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November 19, 1982 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-11-19
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Oh not it's Devol
Warner Bros.

By Larry Dean
C C IME OUT For Fun" leads off
jside one of album number five
from Akron's premiere spudboys.
Traditionally, the first song on an
album is supposed to set the listener up
for what's ahead, and "Time Out For
Fun" does just that: after a noble at-
tempt at a platter full of catchy pop
tunes tempered with the usual Devo
quirkiness (Freedom of Choice) and an
LP of overdone hamminess (New
Traditionalists), Mark Mothersbaugh
and crew have returned to the perfun-
ctory zaniness they trademarked so
well on their debut album, Q: Are We
Not Meng A: We Are DEVO,!
From the inclusion of the group's
monicker in the album title to the
"spud" motif adorning its cover, Devo

are retreading familiar turf, but with
good intentions. One thing you can say
about them: despite incorporating a
rather limited approach to music as
their forte, they have managed to
record five very distinct albums, each
of which stands up, more or less, on its
individual merits.
Continuing their revolving-door
policy on producers, Devo chose Roy
Thomas Baker .(of the Cars and Queen
fame) to twist the dials this time
around. Baker is well-known for getting
a very big sound on his records, and
here that technique is employed mar-
velously. Alan Myers' drumming
especially benefits from Baker's touch,
much in the same way that David
Robinson, of the Cars, does, too. The
synthesizers that dominate Devo's
music alternately ebb and flow, jar and
disturb, work with the beat, against it,
around it. Sometimes, as in "That's
Good" or "Deep Sleep," they sound
nearly beautiful; other times ("Speed
Racer," "Peek-A-Boo!"), goofy and
cartoonish. Whatever the styling,
however, the members of Devo play it
for all it's worth, sketching stick-figure
scenarios of our hectic, modern world.
"Out of Sync" rehashes, of all things,
the classic riff from the Kinks' "You
Really Got Me"; it is also one of the
best songs on Oh, No! It's DEVO. "Ex-
plosions" takes us for a stroll down
Devo-philosophy lane:

we like explosions it's only right
we should
we like ideas we thought you
we like new places until they're
we do like music-loud shots from
the big spudgun.
In "That's Good," we find the
mutation of another famous simile:
life's a bee without a buzz
it's going great till you get stung.
These two songs, plus "Deep Sleep,"
"Patterns," and "I Desire," are in-
dicative of the material that has come
about since Duty Now For the Future,
reflecting a group dedicated to absur-
dity and humor, but also one that is
unafraid to cross borders now and then
by inserting a little pathos into their
lyrics. Take this excerpt from the end
of "I Desire":
ipledge allegiance to the fact
that you're wise to walk away
for nothing is more dangerous
than desire when it's wrong.
Out of context, it may not seem like
much, but considering the Devo "code
of ethics," such occasional
humanitarian nuances are most
Whether or not you choose to join

Devo: Spud music


those ranks is up to you; Oh, No! It's
DEVO is a fun, sometimes mildly
thoughtful return to ritual abandon, un-
controllable urges and Barbie doll
ideology-take it or leave it. 0

Bi t er
Bitterest Pill
The Jam
By Andrew Porter
T HE JAM, who disbanded about two
weeks ago, have finally been
defeated by the very force that
prolonged the band's existence whilst
their early hardcore counterparts slip-
ped into oblivion.
Paul Weller often says that punk died
because the audiences and the bands
refused to change their styles and
ideas. To assure that his own band
didn't fulfill a similar prophecy, he ac-
celerated and steered The Jam through
a massive spectrum of influences. It
has been, unfortunately, these rapid
changes that have led the band to meet
a similar fate.
When they first appeared on the punk
circuit in early 1978, they reflected the
styles of influential American
bluesman. Cover versions of "Bat-
man's Theme" and "Midnight Hour"
mixed in well with the group's fine but
rough creations on the first two albums.
Paul Weller (the group's songwriter,
lead guitarist, and dominant force)
seemed an unlikely leader of the British
youth. A small skinny boy of 19 years,
he had a very serious aura- and a
socially unaggressive manner about
himself. These certainly weren't the
ingredients that made past generation
heroes of Peter Townshend or Jimi
Hendrix. The Jam didn't beg to be teen
idols or dimensionless faces sported by
pins on leather jackets. Instead, they


