'Scholar' is witty and bright
By JOHN R. RYBOCK
Hitting the road in an old Cadillac
convertible, seeing the country from
sea to shining sea - such an idea has
Directed by Roger Weisberg; Written
and Starring Andrei Codrescu
become fixed in the minds of many
Americans, though few ever get the
chance to do it.
When Roger Weisberg, director of
"Road Scholar," asked AndreiCodrescu,
poet and National Public Radio's "All
Things Considered" commentator, to
hit the road, there was only one obstacle
-Andreicouldn'tdrive. But suchpetty
details were quickly fixed, and with a
camera crew in tow, Codrescu hit the
road. That trip, and the insights of
Codrescu, are "Road Scholar."
Andrei Codrescu is "Road Scholar."
Born in Transylvania at the close of the
Second World War, Codrescu immi-
grated to the United States in 1966.
From Detroit to New York to New Or-
leans, Codrescu has been to many parts
of this country, but has not melted into
it, never losing his identity in the Ameri-
can mainstream. This background, and
the way he sees things as a poet, give
him and "Road Scholar," its character.
The films lie on two planes. The
main layer is the film of the journey.
This separates itself from many road
pictures by its selection of subjects.
From Detroit to New York
to New Orleans, Codrescu
has been to many parts of
this country, but has not
melted into it, never losing
his Identity In the
Codrescu and Weisberg have sought
out peopleaway from the "mainstream."
From East European immigrants pack-
ing sausage in Kowalski's to roller skat-
ing Christians to a woman battling the
government over a car buried in her
yard, the people that the filmmakers
focus on are not "mainstream Ameri-
cans," whatever thatmay mean. Though
at times they smack of "Roger & Me"
and "Slacker," these people'smain con-
tribution is giving Codrescu something
to reflect on.
The voiced-over observations are
Codrescu's talent and the finest part of
the picture. The poet and author of more
than two dozen books he did not learn
English until he was twenty, but it is
evident, both here and on NPR, that he
has both a command of the language
andaloveof it thatmost native speakers
take for granted. His phrasings are po-
etic without being forceful and his thick
accent does nothing but help put power
behind his words. Watching prize win-
ning cattle herded off to make more
cattle and to make your burger, Andrei
reflects, "And all their beauty and femi-
ninity is going to increase their
Andrei Codrescu (left) takes a cross-country trip in the movie 4Foad Scholar," which shows America from a different perspective.
McDonaldability as they stream into Andrei's stops throughout this country, we see not only a different side of our
your mouths, meateaters of America." including Detroit ("You have given me land, but we get to see it through a
The journey goes coast to coast and much, city of motors and neon sunsets, different set of eyes.
full circle, from Ellis Island toa natural- but you have been rough on yourself. ROAD SCHOLAR is playing at the
izationceremonyinSanFrancisco. With Seeing you like this broke my heart."), Michigan Theater.
4 Billy Idol, that lip-curling punk from
way back when, has recently found a
great interest in computers and virtual
reality. "Cyberpunk" almost seems to
be a soundtrack for a science fiction
movie. The album leans heavily toward
synthesizers and drum machines. Gui-
tar is still in the picture, but it isn't the
focus on this album. Unlike its prede-
cessors "Whiplash Smile" and
"CharmedLife," "Cyberpunk" isa good
album. The music is actually creative.
One song, "Adam in Chains," features
vocals that recall the computer-gener-
ated talking head "Max Headroom"
throughout the first half of the song. At
times, the listener might feel as though
they're listening to CNN because there
are several sound bytes from news pro-
grams that serve as twenty-second pre-
ludes to the songs themselves.
released from "Cyberpunk," is a song
about the Los Angeles riots in 1992.
Otherstrong tracks are "Neuromancer,"
"Concrete Kingdom" and acover of the
Velvet Underground's "Heroin." Idol
refers to virtual reality in several of the
songs. These songs definitely aren'tfull
of positive thoughts, but then again, the
guy who dances with himself never has
been terribly optimistic. As a side note,
there's a limited edition release of
"Cyberpunk" that includes a multime-
dia "bio" on Billy Idol on a disk that can
be run on a Macintosh computer.
Time to Move On
'Time to Move On" has a multiple
personality problem. The first half of
the album is filled with mediocre popu-
lar dance tunes, and the second half is
filled with good, adult contemporary
tunes for which Ocean is known. Ocean
is probably one of the more underrated
vocalists of our time - his singing is
comparable to that of Luther Vandross
and other R&B greats. Unfortunately,
his great singing on this album isn't
enough tomake up for the lousy, formu-
laic music. "Rose," "Everything's So
Different Without You," and "Pick Up
the Pieces (Put It Back)" are thebetter of
the adult contemporary pack. Overall,
the album isadisappointmentconsider-
ing the number of years it has been since
Ocean last had a new release with all
- Jim Whitaker
This az-1 album is a collection of
very bland R&B songs with a pinch of
rap here and there. All the songs are
about love except for the last track,
"Shout Outs," in which all four mem-
bers of az-1 thank God, their record
company and each member of their
These guys have smooth voices and
could give Boyz II Men a run for their
money, but somebody needs to take the
pulse of the music on this album. It is
close to dead. Martin Kember and Jeff
Gill need to take some lessons from
MIDI computer-programming greats
such as Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis,
Howard Jones and Prince before they
put a lot of time and money into record-
ing another az-1 album full of such
lousy, lifeless music.
