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November 03, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


A

'S

'Red X'
By MICHAEL BARNES
As smoke billows around chords
of dreads that hang from a drooping
head, the voice- coarse and choking

Stepping Razor -
Red X
The Peter Tosh Story
Written and directed by Nicholas
Campbell.
on THC carcinogens - is prophetic:
"From the smoke comes the words of
wisdom." It is just one instance of the
paranoid poetry in Peter Tosh's "Red
X" tapes that serves as the narrative
backbone of "Stepping Razor - Red
X," a feature documentary on the life
*and death of the reggae superstar and
dope activist.
The tapes are called "Red X" be-
cause every official document that
Tosh saw ofhimself was marked with
a red X by his name. Tosh believed
that a conspiracy of devils was out to
slaughter him, and the "Red X" tapes
provide a fascinating, if not incom-
prehensible, insight into the man that
sang with Bob Marley, fought against
*apartheid and smoked a shitload of
the Devil's herb.
The film makes no pretensions of
concealing Tosh's illicit drug use.
From shots of budding sensimilla
plants to images of Jamaicans getting
stoned under a sign that reads "nice-
ness," the fihp reeks marijuana. Potis
cosmic gold to Tosh, ajoint being the
sixth spiritual digit on his hand. He
rakes it during concerts, interviews
and sucks down spliff after spliff as
he wades through his microcassette
tapes which spill forth his deluded
nightmares. The film does not con-

is dope
done drug use; it chronicles a man
that saw the right to toke up as the
oppressed man'schance to casta small
stone in the expanse of the freedom
pond; an opportunity to float rather
than drown.
This film is meant to be experi-
enced. Its style is as slick as a glassy-
eyed stupor. Nicholas Campbell di-
rects "Stepping Razor - Red X" and
frequently blurs the focus of the lens
to include dreamy, nightmare se-
quences that bleed in red filters as
reggae vibes bounce from the
soundtrack.
In one revealing scene, ritual and
mysticism mate as Tosh is seen roll-
ing a ceremonial spliff cone. As he
rambles about vampires and evil spir-
its, mushroom clouds of sweet
sensimilla wisp through the air.
Campbell baths his frames in won-
derful sunset oranges and mercury
reds, juxtaposing chemical nirvana
with scenic bliss. When the cinema-
tography is this lyrical, the film is at
its best.
Campbell alternates his lush
camerawork with harsh, cinemaveritd
style scenes of Jamaican poverty.
There are endless shots of hovels and
naked children roaming the streets of
shanty towns that are littered with
trash and broken glass.
"Stepping Razor - Red X" is pri-
marily for Rastas, reggae heads and
bored stoners. The film's length, lan-
guid pacing and general inconsisten-
cies will aggravate a conventional
audience.
Tosh's Jamaican drawl is often
impossible to understand. His politi-
cal statements never progress much
farther then dope-diluted anger.
The film's aim drifts as art mirrors
life. If it is a conspiracy picture, the
evidence is slim and never adequately

As you might be able to tell from this photo, "Stepping Razor - Red X" portrays a lot of dope smoking.

PARKENING

examined. Is the film a critique of
poverty or an exposd of a controver-
sial artist? It tries to be both, but
emerges, much like Spicoli coming
out of the van in "Fast Times," scat-
"Weird Al" Yankovic
Alapalooza
Scotti Bros. Records
Maybe I'm just too old for this
crap that "Weird Al" keeps trying to
spoon down our throats, but I simply
don't get the joke anymore. Consid-
ering the number of rap acts and in-
dustrial bands that are criticized (not
to mention sued) for sampling mate-
rial off other musicians, it seems
slightly ironic that Yankovic makes a
living completely ripping off other
performers.
What is truly amazing, though, is
that he now has 11 albums to his name
- 11 albums of some of the worst
schlock and trash ever recorded. Un-
fortunately, "Alapalooza," his latest
release, just takes a few bad ideas and
gets worse.
Featuring "parodies" of the Red
Hot Chili Peppers ("Bedrock An-
them"), Aerosmith ("Livin' in the
Fridge"), Billy Ray Cyrus ("Achy
Breaky Song") and even Queen ("Bo-
hemian Polka"), Yankovic, if nothing
else, proves that what wit he may
have once possessed has been com-
pletely sapped.
None of the songs on this album
'E47rse ( Study m ye(q VIn u e
CON mpukm LudyF'acikties
Ott and Waterlaud-

