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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

December 8, 1993

A Lovely Live Recording

10,000 Maniacs10,000 Maniacs, MTV Unplugged (Elektra 1993) -- Unplugged is, sad to say, the swan song from 10,000 Maniacs, as lead singer Natalie Merchant decided to break up the band shortly after this September 1993 show. But what an excellent swan song it is.

Unplugged epitomizes how a live album should be made -- recorded in September, and in the stores by November. Live albums capture a moment in the history of a band, and should always be released promptly. Unplugged isn't really unplugged: the band appears in full, together with a string section and other guest musicians. Natalie's recent infatuation with Michael Stipe of REM also comes across, as a mandolin is prominantly featured on many cuts.

The album includes one cover tune, a sultry remake of the 1970s Patti Smyth/Bruce Springsteen song "Because the Night" that has been receiving some local airplay. The other cuts on this album are terrific live versions of the band's original tunes, including "Don't Talk," "Hey Jack Kerouac," and the amazingly upbeat "Like the Weather."

After ten years of hard work, 10,000 Maniacs had finally broken into the mainstream, including a cover story last summer on Rolling Stone. However, Natalie reports that she often felt constrained by working in a group setting. For instance, Natalie says that she felt compromised by the band's recording of "Peace Train" because she didn't believe in Cat Steven's philosophy on the song. After resting this winter, she plans to branch into more eclectic avenues in a solo career.

This live recording captures what made 10,000 Maniacs so special -- Natalie has one of the most original voices in the business, and is perfectly matched against the band's delicate arrangements, subtly understated keyboards, and sophisticated, syncopated rhythms. Don't miss this fine show by one of the smartest and most literate bands in the business.

IndiansThe Indians, Indianism (Polygram 1993) -- The Indians, a three-piece band consisting of English bassist Chris Wilson, Italian guitarist Zeb, and 26 year-old singer/songwriter Angelique Bianca (a native of Los Angeles and part Arawak Indian) have released a non-dogmatic and diverse disc inIndianism.

Singer Bianca, who has also lived in Haiti, London, and New York, brings a wide variety of musical affections to the ten tracks on this disc. While the band's influences include psychedelic pop and urban hip-hop, the feeling created by producer Dave Jerden (who has also worked with Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction) is primarily rock-oriented.

Thus, tracks like "Bed of Roses" and "Caught a Rainbow" resemble the sound on the 4 Non Blondes' excellent Bigger, Better, Faster, More (Interscope), while "Head in the Clouds" has more of a bouncy, pop feel to it. Bianca isn't possessed of a classic pop voice (ala Linda Ronstadt), but she brings a funky, streetwise feeling to her music that makes Indianisman unusual and interesting debut.

DoggystyleSnoop Doggy Dogg, Doggy Style (Death Row Records/Interscope 1993) -- Doggy Style is the much awaited release from rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg (real name, Calvin Broadus). Produced by rapper Dr. Dre, Doggy Style is one of the best rap/hip-hop albums available, ranking alongside De la Soul's tremendous Three Feet Deep and Rising.

Doggy Style is infatuating, from a musical sense. Snoop snares a broad variety of musical influences and then covers them with his slow, sly rap. Imagine the Beach Boys leaving suburbia to have fun, fun, fun in Compton. Thus, tunes like "Doggy Dogg World" and "Bathtub" ride high on the quasi-gang/party lifestyle.

But Snoop isn't content to let his rap stop with slick party tunes, as the album also includes cuts like "Serial Killa" and "For All My Niggaz & Bitches." In short, Snoop picks up on the misogynistic and dope-ridden world so often found in rap. It's not a pretty world, and the mean streets are never far away.

Success is clearly bittersweet for Snoop, who now finds himself facing a murder charge for allegedly driving a car while a passenger fired a fatal gunshot at a passerby. Snoop's a smooth and talented fellow, but appears unable to escape his background. Snoop may go down, but Doggy Stylewill remain a well-made, highly listenable disc.

Uncle Fester Lives -- I recently saw a film clip of Don Rickles. Don is not aging gracefully; his appearance (sans makeup) resembles the late Jackie Coogan, Uncle Fester on T.V.'s Addam's Family. Take a look, if you don't believe me.

Did You Know? -- Capitol Records was formed in 1942 by singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer, moving producer B.G. "Buddy" DeSylva, and record store owner Glenn Wallichs. In 1946, Capitol moved to offices at Sunset Boulevard & Vine Street in Hollywood. A majority interest in Capitol was purchased by EMI of Great Britain in 1955. In 1956, Capitol's famed Tower at Hollywood & Vine was completed.

-- Randy Krbechek

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