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Green Ham and Space Eggs (9/25/98) Write to CD Shakedown

Liz Phair coverLiz Phair, WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg (Matador/Capitol 1998) - After a four-year delay, Liz Phair finally returns with spaceegg. Though riveting in moments, the new album does not deliver the punch of Liz's first two releases, including her classic 1993 debut, Exile in Guyville.

The daughter of a doctor father and art-teacher mom, Liz was raised in an affluent Chicago suburb. After graduating from Ohio's Oberlin College with an art-history degree in 1989, Liz wandered from New York to San Francisco hoping to make a splash as a visual artist. When the romance and the money ran out, she returned home to record the Guyville in her bedroom. The startling lyrics and intimate recording brought critical raves - and more. Admits Liz, "my Mom cried when she first heard Guyville."

Liz Phair photoAlthough spaceegg lacks the colorful four-letter words that peppered Guyville and Whip-Smart (1994), Liz retains a gutsy sexuality that few female rockers are willing to reveal. Says Phair, "Let's just say the smut turned to smolder. 'Exile' was who I was then and 'Whip-Smart' was, for better or for worse, who I was then, and this is who I am now."

The first three tracks on spaceegg are a struggle. But the album picks up speed with "Johnny Feelgood," a troubling rocker about a woman in a masochistic relationship, and the smooth, "Polyester Bride." My favorite moments on the album come at the end of "Only Son," when Phair delivers a ripping guitar conclusion that has overtones of the prime Keith Richards.

Yet tracks like "Shitloads of Money" don't make the grade. Recorded with no less than three producers, spaceegg rambles during its sixteen tracks. We still love Liz Phair, but we liked her better when she was still the starving artist.

Heart coverHeart, Greatest Hits (Epic/Legacy 1998) - Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson ruled the charts when FM radio was king. Though older and wiser, the Seattle-based pair recorded a string of engaging hits.

With Greatest Hits, Heart finds a welcome overview of their 1975 to 1983 material, beginning with the album Dreamboat Annie (which was recorded in Canada because band members had problems arising from the Vietnam draft).

Heart band circa 1977The 17 songs on Greatest Hits include such radio-friendly staples as "Barracuda," "Magic Man," "Dog & Butterfly" (from the 1978 album of the same name), and "Kick It Out" (from their 1977 release, Little Queen). Also included is a 1980 live recording of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," and a new track, "Strong, Strong Wind" recorded in October 1997 with production work by Peter Asher.

Although the duo briefly reunited in 1997 for their spinoff group, Love Mongers, Nancy has now taken "a little breather" to start a family with her husband, Oscar-winning film maker, Cameron Crowe, and Ann has started a North American tour with a reconfigured Heart lineup that includes veteran Heart guitarist Howard Leese.

The album is another in the strong series of Legacy reissues, with sharp packaging and digital remastering, using 20-bit technology. Fans will enjoy the 17-track Greatest Hits collection.

Richard Stoltzman photoRichard Stoltzman, Danza Latina (RCA Victor 1998) - Grammy award winning clarinet virtuoso, Richard Stoltzman delivers an intoxicating mix of South American rhythms in Danza Latina including three songs by the legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim. The album is an innovative exercise in a traditional style.

For the new album, Stoltzman draws from his roots in jazz and traditional orchestral stylings. Danza Latina includes such tracts as "O Pato," "Coco B," and "Serenidade."

Latin dance music remains popular, based on its stylish steps and sensuous rhythms. Join Richard Stoltzman for his foray into this rewarding music.

Dance Box coverVarious Artists, Best of the Dance Box (Damian Music 1998) - Dance Box is a collection of 16 chart hits by renowned dance artists. With an average tempo of 120 beats per minute, Dance Box will get you grinding.

The album includes "Tell It to My Heart" by Taylor Dayne, "Keep on Jumpin'" by Martha Wash, and "Fired Up" by Funky Green Dogs. Also featured are tracks by RuPaul, Le Chic, and C & C Music Factory. The album ends with Dolly Parton's remake of "Peace Train" (written by Cat Stevens).

If you're looking for an album for a dance or aerobics workout, enjoy Dance Box.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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