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Warren Brothers - Cold Cruel World

I had to bribe to publisher of the Renegade ta get this one. What an album, with great vocal tracks and vocal harmonies. Not newcomers to Nashville at all. I was sitting about ten feet from these brothers at the 1998 Country Music Awards when they introduced the Musician of the Year award and performed a live cut of "Guilty" off this album. Cool! Warren Brothers -- Cold Cruel World.
- Michael Hoadley

Bill Lyerly Band - Railroad Station Blues

Riviere International Records
To use this albumís title as a metaphor, Bill Lyerlyís music boards a train but never gets too far from the station. His musical calling is comprised of workmanlike blues sounds, colored with a touch of country. The standout track here is a duet with Steve Earle on Bob Dylanís "Hangman," which only goes to show the difference between what Lyerly does, and what the truly outstanding contemporary singer/songwriters are up to these days. Lyerly gets the style right but falls a little short on substance.
- Dan MacIntosh

Davina - Best of Both Worlds

Loud Records
Davina is a vocalist, originally from the Motor City, who carries the current "diva" torch. With Brandy, Monica, Toni Braxton, and Erykah Badu out there, it seems a little crowded sometimes. However, this song stylist takes material, driven by hip-hop beats and jazzy accompaniment, and breathes new life into a sometimes cliched form. Smooth, sexy, and self-assured, she is definitely a legitimate talent and one to watch!
- Eric Harabadian

Blue Oyster Cult - Heaven Forbid

Very impressive guitar and keyboard matched with powerful vocals and strong percussion work. The power rock of B.O.C. shines on this album. The guys from B.O.C. assured me that no animals were harmed in recording this album.
- Michael Hoadley

NineDollarMelonBaller - Iíll Give You Something to Cry About

Why do bands give pretentious titles to ordinary songs? Beats me. NineDollarMelonBaller opens this album with a track about lust from a distance and calls it "Fry the Bastard Tuna." If you can make that connection, then youíre a better man/woman than me. Only thing worse than nonsensical song titles, though, are bad puns. Calling a song "Celery Cap" is downright inexcusable. Nevertheless, these song titles are the only noteworthy aspects about this mediocre semi-grunge-influenced trio. Read the credits and laugh, but donít throw down money for this one.
- Dan MacIntosh

Drain S.T.H. - Horror Wrestling

Mercury Records
Heavy metal from Sweden, thatís whatís going on here with this one. This all-female line-up is playing some very hard and heavy licks throughout the proceedings here, and they do a slowed down but MEAN version of the old Motorhead classic "Ace of Spades" here to boot. Give Ďem a hand; hell,  give Ďem both hands!
- The Wild Card

Witness - Love is an Action Word

CGI Records
If there was ever a group that was poised for crossover success, itís Witness. These four women, literally, sing like angels, and the mix of ballads and mid-tempo urban contemporary sounds matches them with the best MTV or BET has to offer. This ainít your mama and daddyís Gospel, honey!
- Eric Harabadian

Chicago Mass Choir - Keep Your Mind On Jesus

CGI Records
You know it is such a beautiful thing to have heard a number of the artists on this label. They are all excellent, and, you know what, this choir is no exception! All the soloists are outstanding, the band cooks, and the production is superb! I wouldnít even know where to begin in terms of recommending specific tracks. Suffice to say, if youíre looking for motivation and inspiration -- with a beat -- search no further, my friend!
- Eric Harabadian

James Hall and Worship and Praise - Live From New York

CGI Records
A nice blend of preaching backed by the choir on this live date from Lincoln Center in New York. Dr. Kevin Bond is the minister over the festivities and, man, when this ensemble really opens up, itís goosebump time, people! The album possesses an old fashioned churchy feel with a nineties, soulful sensibility. Highly recommended!
- Eric Harabadian

12RODS - Split Personalities

V2 Records
12RODS calls this release Split Personalities, while as a musical unit, it avoids having any discernible personality at all. Vocals and music are primarily mechanic and cold. Singer Ryan Olcott (who calls what he does "vox," not singing, by the way) has all the passion of a latter-day Devo vocalist. 12ROD songs are written well, but in a college lit sort of way. Yet these writings never seem to give much insight into the writers themselves. Give me a computer with soul, instead.
- Dan MacIntosh

The Notwist - 12

Zero Hour Records
Well hereís a band, from some unknown place, far far away, trying to make it big in the  American Indie Rock scene. The Notwist is a "three-something" piece band with more stand-in noise makers than actual band members. The songs were wastefully separated into 2 disks for 11 songs and 3 remixes, which doesnít make any sense to me.  Iíd put all those songs on one disk and play frisbee with the other. The only songs that showed any real merit were "My Phrasebook" and "Instr." which illustrated great drumming techniques with standard dance rhythms. My recommendation:  Get rid of that "Flaming Lips" wannabe singer of yours and strike out as a heavier act.
- Kevin Hurrell