ter-brained and stumbling. Of course,
dopers take these faults in fly and
"Stepping Razor- Red X"is aflawed,
but intriguing exposd of yet another
artist that finds chemical oblivion

more soothing then the trials of the
System.
STEPPING RAZOR - RED X will
be playing at The Michigan
Theater.

are as funny as some of his earlier
work like "Eat It," "Fat" or last year's
"Smells Like Nirvana" - not that it
was all that good in the first place, but
at least it made us chuckle.
Yankovic's voice has a limited
range and this presents a problem on
the tracks. Although his back-up mu-
sicians can imitate the original songs
quite nicely, Yankovichimselfsounds
nothing like the artists he is suppos-
edly imitating. His whiny, squealy
voice becomes a little grating after
only two or three songs into the al-
bum.
His original material is not even
worth getting into. Most of this batch
could be just as easily performed by
They Might Be Giants, and probably
done a heck of a lot better, too. His
witticisms on trafficjams and his take-
off of death metal leave a lot to be
desired in the lyrical department.
Like the class clown back in sixth
or seventh grade, Yankovic has the
potential to make you laugh a little,
but after a while it just gets damn
annoying.
--Nima Hodaei

Van Morrison
Too Long in Exile
Polydor
Van Morrison, along with Bob
Dylan, has created some of the most
brilliant, enduring records in rock and
roll. However, also like Dylan, he has
followed periods of sheer genius with
albums of half-baked ideas that carry
little of the impact of those that had
come before.
His last release, the stunning
"Hymns to the Silence,"re-established
Van as a creative force to be reckoned
with after a decade of records only
spotted with the talent he possesses.
Van's latest, "Too Long in Exile,"
however, is an unfortunate return to
mediocrity.
The title track and "Till We Get
the Healing Done," which echoes
1979's "And the Healing Has Be-
gun," are worthy of Morrison's name,
but "Big Time Operators" leaves little
in its wake to recommend it.
Likewise, two incredible duets
with John Lee Hooker, one a remake
of Van's classic "Gloria," hit home

hard, but only emphasize the vast
difference between them and the soft
drool of "Before the World Was
Made."
Musically, "Too Long in Exile"
shows a slight departure from the
gospel sound thatpervaded Van's'80s
work and a compromise between the
rhythm and blues of 1970's "His Band
and the Street Choir" and the lighter
touches of 1990's "Enlightenment."
The last five tracks in particular show
an increasing fascination with mod-
ern jazz. However, all five are also
worthless.
Perhaps it is the fault of CD's 80-
minute running length, but what ulti-
mately hinders "Exile" the most is
that it is just too long.
There is enough good material
here to make a satisfying 45-minute
record. Unfortunately, the worthy
tracks are surrounded by enough pad-
ding to re-stuff an empty sofa. Van
Morrison still has the talent, he just
needs to work on his powers of dis-
tinction between what is good and
what is simply not.
- Dirk Schulze

Andr6s Segovia called classical guitarist Christopher Parkening "a great
artist - he is one of the most brilliant guitarists in the world." High praise,
considering the legendary talent of the source. Parkening is the recognized
heir to the Segovia tradition and has captivated audiences around the world
for years. His last Ann Arbor performance in 1988 preceded his three-year
laim on Guitar Player magazine's "Best Classical Guitarist" award.
DParkening will be performing with acclaimed assisting guitarist David
Brandon tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium. Student Rush tickets
are available for a measly $6 at the Michigan Union Ticket Office. If you
can't make it to the Union, try the North Campus Commons, next to Little
Caesar's. (North Campus Student Rush is co-sponsored by North Campus
Commons and the University Musical Society.) For more information, call
764-2538.

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