Ice-T's stirring 'O. G.' proves the original is still the best


May 24, 1991|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic


Ice-T (Sire 26492)

When Ice-T claims to be the "O. G. Original Gangster," he's not kidding. After all, he virtually invented L.A. gangsta rap years ago, thanks to albums like "Rhyme Pays" and "Power," and his starring role in "New Jack City" simply enhanced that reputation. As raps likes "Midnight" or "The Tower" demonstrate, he's a master of the genre, combining brutal beats with a breathless narrative for true edge-of-your-seat suspense. But he's also smart enough to push beyond the limits of the gangsta style, turning cliches into jokes ("Street Killer"), experimenting with the music (as in the rock and rap "Body Count"), even applying it as metaphor ("Mic Contract"). Proof once again that the original is -- still the best.


EMF (EMI 96238)

A decade after disco died and punk was pronounced a failure, the hottest sound in rock today fuses the guitar-fueled frenzy of alternative rock (i.e., punk) with the sample-powered rhythms of house music (i.e., disco). It's a sound with plenty of potential, and one of the few acts to understand just how much is EMF. As this English outfit shows with "Schubert Dip," samples can be used for context, not just texture, and guitars can add as much groove as grunge; as a result, the band's sound has as much depth as it does edge. Even better, the group's material appeals as much to the brain as the body, so that songs like "Children," "Girl of an Age" and "Unbelievable" end up danceable, hummable, and utterly irresistible.


Joe Walsh (Epic 47384)

Years ago, when Joe Walsh took on the voice of a burnt-out, brain-dead rock star for the hit "Life's Been Good," it was an obvious and amusing joke. When he lapses back into that voice during parts of "Ordinary Average Guy," however, it's a little harder to tell if he's kidding. It isn't just that his guitar playing pushes the familiar well beyond the boundaries of cliche, or that he sings every other song with the same throat-wrenching, sing-song intonation; the fact is, these songs are stupid, a lame attempt to pass off a lack of imagination for lackadaisical wit. Perhaps a better title would have been "Lowest Common Denominator."


Richie Beirach and George Coleman (Triloka 185)

Not all jazz musicians get the audience they deserve. George Coleman, for instance, may have succeeded John Coltrane in the Miles Davis quintet, but little of his work since has earned much acclaim. Richie Beirach, though a brilliant and inventive pianist, is also so under-recorded that more fans know his name than his sound. But with luck, their duets on "Convergence" will help change that. Blessed with playing that is warm, expressive and wonderfully distinctive, this is the sort of album any jazz fan will be glad to discover.

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