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Robertson contacts his Native American heritage

CD REVIEWS

March 19, 1998|By J.D. Considine Pop/rock Rebekah

Glam rockers have flirted with the Far East since the '70s, so it's hardly a shock that glam revivalists Spacehog would concoct something called "The Chinese Album." But instead of taking the usual route to glam exoticism, Spacehog filters its brash Bowie-isms through bass-heavy club beats ("One of These Days"), Kinks-style vaudeville ("Skylark") and lush, string-sweetened soundscapes (as on the Steely Dan-ish "Lucy's Shoe"). There's also plenty of standard glam-rock fare, too, such the brisk, Spiders From Mars-ish "Captain Freeman" and the swaggering "Goodbye Violet Race." Of course, what any of that has to do with China is impossible to guess, but hey -- it sure makes for great typography on the album cover! **

J.D. Considine

Lee Rocker

No Cats (Upright Records LR001)

Lee Rocker may assert there are "No Cats" on this album, but the former string bass player of the Stray Cats delivers 13 tunes mighty reminiscent of his former band's sound. With his rockabilly and new-wave roots planted firmly beneath him, Rocker delves into little new musical territory here. While a varied mix of blues and rock-driven numbers present him as a capable bassist and versatile singer, as on the smooth and easy "Shaky Town," much of his songwriting comes off too simplistic with grating, redundant guitar cuts, a la the dentist's drill, as in the pounding "Love Me Good" and abrasive "Movin' On." However predictable "No Cats" is, it does offer several toe-tappers with catchy riffs and rolling bass lines, as on the gentle strumming of ++ "Hard Rain," which easily could pass for a Stray Cats hit. Imagine that. **

Lori Sears

Towa Tei

Sound Museum (Elektra 61936)

Back when he was a third of Deee-Lite, Towa Tei seemed like just another DJ. On his own, however, Tei has proven one of the most eclectic producers in dance music. "Sound Museum" is typical, playing off everything from thumping jeep beats to blaring big-band brass. Although he has a fondness for found sounds, he never leans too hard on what he borrows, so the Bob James snippet sampled into "Time After Time" comes across as mere seasoning, not as the song's backbone. Best of all, there's room enough on the album to fit everyone from rapper Biz Markie to Britpop star Kylie Minogue to Japanese pop singer Akiko Yano, making his "Sound Museum" a must to visit. ***

J.D. Considine

New Age

Ray Lynch

Best Of (Windham Hill 01934-11245)

Ray Lynch's three new tracks on "Best Of" are disappointing compared with his better-known works from previous releases. "Ralph's Rhapsody" and "The Music of What Happens" are spirited, energetic selections annoyingly punctuated with guttural sampled vocal effects, while "Celestial Soda Pop Remix" might be too techno for many New Age devotees. Lynch is at his best when he combines synthesized and classical styles. "The Vanished Gardens of Cordoba" features glorious oboe, flute, piccolo, trumpet and violin interaction. The robust melodies of "Her Knees Deep in Your Mind" and "Kathleen's Song" are serenely mesmerizing and uplifting, while "The Temple" is sweetly meditative. Lynch's ease in blending synthesizers and symphonic instruments in the older works makes "Best Of" a soothing mix. **

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Carmel Carrillo

Bang on a Can

Brian Eno: Music for Airports (Point 314 536 847)

It's amazing how many modern classical musicians seem to be closet art rock fans. How else could the new music collective Bang on a Can have assembled such a large ensemble for a project as unlikely as a performance of Brian Eno's "Music for Airports"? Intended as soothing background music for stressed-out travelers, the original "Music for Airports" was one of the earliest of his ambient albums and consisted mainly of vaporous, slow-moving keyboard textures. As re-arranged by Bang on a Can, the music's palette becomes broader and more detailed, with a greater range of color and texture. But given that close listening was never the point with these pieces, it's hard to understand why the group bothered. **

* = poor

** = fair

*** = good

****= excellent

J.D. Considine

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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