only wished that the principles for
which they stood could be implemented
and understood by the people to whom
they were musically addressed.
The release of Setting Sons in 1980
marked the first step in what was to
become a standard series of quantum
leaps in the band's music. Much
smoother and tighter than the previous
All Mod Cons, the album was a striking
presentation of the poor condition of
everyday life in what was (in their per-
ception) rapidly becoming a melan-
choly world. It addressed issues such as
nuclear proliferation, old age, and
social class distinction.
The final two albums, Sound Affects
and The Gift, featured the implemen-
tation of horn sections, George Martin-
style effects, and short, poppy tunes
that appealed to American new wave
The Jam have such an English orien-
ted sound that their ideals are basically
inapplicable to an overseas culture.
Only now with their final studio release,
The Bitterest Pill, have they rerouted
their lyrical direction to include world-
wide listening.
The strength of the EP is in part due
to the single "The Great Depression"
which is a re-applied title to describe
the current condition of this planet. It is1
followed by a powerful rendition of the
Temptations' song "War" in which
Weller demonstrates his amazing
ability to succeed with any genre of
music which he attempts to incorporate
into his music.
After five years, six albums, and two
EPs, The Jam have disbanded to pur-
sue different sorts of careers. By
calling it quits this early they have
surrendered to the one-sided American
listening audiences and assured them-
selves that over here they'll never be
more than a small blurb of vinyl stuck
in between dominating sections of
Heart and Journey in the local record
stores. And if any band is deserving of
this treatment, it certainly isn't The

Looking Out
McCoy Tyner
By Sebastian Rotella
YOU PICK UP McCoy Tyner's new
album Looking Out and the names
jump at you. An all-star session, a
dream lineup. The demi-gods of lead
and bass guitar, Carlos Santana and
Stanley Clarke, on the same album?
Plus McCoy Tyner and Phyllis
Hyman? Look out.
The result is a professional project
with flashes of brilliance. Most famous
for his membership in John Coltrane's
classic quartet of the late '50s and early
'60s, pianist Tyner evidences a more
mellowed, slow-down approach on
Looking Out than in the past.
As writer and producer, the brunt of
the credit for the album goes to Tyner.
And the brunt of the blame. Because as
much as Looking Out intrigues and
pleases, individual cuts managing a
funky sweetness, as a whole the album
lacks energy. It holds back even while it
Tyner has divided moods between
three vocal and three instrumental
numbers. "Love Surrounds Us
Everywhere" introduces Phyllis
Hyman's throaty voice and confident
range. The rhythm section with
Clarke's Characteristic twanging
provide a strut counterpoint to
Hyman's smoothness. Santana
distinguishes himself in the background
with rhythm riffs, while Tyner opts for
percussive solos rather than thematic
exploration. Unfortunately, an or-

chestral arrangement nudges this song
further away from jazz than it should,
particularly the syrupy-pop string sec-
This problem also intrudes into "In
Search of My Heart." There are low-
key moments when Hyman's voice, the
piano and the bass play alone in a
charged, plaintive blend. Then the song
drags, again making you wish Tyner
had jettisoned the strings in favor of
more horns. The third vocal, "I'll Be
Around," artfully treads the line bet-
ween jazz and pop/soul. Hyman mur-
mers and surges over a building, em-
phatic rhythm line and soft syn-
thesizers. The finale features her scat-
singing ability. "I'll Be Around" is the
memorable highlight of the album's
cooled-out side.
Anticipating the instrumentals you
rub your hands together, ready for Mc-
Coy, Stanley and Carlos to take off.
"Hannibal" somewhat fulfills expec-
tations. The Santana composition
presents a Santana format, with a sim-
ple melody gliding above chattering,
go-ahead percussion. Clarke's inspired
solo lines ring out among the com-
petition. Tyner proves himself a strong,
if not presently inventive, pianist. San-
tana evokes familiar pure tones of his
past without appearing to expend much
effort. Surpassing "Hannibal," "Senorj
Carlos" offers eight minutes of what
you payed to hear; Tyner get playful
with samba flavors while Santana and
Clarke exert themselves.j
The instrumental finale "Island Bir-
die" embodies the strengths and the
weaknesses of this album. Driven by
Latin steel drums, this festive vehicle is
well-executed and upbeat. But it teases.
You want Santana's guitar to come
blazing in, and it never does. You want
Tyner and Clarke to set out riveting
climactic solos, and they never do.
Ultimately, Looking Out is worth
hearing because of what these masters
can produce when they get together. It
disappoints because you know they
could have done more.