- Jim Whitaker
Blues Masters vol. 11-15
Rhino's last batch of roughly hewn
and smoothly polished blues inspira-
tions of this decade have finally blown
eastward. Capping this fifteen volume
sip of blues history, the last five vol-
umes combine the penultimate female
crooners, Memphis biscuit rhythm,
NYC jazzbos, jump blues and electric
slide guitar into one mouthful.
"Classic Blues Women" begins at
the beginning. With all of the sizzling,
hissing grandeur of old acetate record-
ings, this volume spends a good deal of
its time visiting with the foremothers of
blues, including Ma Rainey, Bessie
Smith and Ida Cox. Of course, young
jazzsters, like Louis Armstrong, Buster
Bailey and Willie "The Lion" Smith in
their budding rinky-dinkity, make most
of these arrangements purr.
"Memphis Blues" may be the most
familiar bilues territory covered. Al-
though you may know Howlin' Wolf's
first recording "Moanin' at Midnight"
presented on this CD, the ramshackle
beauty of the Beal Street Sheiks,
Cannon's Jug Stompers and the like are
sure to shake you out of your compla-
Covering the blues-fed big band
sound of the '40s and '50s, "New York
City Blues" flits with some of the posh-
est honking outfits. With the orchestras
ofEllington, Lionel Hampton, HotLips
Page, Johnny Hodges, Lucky Mindler
and Count Basie, you get the picture.
"MoreJump Blues" covers the same
blues districtas Rhino'sprevious "Jump
Blues" volume of the Blues Masters
Billy Idol, the man who used to dance with himself, is now taking a stab at the world of Cyber Punk recording. Yeah, whatever.
collection; but, notorious rub-a-dub
tunes in "More Jump Blues," such as
and Sam Price's "Rib Joint," are wel-
come additions to the collection.
The final scoop of digitized blues is
fresher than any of the previous vol-
umes. Dedicated to "Slide Guitar Clas-
sics," this seemingly misnamedvolume
leans towards the late '60s and '70s
IYO U 0 C A N I
Think you missed the Graduate Record Exam
deadline? Relax. With the new on-demand GRE
you could be taking the test as early as tomorrow.
And since you choose the date. you can test at your
blues creations. Though powerful in his
hoarseness, one song by Blind Willie
Johnson does not accurately sum up the
recorded origins of blues bottleneck
glissandi. Yet, the idiosyncratic styles
of Elmore James, Hound Dog Taylor
and the mysterious Black Ace help you
overlook the historical dilution.
Even if most of us can't afford a
fifteen volume introduction to the blues,
its comforting to know this history can
be experienced andexists independently
of academic babble.
- Chris Wyrod
Despite its title, this album is well
put together - an articulate blend of
country music that can, at times, pass
Country themes still pervade the
lyrics, as on "American Honky Tonk
Bar Association," a rollicking hillbilly
anthem for anyone with friends in low
places. But the opening song, "Stand-
ing Outside the Fire," features an un-
mistakable pop-song beat which con-
jures up memories of the early'80sand
hits like "Eye of the Tiger." Likewise,
the first single, "Ain'tGoing Down (Til
the Sun Comes Up)," sets country's
standard storytelling to a rock arrange-
ment, heavy on the guitars.
Brooks also tries othermusical styles
on "In Pieces" like power ballads ("The
Red Strokes") and blues ("Kickin' and
- . ..9. .
Tragedy - Saga of a Hoodlum
Tragedy (a.k.a. Intelligent Hood-
lum) could have broken out of rap's
rigid identity politics into success a few
yearsback. He'salwayshadverbal skills
and enough clout to pull favors from
pioneers like Chuck D. and Marley
Marl. As rap exploded into bigger form
in the '90s, Tragedy only had to break
from the musical and lyrical mediocrity
of his humble beginning with Marley.
Tragically, "Saga of a Hoodlum" finds
this hood getting over by recycling the
classic sound of rap from New York's
underground. Sparse mixes of funk loops
push the rapper up front throughout
mostofthe album, alternating with huge
beats virtually dominating the tracks.
On his album cover, Tragedy stares,
down at us with classic B-Boy arro-
gance. We should praise him for carry-
ing these hip-hop traditions into the;
next decade. Not.
-Forrest Green III
Low Pop Suicide
On the Cross of Commerce
Low Pop Suicide would have been
better off if they had shoved a sock in
singer Rick Boston's mouth.
The best label for this band wouldbe'
a cross between grunge and a depress-
ing alternative group. Boston is a good
guitarist, but he doesn' tcutitas asinger.
Drummer Melle Steagal and bassist
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