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Music Reviews

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December 18, 1996

Coming Up Close

Til Tuesday'Til Tuesday, Coming Up Close (Columbia/Legacy 1996) -- The Legacy re-issue series has been busy recently. Coming Up Close features songs from 'Til Tuesday's three studio releases, including such pop standards as "Voices Carry" and "Believed You Were Lucky" through more searching tracks like "J is for Jules" and "Why Must I."

The album also includes a CD extra section, with videos that can be played on your computer. And unlike many other multi-media albums, Sony's always work. Coming Up Close will bring you back to the heyday of MTV.

Til TuesdayLegacy also re-issued Bad For Business, a long-missing album by Jules and the Polar Bears (the irony being that lead singer Aimee Mann's breakup with Jules Shear is exquisitely detailed on 'Til Tuesday's, It's All Over Now), and a best-of set by Philadelphia's Hooters. Led by Eric Bazilian and Rod Hyman, Hooterization includes such memorable songs as "Brother Don't You Rock Away" and "500 Miles," (with Peter Paul & Mary), as well as a live version of Cyndi Lauper's, "Time After Time."

ForbertSteve Forbert, Rocking Horse Head (Revolution/Paladin 1996) - On his eighth album, Steve Forbert seeks to build on the momentum generated by 1995's splendid, Mission of the Crossroad Palms. Once touted as "the next Bob Dylan," Forbert now lives in Nashville, and is backed by members of Wilco (see review below) on Rocking Horse Head.

Much as I like Steve Forbert, Rocking Horse Head leaves me flat. I can't find any of the gripping, incisive songs that appeared on Mission of the Crossroad Palms. Instead, I find a pleasant, but uneventful album. Steve is now doing a national, solo, acoustic, free tour of Border's Books. Maybe these gigs will help develop the new material, and give it additional depth.

King BisquitSteve Forbert, In Concert (King Biscuit Flower Hour 1996) -- Long renowned for its radio broadcasts, King Biscuit Flower Hour recently started tapping into its deep vaults for CD re-issues, including concerts by Billy Squire and Romantics.

Leading off is In Concert, recorded by Steve Forbert in 1982. The hour-plus release features prime Forbert material, such as "Too Much Monkey Business" and "You Gotta Go." Geared toward the 80's, King Biscuit fills a historical gap.

Jackrabbit SlimSteve Forbert, Jackrabbit Slim (Columbia/Legacy 1996) - Continuing the Steve Forbert renaissance is a re-issue of 1978's Jackrabbit Slim, which featured Steve's biggest radio song, "Romeo's Tune," as well as such signature Forbert tracks as "January 23-30, 1978."

Forbert says that "all of the tracks on Jackrabbit Slim were done totally live (no overdubs), with everyone scattered here and there throughout the studio looking at one another as we recorded. I guess it was `meant to be'. The truth was I'd originally chosen another producer. It surprised me back in 1979 when Rolling Stone panned it. I thought the album was a work of integrity. And I'm still proud of it."

Not as great as they said Wilco, Being There (Reprise 1996) -- Wilco was created by Jeff Tweedy in 1994 when Uncle Tupelo self-destructed (leaving a dedicated cult following). The new double-disc Being There (the second release from Wilco) has been getting great press, but little airplay.

And I can understand the lack of airplay. Being There has a sonic cohesiveness, but no really memorable cuts. Thus, I don't see it as the great country/alternative stepping stone that some critics have proclaimed.

The Beth Hart Band, Immortal (Lava/Atlantic 1996) - Los Angeles native Beth Hart has big promise as a rock vocalist. And her debut release is a fine showcase for her talents.

Immortal features Beth Hart on vocals and piano, Jimmy Khoury on guitars, Tell Herzberg on bass, and Sergio Gonzales on drums. Production assistance was provided by Hugh Tadgham, David Foster and Mike Klink.

Beth HartAs can be expected, Immortal offers a polished, Los Angeles rock sound. While the album features a number of obligatory power-rock ballads, such as "Hold Me Through The Night," Beth lets it rip on such tracks as "Ringing." My favorite cut is "Isolation," which builds on a sound that Collective Soul would be proud to claim as its own.

Immortal may not sell in big numbers, but you can expect to hear a lot more from Beth Hart.

Karen Carpenter, Karen Carpenter (A & M Records 1996) - Karen Carpenter is a never-before-released collection recorded in 1979 with ace producer Phil Ramone. Shelved for years (at Karen's request), the album makes its first appearance.

Karen CarpenterKaren Carpenter was recorded with Billy Joel's band in New York City during a respite from her fabulously-successful partnership with brother. Considered too different from her prior works, the album never saw light before Karen's death of anorexia nervosa in 1983 at age 32.

While Karen makes a valid stab at the vocals, the production is too bloated to allow her personality to sparkle through. Instead, the album has a homogenized, circa-1979 dance/disco flavor. In other words, it doesn't work. Which is too bad, considering Karen's great talents.

-- Randy Krbechek

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