VAN HALEN LIVE:
RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW
Van Halen (Warner Bros. 45198)
In theory, live albums are the next best thing to being there, but in practice, they almost always end up sounding cleaner, clearer and more perfectly played than any real concert ever is. So if nothing else, at least applaud Van Halen for ensuring that its first concert recording, "Van Halen Live: Right Here, Right Now," includes all the proper ambience -- a noisy mix, a rowdy crowd and songs that whiz by in a blur of riffs and adrenalin. At times, that works to the listener's benefit, as with the snarling "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love." But do we really need so many of Sammy Hagar's asides to the audience, or all of Michael $H Anthony's bass solo? Sure we do -- particularly if we want the whole Van Halen concert experience. (Quick, somebody throw up on my shoes!)
19 NAUGHTY III
Naughty By Nature (Tommy Boy 1069)
"This is hip-hop, G -- not hip pop," warns one rhyme on the new Naughty By Nature album, and the music more than bears that statement out. No matter how much the mainstream might have taken to the Naughty boys after their 1991 hit "O.P.P.," this rap trio has no intention of changing its ideas or softening its sound. As such, most of the tracks on "19 Naughty III" are hard-hitting and tough-minded, with no consideration given to pop potential or commercial accessibility. But even as that uncompromising attitude adds edge to the likes of "Daddy Was a Street Corner," it hardly keeps the album's hook quotient down. All it takes is a quick listen to "Hip Hop Hooray" to realize that the purest hip-hop is still the best.
SO NEAR, SO FAR
Joe Henderson (Verve 314 517 674)
Tribute albums are usually straightforward affairs, paying homage through reverential performances of a star's most familiar material. But Joe Henderson's "So Near, So Far" is a tribute of a different sort. Subtitled "Musings for Miles," the album finds Henderson working through 10 tunes plucked from Miles Davis' old band book. Although all of Henderson's playmates -- guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Al Foster -- are Davis alumni, there's nothing second-hand about the playing, for rather than try to crib from the master, this combo finds its own way through the material. Yet the music is far more Milesian than Herbie Hancock's more openly imitative V.S.O.P. recordings, because "go your own way" is precisely the sort of advice Davis gave his own sidemen.
Silverfish (Creation/Chaos 53316)
One of the great rock myths is that attitude is more important than ability. But if having the right mind-set were truly all a band needed, Silverfish's "Organ Fan" would be the album of a lifetime. After all, this British foursome has the right clothes (grungy), the right hair (scraggly), the right politics (anarcho-leftist) and the right amount of musical ability (almost none). What they don't have are songs, which forces them to flesh out their album with second-hand riffage and pointless caterwauling. And though that's a great way to be attitudinal, frankly,it's kind of a drag to sit through.