"Publisher's Corner"

Reviews by Geoff Wilbur

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Lynyrd Skynyrd - TWENTY

CMC International Records
If you haven't heard any good new Southern rock in a while, this is the album for you. Lynyrd Skynyrd is still the class of the Southern rock genre, and TWENTY proves there's more good, new material in them. Even on ballads like "Blame It On a Sad Song," you'll hear some great rock guitar work. If they could get some airplay, this is the kind of album that'd appeal to fans of old rock and new country, many of whom are the same people.


The Buffalo Club - THE BUFFALO CLUB

Rising Tide Records
Album opener "You Should See Her Now" is a potential "signature song" for this talented country act if first single "If She Don't Love You" didn't already capture that distinction. Great vocal harmonies and sincere, insistent lead vocals, plus a full, soft-touch country musical sound, suggest a strong future for The Buffalo Club.


Richard Marx - FLESH AND BONE

Capitol Records
The album's been out for quite a while, but it didn't gain the exposure of most past Marx albums. It could be because Marx has become almost exclusively a balladeering man, with ballads ranging from mellow to forceful. Even noted exception "What's Wrong" starts softly. Hmmm.


Candi Staton - COVER ME

CGI Records
Candi Staton, who has been recording Gospel music since 1953, releases what is dubbed as perhaps a first is Gospel music -- an album featuring covers of pop, soul, and Gospel music, plus some original music. Candi does a great job with "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and "Hold On, I'm Coming," while even covering her own "The First Face I Want to See" with the help of Mighty Clouds of Joy's Joe Ligon. Notably powerful among the new tunes: "It Won't Be Too Long."


Sara Evans - THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH

RCA Records
According to the press info, it was Sara's performance of "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail" to its songwriter, Harlan Howard, that helped her turn the corner toward her record deal. With her old-fashioned country voice and strong, mostly self-penned material, she's a breath of fresh air among all the "new country" wannabes.


Rough Cutt - ROUGH CUTT LIVE

DeROCK Records
Talk about a blast from the past! Consisting of 10 live tracks from before the band's 1987 breakup plus three new studio cuts, this CD is a glimpse at the fun rock 'n roll that made melodic hard rock so popular in the '80s. Top past blasts are "Double Trouble," "Take Her," and ballad "Dreamin' Again." Best new cutt: screaming rocker "Prowler."


Billy D. Hunter - MR. JESUS IS OUR SONG

Mosrite Records
Bobby Sykes joins Billy to sing "Mr. Jesus," a "Margaritaville"-flavored Gospel number. Billyís "Ainít You Even Gonna Cry" is a very good, sad, traditional country ballad. On "I Have All I Need," the final cut on this 3-song CD, Dick Curless joins Billy to create a slow-paced, toe-tappiní, appealing Gospel tune.


Wally Pleasant - WALLY WORLD

Miranda Records
Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a hip, wacky, twisted outlook on life, Wally has become a cult favorite at selected college campuses in all parts of the U.S. WALLY WORLDís 13 oddball tracks poke fun at living ("The Day Ted Nugent Killed All the Animals"), dead ("The Ballad of Ty Cobb"), and fictional ("Quincy"). Best bets for broad appeal here are "Amusement Park Death Song" and "I Want a Stalker."


Marisa Monte - A GREAT NOISE

Metro Blue Records
One of Brazilís favorite young pop musicians, Marisaís music is captivating and sensitive. The slow songs are sweet; the fast ones are energetic. Itís the next best thing to being in Brazil. I have favorites here that I canít understand ("Panis Et Circenses") and that I can ("Give Me Love").


Moisture - BASTARD

Static Records
Itís a blend of catchy pop with rough-hewn pop angst. The changes in tempo keep the hooks from sinking in, but they make the overall experience worthwhile. Check out "See-Saw" and "Sinkín" for radio hits. And, as the bandís press bio says, "Moisture is not just faking it to impress the chicks." Hey, if you canít believe the bandís record company, who CAN you believe?


Kiss - THE REMASTERS: KISS; HOTTER THAN HELL; DRESSED TO KILL; and ALIVE

Mercury Records
These CDs, remastered from the original Kiss master tapes, deliver your favorite early Kiss with a crisper sound than you've probably ever heard. Review? Well, you already know YOUR favorites, but I've rediscovered that KISS is my favorite beginning-to-end, while DRESSED TO KILL contains my favorite songs from the 3 studio discs ("Room Service" and "Rock and Roll All Nite"). The 2-disc ALIVE!, meanwhile, holds most of the favorites and, though I'm not really a fan of the sound on most '70s live recordings, ALIVE! has never sounded better with the facelift it received for this CD.


Hobex - PAYBACK EP

Phrex Records
I've been holding this funky alternative band's disc "to review personally" for far too long. I consider this band's sound a blend of Athens and Minneapolis -- widely accessible alternative rock that's funky throughout -- with a dash of Seattle-esque darkness in the beginning of "Cutthroat."


The Moon - THE MOON

Surgeland Records
Led by vocalist Andrew Elt (Sleeze Beez), this powerful, melodic, guitar-grinding hard rock foursome opens with catchy "Have You Ever," then varies enough to hold the listener's interest. This may not be the decade for widespread success with this formula, but it's still top-notch music for those who like it. And the band does the soft stuff well, too.


Rush - RETROSPECTIVE I (1974-1980) and II (1981-1987)

Mercury Records
Two more digitally remastered compilations from Mercury's Chronicles series. All your Rush favorites are here, from "The Spirit of Radio," "Freewill," and "2112 Overture" on I to "Tom Sawyer," "Limelight," and "Distant Early Warning" on II. The ideal comp discs for Rush fans to play when the full collection isn't an option or for lesser Rush fans who don't want to have to buy the whole collection.