By Sarah Bassett
AFTER TWELVE years of faith,
disappointment and persistence,
musician Lyndon Lawless may yet
realize his dream: Ars Musica, the or-
chestra he founded in 1970, is finally
winning a national reputation in the
world of classical music.
Since 1979, the Ann Arbor-based
baroque ensemble has played
prestigious concerts in New York,
Washington, D.C. and other major U.S.
cities. Its music has been featured in a
series produced and aired by National
Public Radio. Music critics around the
country have used works like
"ebullient," "joyous" and "delight" in
reviewing Ars Musica concerts. And,
this summer, Ars Musica went inter-
national by performing at Canada's
Stratford Summer Music Festival.
The road hasn't been an easy one. To
begin with, Lawless, a 1967 graduate of
the University's music school, ap-
proached his goal of conducting a
major symphone orchestra with an un-
conventional plan: sidestep the usual
route of entering contests and studying
with established maestros by, simply,
forming and conducting his own or-
It was a strategy that took him first to
New York City shortly after
graduation. There he experienced three
disastrous attempts to pull together a
small orchestra. Either the musicians
who showed up for his meetings were of
poor quality, or none showed up at all.
Disappointed, but not beaten,
Lawless returned to Ann Arbor in 1969
to try again, this time on familiar
territory. While his next attempt-in
the form of the Ann Arbor Chamber Or-
chestra-was a step in the right direc-
tion, it turned out to be short-lived. Non-
professionals, who played music more
as a hobby than anything else,
dominated the twelve-member group.
Lawless, on the other hand, pushed
them to refine their skills, his vision of a
high-quality ensemble foremost.
Eventually, as Lawless put it, the
members "mutinied." He was able to
hold them together for one season, but
at its end, the group disbanded. By that
time, however, Lawless had already
formulated his next move.
He had been reading extensively on
17th and 18th century (baroque) music
and was becoming more intrigued all
the time. Earlier, in the 1960s, he was
introduced to a new approach to
baroque music when he heard a recor-
ding of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos
performed by a Viennese orchestra, the
first to play on original instruments. It
inspired him, he said:- "It was like a
revelation to hear baroque music
played on period instruments."
So, his goal shifted from conducting
an orchestra to conducting an or-
chestra that would play only baroque
music on original instruments. Ars
Musica ("the art of music") would be
its name.
It was now 1970, and what Lawless
called "the original instruments
movement" was gathering momentum.

Wanda Lendowska, the famous har-
psichordist and pianist, had already
created a sensation in Europe with her
renditions of early music played on in-
struments from the same period in
which the music was composed. After
1954, several European ensembles
devoted to her philosophy had formed.
Lawless' idea was to help the
movement gain ground in the United
Playing music on original instrumen-
ts was still a rather revolutionary con-
cept then. "It hadn't been done since
the 18th century," explained Lawless,
"because the 19th century and the first
half of the 20th, people thought older in-
struments were good for just one
thing-museum displays. Baroque
music itself was considered primitive.
Bach wasn't played until the 1820s, and
even then, his music was a curiosity."
Then, slowly, people began to look
back to earlier times, questioning some
of man's so-called progress and
developing a "faith in the past,"
Lawless said. Lawless himself was
struck by historical accounts from the
baroque era describing how moved
listeners were by concerts of the time.
He felt modern audiences miss out on
that experience.
"Original instruments make the
music more effective, more alive," he
explained, "yet almost every contem-
porary orchestra plays with modern in-
struments, modern technique and
modern interpretation. It's often
overlooked that composers wrote their
music based on certain assum-
ptions-they assumed ra piece would be

