member of this year's Lillith Tour, as she delights in exploring things alternative, from dream-pop songs such as "Sharon Hill Shadows" to Liz Phair-rockers such as "Sound Man" to horn-influenced numbers such as "Dancing Pants" (where Lida's sensuous voice shines).

Lida Husik comes across as engaging artist, and Fly Stereo Phonic should attract new fans (though I don't care for the low-budget artwork).

Nanci GriffithNanci Griffith, Blue Roses From the Moons (Elektra 1997) - During a recording career that has spanned nearly two decades, Nancy Griffith has moved from strong folk influences to more mainstream country and rock. Blue Roses From the Moons, recorded with her longtime band, The Blue Moon Orchestra, is a sweet release that ties all it all together.

With production work by Don Gehmen (whose resume includes hits for Tracy Chapman, Hootie & the Blowfish, R.E.M., and John Mellencamp), the new album has a strong, well-blended sound. An added plus is the CD booklet, which includes all the lyrics and numerous pictures in an eye-catching format.

Blue Roses From the Moons includes a number of charming cuts, including Nick Lowe's "(Love is a) Battlefield" and "Two for the Road," which is reminiscent of Kirsty MacColl's evocative vocals. Maybe she's mainstream. But Nanci Griffith has a sharp talent. Folk and pop fans will enjoy Blue Roses From the Moons.

HansonHanson, Middle of Nowhere (Mercury 1997) - Bubble gum pop lives on, sometimes in the most unlikely places. Now playing on a radio near you the three Hanson brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma - Isaac (age 16) on guitar, Taylor (age 13) on keyboards, and little brother Zac (11) on drums. And their charming three-part harmonies are the driving force on Middle of Nowhere.

Because their father is an executive with an oil company, the Hanson family has lived in such exotic locales as Ecuador, Trinidad and Venezuela. The trio has performed since elementary school, and are local heartthrobs.

But they have also won their share of adult fans. Says Steve Greenberg, the music company honcho who signed the band, "I got this tape and loved it, but I was convinced it was fake. I was sure there was some adult pulling the strings or the vocals were manipulated and they weren't really playing their instruments."

Greenberg continues. "But then I saw them at a county fair in Kansas, and they played and sang just as well as they did on the record. There wasn't an adult in sight - except their Dad, who was loading up the equipment, and their Mom, who was selling T-shirts."

That kind of family wholesomeness is evident throughout Middle of Nowhere. The brothers are currently enjoying the spotlight with "MMM Bop," a cheery, infectious single that is reminiscent of The Jackson Five and the Osmonds.

What's more surprising is that "MMM Bop" was produced by hip-hop alternative producers, the Dust Brothers (who also have worked with Beck), who lend turntable scratching to create a retro-hip touch.

Nobody ever said music had to be all drudgery and seriousness. "MMM Bop" is a bright, bouncy single that is sure to put a smile on your face. And that counts for a lot. Roll down the windows, lay down the convertible top, and enjoy Middle of Nowhere.

Men Out LoudMen Out Loud, Sweet Enuf II Eat (Pure/Mercury Records 1997) - Here's a paradox for you. Men Out Loud is an openly gay men's a capella quartet from Los Angeles. But their debut release, Sweet Enuf II Eat, has been released on "Pure Records." Go figure.

Sweet Enuf II Eat contains terrific covers of Madonna's "Express Yourself," the Bee Gee's "More Than a Woman," and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" from Les Miserables. My favorite track is a cover of Todd Rundgren's "Hello, It's Me," featuring lead vocals by Joseph Pearce.

All of the songs are capable of double meanings that fit within the gay lifestyle: for example, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" hauntingly translates to the Aids tragedy.

But the choir is not just about double entendres. Rather, the performances are serious and polished. While good on album, I anticipate that these guys are even more powerful live. Fans of men's choirs will enjoy Sweet Enuf II Eat.

-- Randy Krbechek

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