The Knack (Charisma 91607)
Those who have argued that the musical legacy of the '70s is nothing to be ashamed of might want to reconsider their position after hearing "Serious Fun," the new album by the Knack. There may not be another "My Sharona" here, but from the peppy power chords of "Rocket O' Love" to the fevered stomp of "Doin' the Dog," it's obvious that when it comes to writing hooks, these guys still have the, er, ability. So why complain? Because hooks are all this album has going for it; otherwise, the performances are passionless and perfunctory, the songs as anonymous as TV jingles. Fun? You can't be serious.
A LITTLE AIN'T ENOUGH
David Lee Roth (Warner Bros. 28477)
At first glance, David Lee Roth's "A Little Ain't Enough" might seem like one more tired attempt by the ex-Van Halen singer to clone his old band. After all, it doesn't take too many listenings to hear how closely the title-tune resembles the Van Halen oldie "Panama," or that "It's Showtime!" is mostly just a retread of "Hot for Teacher." Fortunately, there's more to this album than that, for once Roth gets into the blues-n-boogie groove of "Dogtown Shuffle" or "Sensible Shoes," the album really gets into gear. Not a great album, but definitely a step in the right direction.
THIS IS AN EP RELEASE
Digital Underground (Tommy Boy 964)
Some groups get a little dodgy about the amount of material included on their between-album releases, but not Digital Underground -- as the title of their latest puts it, "This Is an EP Release." Yet despite its truncated length, this six-song collection offers more meat than most full albums. "Same Song" is the obvious draw here, blessed as it is with an insinuating groove, inspired rapping and a surprisingly jazzy keyboard break, but there's an equal amount of enjoyment to be had with both "Tie the Knot" and a throbbing remix of "Packet Man."
DICK HYMAN PLAYS FATS WALLER
Dick Hyman (Reference Recordings 33)
Classic jazz isn't quite the science classical music is, as there is a world of difference between playing a sonata in the manner of Mozart and improvising a solo in the style of Fats Waller. Yet that's precisely what jazzman Dick Hyman attempts with "Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller." Hyman has no trouble emulating Waller's fluid virtuosity; indeed, his careful dynamics and subtle shadings add enormously to the music. But part of the fun of listening to the classic recordings was hearing Waller himself growling in the background (something Hyman wisely avoids imitating), and as such, these imitations are, at best, more
flattering than convincing.