sold-out concerts in Ann Arbor, two
British violinists-who helped upgrade
the group's quality, said Lawless-and
a series of prestigious concerts on the
East Coast.
Since then, the group has stabilized at
thirteen members. They still use only
original instruments (most of their
strings were made in the 1600s or
1700s), or exact replicas (their wind in-
struments are custom-made; the
originals deteriorate over time). That
way, at least one musical variable is
certain: The sound is as close as
possible to the sound baroque com-
posers themselves expected.
Other variables are not as certain.
Lawless noted that major composers
never wrote down comments about
their work, simply because they were
too busy. As a result, without notes
available no one knows exactly how any
given piece was meant to be played.
The "right way" is the way the com-
poser would have performed his music,
but even a learned musicologist can't
be sure.
Fortunately, there are two or three
detailed books from the 1700s that
describe "how to play music correc-
tly." With these as references, Ars
Musica musicians have trained them-
selves in the traditional baroque style.
For example, they do not use
vibrato-a modern technique where
slight and rapid variations in pitch
create a tremulous effect. And they
begin trills one note above the written
one, a decidedly baroque convention.
By using such techniques in com-
bination with original instruments, said

At one L
year, for in
hovered in t
played in
listeners f
piece with
with ad-libi
Over the
trast with
reviews, ti
praises fro
season, Joa
the Washing
west a fresh
blow the d
has said A
"had a note
The group
of expandin
compass m
While it wi
least six r
season in A
are in the
travel to c
typically ha
quality pe
music, and
played on or
Now that
Ars Musica,
achieving a

Ars Musica: Playing it like it was
played on specific instruments and in
the style of their day."
In 1970, when the Ars Musica or-
chestra debuted, the musicians ac-
tually had to settle for modern in-
struments. While one managed to
acquire a "baroqued" violin-re-
shaped and re-tuned to fit the
specifications of the era-the rest per-
formed on modern instruments for the
first three years.
Lawless decided to cut the group to
six or seven members in 1973. By that
time, everyone had an original in-
strument. Several well-known
European artists came to play with the
ensemble, as well, adding new life and
maturity to its music.
A turning point came with the 1976-77
season when Ars Musica performed at
the Smithsonian Institute in
Washington, D.C. The concert meant
national exposure and, while some
reviews were disappointing ("stolid,.
and humorless," said the Washington
Post), the audience was the most en-
thusiastic yet.
The next three seasons brought three

Lawless, the foundation is established: every music
"We try to get to the style in which the comfortable
music was written to put across what months of e
the composer wanted expressed," freedom of
From that point on, however, it's have contir
guesswork. said. "But s
"It's our responsibility to play music is necessari]
in a manner that is most convincing to by establish
our ears," Lawless explained. "We ty He tentati
to cut the music down to the bones, then full salary r
add our own feelings to it. Since no one few years,
really knows how a piece was perfor- tinues "on
med by the composer, we have to be Musica's f
totally convinced ourselves that a per- dings--anot
formance is all it can be, that it's not soon to be
just an 'authentic' baroque rendition, complete se
but an effective, moving concert." certos (on
Evidently, many listeners think the event whict
group is doing a fine job. Attendance at still more m
Ars Mucisa's concerts, both local and And Lawl
around the country, has increased predict that
noticeably in recent years, according to hearing bar
executive director Jason Eyster. So has struments. I
the number of season subscribers and alive, clear<
"regulars," people who hear a concert new record
and get hooked on Ars Musica's unique (baroque m
musical style and its informal perfor- is a growing

7 Wee

A Wppekni/NVemher 19.. 1982

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