The Dingees - Armageddon Massive

BEC Recordings
They kick off the disc with a ferocious back-to-back onslaught of old school punk. But, just as quickly, they follow that up with a slice of bop-along ska. Apparently they hail from Orange County, CA, but they sound straight out of London. Fans of the Specials, the Clash, Madness, and, more recently, Rancid will dig their crazy "riddims."
- Eric Harabadian

Wendy Carlos - Tales of Heaven and Hell

East Side Digital
Word has it Wendy Carlos used to be a man and composed such well-known soundtracks as the music for A Clockwork Orange under that male name. Now as a woman, sheís put together an opus of Biblical proportions. Composed electronically, and with the help of a few human voices, Carlos calls these sounds "scary material." She warns: "Use caution when listening alone or in the dark." She may call this music scary, but in actuality, itís all quite beautiful.
- Dan MacIntosh

Jupiter Coyote - Here Be Dragons

Autonomous/Roadrunner Records
Roadrunner is usually associated with the Heaviest of Metal (i.e. Sepultura, Type O Negative) but has branched out to send us a little taste of Americana in Jupiter Coyote. Funky backbeats and acoustic guitars echo The Dave Matthews Band, but Here Be Dragons is no mere carbon copy. Pure wheat field rock throughout, this Georgia band demonstrates pro songwriting and even have small explanations as to when, why and where each song was written. ("I Know Nothing" -- Written at Phil Forchelli's... Too much wine. too much food, too much anthropology.) Great musicianship throughout, this CD could be huge if pushed into the mainstream. Mainstream Rock Radio, are you listening?
- Brendan Hagin

Five-Eight - Gasolina

Velvel Records
What can I say about this band Five-Eight? Iíve been searching for a 4-chord band lately and couldnít find one until the album Gasolina blessed my doorstep. As a technical band... no.  Flipping from song to song, you begin to notice that the majority of them start with very similar chord patterns straying not too far from the norms in today's sickening pop/rock scene. As a pop rock teenage icon band... could very well happen.  The song "Doubter" is a good example of creative musical thought with a catchy groove. As an addition to my CD collection... definitely not.  It will go in the box with my old Soul Asylum and Green Day tapes.
- Kevin Hurrell

RAW Kinder - RAW Kinder EP

Home Office Records
It was a disappointment to receive an album on a label called HO (Home Office Records), and not also get a Top Ten List along with it. Probably a case of too many late nights, and too much exposure to David Letterman. RAW Kinder sounds like the perfect album for anybody who misses the music of either Ricki Lee Jones or Edie Brickell. Their sound is piloted by Renee Annabel Wilsonís off kilter street vamps, put to spacey jams. What it is is what it is.
- Dan MacIntosh

G.M.W.A. - Live (Thirty Years in the Spirit)

CGI Records
The Gospel Music Workshop of America has been in existence since 1968 and, in that time, has been a springboard and training ground for contemporary Gospel stars like Kirk Franklin and John P. Kee, among many others. Before what sounds like a full house at the Cincinnati Convention Center, the G.M.W.A. Mass Choir showcases superstar vocal soloists and instrumentalists of tomorrow to great effect. Hereís to another thirty!
- Eric Harabadian

Freddy Frogs - At My Front Door

Off the Wall Records, 44 Ormonde Blvd., Valley Stream, NY 11580
New York native Freddy Frogs has re-released his independent album on CD format. Originally, it was available on vinyl in the late seventies/early eighties. The liner notes state his hope for the music to reach a modern audience. Well, with swing and rockabilly in big demand, he might just accomplish that dream. Frogs rocks out with a vintage sound that would do Elvis proud. And his cover of Clarence "Frogman" Henryís "Ainít Got No Home" is dynamite. Cool, Daddyoí!
- Eric Harabadian

Cutters - Sonic Wave Love

CMC International Records
Cutters mixes in enough electric guitar elements to keep its music rock, yet throws in a healthy portion of synth sounds, which also gives it some techno spice. Most importantly, though, this group knows how to write intriguing songs. "Genie," for example, might be a metaphor for alcoholism with lines like "Genie canít stay sober/Living in her bottle." Or it could simply be a meditation upon trying to make dreams come true. Bottom line: Cutters makes the critical cut.
- Dan MacIntosh

L.A. Mass Choir - Back to the Drawing Board

CGI Records
This is a live album recorded recently at the New Testament Church of Christ Holiness in Los Angeles, and it is one powerful statement, indeed! A nice blend of soulful ballads, bluesy funk, and poppy jazz that, quite honestly, would fare very well on smooth jazz or urban contemporary radio. The L.A. Mass Choir, given half a chance, could bring Gospel to a whole new audience. Highly recommended!
- Eric Harabadian


NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the print edition of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter. These reviews are only available here in the online edition.

