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Brian WilsonBrian Wilson, Live at the Roxy Theatre (Brimel Records 2000) - During the past couple of years, Brian Wilson (of Beach Boys fame) has resumed touring on a regular basis. Live at the Roxy Theatre is a double-disk collection recorded live on the Sunset Strip on April 7-8, 2000. I was at the first show, and offer the following observations.

Brian WilsonTo start, the audience was almost reverential. We all knew of Brian's difficulties, and were there to pay him respect (and to enjoy the music).

I didn't see the celebrities reported to be in attendance (such as Don Was, Bette Midler, Dave Alvin, Lindsey Buckingham, or Jon Bon Jovi), although I did see veteran porn star Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy when we were exiting.

Paul MertensSecond, the band was air-tight and studio perfect. Standouts among the dozen musicians on stage were Paul Mertens (from Chicago's Poi Dog Pondering) on saxophone and flute, and LA's own, the Wondermints.

Brian played all of the old favorites, such as "California Girls," "I Get Around," and "Good Vibrations," some more recent material ("This Isn't Love"), and a pair of instrumentals from the landmark Pet Sounds.

In concertSo how do I rate Live at the Roxy Theatre? It's not the same, in that the album doesn't capture the lush sound at the Roxy (the P.A. system at the club was the best that money can buy), and Brian's vocals have been pushed up on the CD.

Yet there are some delicious moments. Give a listen to Brian's read on "Brian Wilson" (by the Barenaked Ladies), which segues into the introspective, "'Til I Die." Another charmer is the thoughtful "Lay Down Burden," with a studio feel. And a staple of Brian's live shows is the concluding, "Love & Mercy."

At the RoxyThe best tracks on Live at the Roxy Theatre aren't the songs that I remember as being the best in concert. What I remember about the concert was the sense that here was the master, performing his own songs, with a crack band. The CD highlights Brian's vocals, while the concert highlighted his amazing band.

Better than most bootlegs, Live at the Roxy Theatre shows Brian Wilson in fine form. The album costs $22.00, and is only available at www.brianwilson.com.

Bad Vibes Update - It is now reported that Live At The Roxy will be sold in stores beginning June 19, 2001, with two bonus tracks ["Sloop John B" and "Barbara Ann"] and a new interview. That's inexcusable. Only true fans bought the album from the website. Now we have to purchase another copy to get the complete package?!

Steal this MovieSoundtrack to Steal this Movie (Artemis Records 2000) - "Steal This Movie" is the recent film biography of the late counter-culture hero, Abbie Hoffman. The film starred Janeane Garafolo and Vincent D'Onofrio in the story of the civil rights activist who helped found the Yippie party, led protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and who later was an environmental activist under the name "Barry Freed."

Abbie HoffmanI didn't see the movie, but respect the memory of a man who campaigned a pig for president and led thousands to march on the Pentagon. The soundtrack features a dozen songs from the era, some originals, some likeable remakes.

The originals include "War" by Edwin Starr, "I Ain't Marchin' Any More" by folkie Phil Ochs, and "Super Bird" by Country Joe and the Fish (which stands as a disappointing Country Joe choice).

Steal this MovieThe remakes are an interesting lot, including a surprising turn on "Mellow Yellow" (the old Donovan song) by Mary Chapin Carpenter, a smooth sliding cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" by Bonnie Raitt, and a countrified version of the Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today" by Steve Earle & Sheryl Crow.

Young LoveThe biggest treats are "My Back Pages" by Joan Osborne & Jackson Browne, whose voices meld effortlessly, and a stunning solo cover of "This Land is Your land" by Ani DiFranco. DiFranco nails the old Woody Guthrie song - perhaps because she truly shares the spirit of Guthrie - in an emotion-drenched cover that puts to shame every sappy version of the song. (The recording also includes all of the socialist-leaning lyrics, not just the feel-good lyrics that have been vetted by schoolhouse authorities.)

"This Land is Your Land" grabbed me and won't let go. Enjoy this treat on Steal This Movie.

AbbaBest of Abba (MCA 2000) - Never out of the public eye, Abba has enjoyed continued success since the band disbanded in 1982, most recently from such sound-alike groups as A*Teens and Bjorn Again.

Best of Abba features 11 hit tracks from these Swedish hitmakers (precedessors to Ace of Base), all on a mid-level priced CD. Remastered for this release, you can't go wrong with Best of Abba.

AbbaAbba came together in 1973, and included Agnetha Faltskog, Bennie Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad. All had enjoyed previous (if limited) pop success in their home country. The name Abba was taken from the first initial of each of their first names.

AbbaThe band began scoring hits with "Waterloo" (1973) and "S.O.S." (1975). After conquering Europe, Abba arrived in America with 1976's Arrival, which featured the disco-era anthem, "Dancing Queen" (the group's only number one U.S. single), as well as the top 20 hit, "Knowing Me, Knowing You."

Arrival was Abba's first of four consecutive gold or platinum albums, followed by the number three single, "Take a Change on Me" (1977), "Chiquitita" (1979), and their final top ten single, "The Winner Takes it All" (1980).

AbbaThe band began to drift apart when the marriages of Agnetha & Bjorn and Bennie & Anni-Frid unraveled. Abba made its final live performance at a concert in Stockholm in 1982, and disbanded thereafter.

Bennie and Bjorn (the writers of all of the band's chirpy, upbeat songs) have remained productive in the following years. They have a new musical play, Mamma Mia, now opening in San Francisco after a run in London, and penned the sadly-neglected 80's stage show, Chess.

AbbaWhile fans remain hopeful of a reunion, the band has so far resisted (despite offers that have included staggering financial sums). The members of Abba don't need the money - in 1982, they were Sweden's single largest earner of foreign currency.

If you want a slice of the real thing, look for Best of Abba.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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