Upper Crust - THE DECLINE & FALL OF THE UPPER CRUST

Emperor Norton Records
The delicious excesses of '80s-style guitar rock and '80s-style guitar pop are portrayed musically on the disc, while the delicious excess of the DANGEROUS LIAISONS set is portrayed by the cover art. Catchy and fun.


Tommy Conwell & the Little Kings - SHO' GONE CRAZY!

LList Records
On the mainstream-accessible, party rockin', rockabilly end of mid-tempo rock, Tommy Conwell's disc should be in your collection if you're into fifties rock, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Huey Lewis, the Stray Cats, or many brands of blues. The fun SHO' GONE CRAZY! just makes you feel good.


Matters of the Heart - BACKED IN A CORNER

BSW Records
This straight-forward modern country band features ample fiddling to set it apart and is powered by Amy Shaffer's strong voice and well-written songs. Personal favorite tunes include "Thanks For Nothing," heartfelt "Without You," and the fully danceable "Bright Lights."


The Marilyns - FUMBLED BY KARMA

Tremor/Priority Records
Memphis' The Marilyns serve up some catchy, melodic, guitar-driven heavy pop/rock on FUMBLED BY KARMA. The music ranges from updated Go-Gos ("Unconventional") to practically singer/songwriter-esque ("Longest Day of the Year") to Chris Isaak-ish odd and twangy ("Amsterdam") and beyond, yet maintains an identifiably Marilyns sound.


Scorpions - DEADLY STING: THE MERCURY YEARS

Mercury Records
Yes, I got a package of really cool Mercury reissues and greatest hits comps late in the summer that I refused to share with my staff. This one's another 2-disc set from the Chronicles series, containing 33 Scorpions tunes, including previously unreleased "Over the Top" and "Life Goes Around." "Loving You Sunday Morning," "The Zoo," "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "Don't Believe Her"... it's pure Scorps good-time rock 'n roll, and I won't share.


Merge - MERGE

Whirl-i-Gig Records
This is crystal clear, Midwestern college rock. There are radio-ready harmonies, a little bit of edge, and an overall relaxed feel that'll keep Merge's fans listening even after they've shelved some of their other college favorites. This is a disc with THREE "hidden" tracks at the end, so keep listening.


Slaughter - REVOLUTION

CMC International Records
Slaughter's vocal harmonies, Mark's lead vocals, and the band's tuneful music wall power REVOLUTION, a psychedelic offering from this talented group. It's a catchy batch of rockin' originals and a Slaughter-fied cover of "Rocky Mountain Way." If you like classic-based rock and roll, this is one of the few CDs of new material worth buying from the record labels this year.


Kissing Judas - ETERNITY

Babyjane Records
There's a turbulent undertone that will appeal to the alternative crowd, and powerful vocals, well-written songs, and guitar prowess that'll reach a broader audience. The intense, hooky "Eternity" pulls the listener in from the beginning; the wall of music carries him/her through softer "Reprise No. 5."


Gilby Clarke - THE HANGOVER

Paradigm Records
Ex-GNR axeslinger Gilby Clarke delivers a throwback album that recalls all the bluesy best from those album rock seventies. "Wasn't Yesterday Great" is hit single material. NOT Guns N' Roses-like material. This is Gilby's sound -- popularly accessible, somewhat psychedelic guitar rock.


Amy Beth - RADIO COUNTRY: MY BABY THINKS HE'S ELVIS/THE BEST MAN FOR THIS JOB IS A WOMAN

Caprice International Records
Inspired by a trip to Graceland, "My Baby Thinks He's Elvis" is a fun romp that'd make The King proud. "The Best Man For This Job Is a Woman" hints at a traditional base. This tape includes numerous other cuts, ranging from contemporary to traditional, notably including "I Gotta Go to San Antonio," a duet with Joey Welz.


Tom Hampton - OUR MUTUAL ANGELS

Longview Records, 6932 Ridge Ave. (annex), Phila., PA 19128
In Philly, Tom gets a lot of acoustic singer/songwriter gigs, but he's really a heartwrenching country music singer, and any future label career Tom has beyond local Longview Records is surely in Nashville. I don't know how easy this 12-track disc is to find in stores outside the Philly area, so I included the label's address. If you're into well-written, touching country songs, I urge you to check out Tom's powerful, compelling voice and words. "Savannah Rain" is a standout track with crossover potential. And Jackie Murphy's harmony vocals add a nice depth to "Back Again." On "Raven," Todd Bartolo's lap steel playing and the way Tom turns a phrase sounds straight outta Nashville. "Ghost Along the Road" tugs at you. And "Is That Enough" and "Afterthought" have that Jim Croce-esque folk edge I hear in many soft country ballads. You'll find Wurlitzers, mandolins, cellos, xylophones, and dobros among the instruments used here. (No, no kitchen sinks.) Rising star or not, Tom Hampton SHOULD be one.


The Hoolapoppers - TROUT FARM

Static Records
This Detroit band plays guitar-based new pop alternative with a slightly distorted, retro nod to the psychedelic rock of the past adding flavor to the fast-paced, raucous, raw, rockin' base that hints at some Iggy Pop influence. When called for, the guitarwork is more nimble than most bands of this style, giving The Hoolapoppers a diversity that'll carry them far. As is often true with Detroit's Static Records' releases, The Hoolapoppers are as good or better than their major label brethren.


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