LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS
Pretenders (Sire 45572) There's no denying that it's Chrissie Hynde's sensibility that shapes the musical identity of the Pretenders. But it's a mistake to assume simply because Hynde calls the shots that the Pretenders is some kind of solo project. Those may be her songs, but what you hear on "Last of the Independents" is the sound of a band at work, from the beautifully blurred textures of "Hollywood Perfume" to the razor-edged groove of "Money Talk." Granted, Hynde's voice counts for a lot -- it's hard to imagine another singer concocting the perfect cocktail of wit and rage for "I'm a Mother," much less offering such a strikingly unsentimental rendering of Dylan's "Forever Young" -- but without the band's handy distillation of rock tradition and punk moxie, it would be hard to imagine her as successfully navigating the sexual politics of "977" or the retro exuberance of "Rebel Rock."
Jimi Hendrix (MCA 10602)
Anyone who has ever listened closely to the music of Jimi Hendrix has to be aware of the blues current that runs beneath his work. But for the most part, the blues content in his music was more implicit than explicit, and that's one reason the performances collected on "Blues" are such a revelation. Not only do most of these tracks appear in print for the first time here, but they display the full range of Hendrix's knowledge of the blues, from the playful country blues of "Hear My Train A Comin' (acoustic)," to the rambling psychedelia of "Voodoo Chile Blues." Best of all, his treatment of traditional blues tunes, such as Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" or the Muddy Waters/Bo Diddley classic "Mannish Boy," illustrates how much he drew upon the work of blues greats and how completely he transformed those influences.