Bettie Serveert's 2nd album shows group at its best

January 27, 1995|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic


Bettie Serveert (Matador/Atlantic 92504)

Perhaps the worst thing about making a strong debut is that the follow-up rarely seems as striking or special. Fortunately, that's not the case with the Dutch quartet Bettie Serveert. If anything, "Lamprey" is an improvement over the alterna-rockers' first album, "Palomine." For starters, the playing is stronger and more assured, with Berend Dubbe's bringing extra drive to the drumming while Peter Visser's guitar adds a searing intensity to the arrangements. Then there's the writing, which in such songs as "Ray Ray Rain" or "Cybor*D" balances the emotional depth of singer/songwriter material with the tuneful directness of a hit single. Still, the heart of the band's appeal lies with singer Carol van Dijk, whose understated delivery and girlish, expressive voice bring so much life to the likes of "Something So Wild" or "Silent Spring" that it's hard not to be moved by her performance.


Massive Attack (Virgin 39883)

Other dance acts may focus on the beat, but Massive Attack's sound has as much to do with mood as with rhythm. That certainly was the case with the group's breakthrough single, 1990's "Unfinished Sympathy," and it's even more pronounced on the new album, "Protection." Even though the cast is slightly different, with guest Tracy Thorn providing the mournful, moody voice on the title tune instead of "Sympathy" singer Shara Nelson, the net effect -- dark chords and a lonely voice layered seductively over a sly, hypnotic pulse -- is much the same. But that's not the only trick Massive Attack has up its sleeve this time around, as the trio and its various vocalists dip into everything from lush, jazzy mood pieces ("Weather Storm") to dreamy third world dub ("Karmacoma"), to lean, reggae-inflected funk ("Better Things"). If you have any sense of soul at all, this Attack will leave you utterly defenseless.


Pat Metheny Group (Geffen 24729)

After the abrasive intensity of Pat Metheny's "Zero Tolerance for Silence," his fans probably hoped his next album would be a little easier on the ears. But the light, upbeat sound of "We Live Here" is almost a tad too easy. From the breezy title tune, with its hum-along melody and vocal-sweetened outchorus, through the chipper, waiting-room cadences of "And Then I Knew" to the candles-and-white-wine romance of "Something To Remind You," what Metheny and company have come up with seems like little more than high-class mood music. Granted, the improvisations are more adventurous than is usually the norm for fuzak (my term for the marriage between fusion jazz and Muzak), but it's difficult to imagine anyone paying enough attention to this drivel for that to matter. Bring back the noise!


Alison Krauss (Rounder 0325)

Even though she got her start as a teen-age fiddle virtuoso, what really earned Alison Krauss an audience was her singing, which conveyed the unaffected honesty of old-timey music while retaining the visceral appeal of modern pop. Maybe that's why "Now That I've Found You: A Collection" stresses her singing so. As is usually the case with best-ofs, much of what is included here will no doubt be familiar to long-time fans, from the tender "Sleep On" to the buoyant "Every Time You Say Goodbye." But even if you already have all of Krauss' solo albums, you would end up duplicating only four of the 12 selections. There are three previously unreleased performances, including a deliciously twangy take on "Oh, Atlanta" -- not the Little Feat tune, but the Bad Company oldie. Then there are tracks taken from Krauss' work with other artists, including sessions with banjo master Tony Furtado, dobro ace Jerry Douglas and several spirited collaborations with the Cox Family. All told, "Now That I've Found You" is the kind of collection any country or bluegrass fan should seek.

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