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June 09, 1981 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1981-06-09

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Tuesday, June 9, 1981

The Michinan Daily



r rrc r ra.r rraJ, vr+ w.w.

Rick James
Rick James-'Street Songs' (Gordy)
- The king of punk funk has struck
again with a powerful and, at times,
sorrowful tribute to life in the ghetto.
James starts off this album with his
recent smash "Give it to Me Baby,"
which packs a punch with its soaring
horns and pounding drums. It has great
potential for becoming a true funk
classic. However, some of the other
songs on the album do not fare as well.
On the songs "Super Freak" and
"Mr. Policeman," James tries his hand
at new wave and reggae, respectively.
Despite his efforts to be diverse, funk is
still the basis of both of these pieces.
"Super Freak" succeeds because of
James' wonderful sense of humor and
his ability to create musical hooks that
lead the listener along with his
inimitable funk 'n' roll. "Mr.
Policeman" is pretty bizarre (and at
times hilarious) despite the supposedly

Muddy Waters' newest

Muddy Waters-"King Bee" (Blue
Sky) - Muddy Waters never seems to
age, or perhaps "age" just isn't the
right word. He's in his mid-60s, but still
insists "I can buzz all night long."
Well, he's certainly lost none of his
sting. King Bee is the kind of virile,
assertive extravaganza only Waters
can put together. With Luther "Guitar
Junior" Johnson (who, incidentally,
will play at Rick's this Thursday
evening), Bob Margolin, Johnny Win-


new things for a slide guitar to do, and
Winter is learning by association.
His distorted, banging solo in "I Feel
Like Going Home," the eager happy-
hour piece that blesses "Mean Old
Frisco Blues," and the impetuous slide
work that anchors "Forever Lonely"
are better than anything he has ever
done. As Waters comments on vinyl,
"Hey, Johnny, we can do anything
The musicianship is indescribably
delicious all around. Pine Top Perkins'
pounding, glittery piano and Portnoy's
thick harmonica accompaniment are
the most conspicuous and enthralling
gems, but the quality is flawless
through and through.
IN THE CENTER of it all is Waters'
inimitable expressive growl. There's
not as much gravel in his throat as there
once was, but it seems only to have
traded itself in for increased range and
Thus Waters can maintain the husky
virility of "(My Eyes) Keep Me in
Trouble" (which has a curiously scrun-
ched, back-handed melody) and the sof-
ter moroseness of "Forever Lonely"
with equal skill.
That breadth keeps the album in-
vigorating, especially the second side.
Its not at all uncommon for Waters to
move from singing the praises of
marijuana in "Champagne and
Reefer" ("I'm gonna stick with my
reefer / Ain't messing around with no
cocaine") to the blues of love to the con-
tented happiness of "Deep Down in
Florida No. 2" ("I'm gonna set down in
the sand and play") without skipping a
King Bee is a uniformly excellent
blues LP. Perhaps Waters isn't getting
better as he gets older - that would be
difficult - but he certainly isn't fading
out, nor is there any sign that he will in
the near future.
He's lost hisemarvelous backup band
since the album was recorded, but
that's happened before and he's always
come out ahead, intractably moving
right along. At the end of the album,
Waters growls, "For me there ain't no
escape from the blues." Thank God for
-Fred Sch ill

ter, and most of the Legendary Blues
Band for accompaniment, how can you
WATERS, with appreciative
sagacity, stands back and lets them
play. The songs swagger along on the
loose, loping lines characteristic of
Waters, while the musicians frequently
go off on refreshingly imaginative and
exhiliratingly concurrent tangents.
The cohesiveness of this conjunction
of stars is startling, almost super-
natural. It is not unusual to hear a
guitarist, harpist Jerry Portnoy, and
pianist Pine Top Perkins going their
separate ways in what would be called
solos if they weren't doing them all at
the same time.
Their "solos" weave around each
other by musical touch, blending flut-
tering harp solos fluidly with emphatic,
jarring Winter slide guitar work in
"Sad Sad Day." Winter is also respon-
sible for the sparkling production,
meshing the star-studded gears with
startling precision and clarity.
INDEED, this seems to be Winter's
album almost as much as it is Waters'.
Muddyhas made a career of finding

Slick's strongest asset is her powerful
voice and the way she toys with melody.
On her last effort - the mellow Dreams
album - the works she penned fell
somewhere between weak and pitiful.
On Wrecking Ball, however, she and
guitarist Scott Zito have come up with
heavy metal tunes that are passable by
themselves but shine when arranged
with the ingenuity that is employed
And that's where Slick, Zito, and the
rest of the gang really outdo themselves
-in the execution of these songs.
There is nothing intrinsically amazing
about the ten tracks here, especially
lyrically. (Get this?: "Round and round
and round we go/It's a vicious circle."
Now that's a surprising couplet.) But.
blazing guitar riffs, blistering vocals by
Slick, and highly polished production
(kudos to producer Ron Frangipane)
make it easy to look past unimpressive
lyrical content.
Looking at Slick's silly enthusiasm
for the wrecking ball (in photos on all
sides of the fold-open album cover), one
has to wonder whether the whole heavy
metal bent of the album was just her
idea of a joke. If it is, it just means that
Slick's sense of heavy metal is rivaled
only by her good sense of humor.
-Mitch Cantor
Thanks to Schoolkids' Records
for the use of some of the albums
reviewed in today's column.
, ie 1Buat
News Staff
375 N. MAPLE 769-1300
Forged by a god.
Found by a King. 1:15
As timely today
as the day it
was written.
ap 115
t 7LA A-7s- awr. 430
i 5
®R 9:00

serious message contained within the
lyrics. The death scene which ends in
James crying out "You shot my friend
down, down, down" is just too much to
be taken seriously.
On the whole, this album is much bet-
ter than its predecessor, Garden of
Love, which fell disappointingly short of
presenting James' true genius due to
his repetitive reliance on punk funk.
This album shows that he definitely is
(in his own words), "A poet from the
street and the music he writes shall be
music for feet."
-Elizabeth James
Grace Slick
Grace Slick - 'Welcome to the
Wrecking Ball' (RCA) - Call it in-
spiration, getting back to her roots, or
maybe even selling out - whatever the
case, Grace Slick has turned full circle
from her last solo effort and is once again
blazing a heavy metal trail. It's
unquestionably a welcome change from
recent past efforts.
Liberty off State .. 665-9329
East U. at So. U.... 662-0351
Arbor.and ....... 9-975
Maple Village .... 761-2733

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