The Seymores - 1,000lb. Grr'lla

Pitch-a-Tent Records, P.O. Box 665, Athens, GA 30603
Stunning lyrics, mesmerizing guitars, and a few catchy tunes make up the majority of this album. With sounds ranging from melancholy, "down on my luck," to megacrunch, "jump around," 1,000lb. Grr'lla has "big hit" written all over it. (Actually, it has a big bear on the cover and disc.) Whether gently picking out a melody or blending distorted rhythm and pounding bass, the Seymores make it great. To quote Dave Lowery of Cracker, who produced this record, "The Seymores play Rock Music." Do you need a better reason to listen? Look for their full length album this spring.
- Tyler Moore

Salt of the Earth - Happy Hour

CGI Records
>From the opening track, "Glad About It," you canít help but get caught up in their musical rapture. As the choir riffs in the background and the band lays down a funky vibe, you soon realize this group has more in common with "One Nation Under a Groove" than "Nearer My God to Thee." Other standouts include "I Feel a Praise Cominí On," "O Give Thanx," and "Happy With Jesus." The entire album is outstanding, and it would be nice to see this group gain new notoriety with their reverent, uplifting, and totally hip Gospel sound!
- Eric Harabadian

Synergy - Metropolitan Suite

Chronicles Records
"Metropolitan Suite" is supposedly the tale of one city. Synth man Larry Fast documents the life of a fictitious metropolis by breaking its existence down into 9 recorded parts. Track three is called "City Goes To War," which leads inevitably to track five, "The End Of An Error." Apparently, Fast was inspired by the architecture of New York for this work. I donít know about you, but I think "New York, New York" by Old Blue Eyes said all that needs to be said about the city that never sleeps-and without even one synthesizer within earshot.
- Dan MacIntosh

Synergy - The Jupiter Menace original motion picture soundtrack

Chronicles Records
A movie title like The Jupiter Menace just screams straight to cable. One pictures a troubled mission to that far off planet, where infighting among the crew and spats with aliens from the outside attempt to thwart this earth-saving mission. The musical score by Synergy, which is really a group name for the man Larry Fast, conjures up long pans of inter-planetary interactions. Or something like that.
- Dan MacIntosh

Slaughter - Eternal Live

CMC International Records
The album, recorded live in Mexico last year, is as much a tribute to their late guitarist Tim Kelly as it is a testament to their staying power as a band. A lot of their hits are here, including the smash "Up All Night." Notably, Mark Slaughter, in particular, has never been in better voice. This is a must for any fan and a prime sampler for the uninitiated.
- Eric Harabadian

Uncle Otto - Men Who Smoke

Nasty Branch Records
These LA dudes seem to like smoking herb, and their music brings to mind the exploits of Cheech and Chong if they were into Screaming Trees and Chainsaw Kittens.  Good, solid power-pop with a punk edge, Uncle Otto shows some great talent for catchy tunes with the guy-loses-girl "In My Bones," all the while showing some humor in the lyrics. "Susan" could be the next big hit on modern radio, telling the tale of a few women and their certain "qualities". The right video and label could launch the tune into MTVís Buzz Bin. Ditto track number eight, "If I Sang To You In French," although itís a much quieter number. Vocalist Greg Langston has a perfect voice for the music, and wields a good axe, playing subtle riffs and minimal filler. The rest of the band, drummer Derek Stewart and bassist Rick Fowler, do a great job, laying down a solid rhythm section that accomplishes itís task. One question for the band though: Where in the hell did you find that cool statue of the smoke tray guy?
- Brendan Hagin

Vivian Quinn Sayles - Live

Delish Records
Recorded at a jazz club in Oakland, CA six years ago, pianist Sayles is joined by the Michael Smolens Sextet, plus four. This is a very swinging engagement, as the band sinks its teeth into Saylesí neo-bop originals such as "Slow Liviní," "Two Brewskies, Please," and "To Romance." Vivianís piano style evokes a little Thelonius Monk one minute, perhaps some Bill Evans the next, weaving it all together into a pastiche which is colorful, expressive, and serene. The addition of violin and viola along with hammered dulcimer and Celtic harp bring a unique neo-classical and British Isles flair to this live date.
- Eric Harabadian

Daryl Coley - Live In Oakland -- Home Again

Verity Records
Oakland holds a special place in my heart, not only because of my beloved Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics, but because I have family history there.  My father was born and raised there and my wife and I spent two years living on one of the busiest streets in town. So when I listen to Daryl Coley's homecoming Gospel CD, it brings me back to my hometown, even though I didn't attend church every Sunday. Highly professional and tight as a torqued-out bolt, this release showcases some extreme gospel, complete with "I've seen the light" vocal pyrotechnics. A few tunes hit that Adult Contemporary style, but still tell the tale of cleaner living and a pure heart. My favorite track is "I Will Sing Glory," bringing to mind Stevie Wonder in a World Beat band. Bring it on home baby!
- Brendan Hagin

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