TAPES IN THE MAIL AND SO MUCH MORE

If there's one place in a man's home where he's allowed to do whatever he wants--other than the bathroom--it's his bedroom. And Prescott's Chad Calhoun has chosen to utilize his as a recording studio. Calhoun (under the name Big Tin Cactus) sent in a six-song load titled Gravity that he'd put down on four-track. Chad really gives it up on these pop power ballads, yet they all seem to blend together in a plodding wash of rhythm machine, distorted guitar and grandiose vocals. Speaking of singing, Calhoun coats his earnest, wailing baritone with so much reverb and delay that you'd swear he's singing down at the end of one of those concrete hallways you had to go back and walk down in junior high. When he's on (read: not trying too hard), Calhoun has a pleasant voice. When the man pushes, it comes off more like Bill Murray doing his lounge-singer routine. "The Choking Glass," the tape's last cut, sounds like Calhoun could never quite sing in time with the figure he programmed on his drum machine, something that's inexcusable when you're recording solo in a bedroom. There's always time to get things right when you're playing with yourself. Call 1-602-771-0249.

I'll say this about Chubby Dog's five-song package: The recording quality (compared to a lot of what I hear through the mailbox) makes this self-titled tape a pleasure to listen to. And I'm not gonna stop there. The Dogs actually have a damn good take on R.E.M.-ish, Mellencampy-style rock. I don't know how often or where these guys play out, but I can easily imagine the college folk tossing back the shooters and boogieing down to this stuff. Which is not meant to be a slight; everyone in Chubby Dog does his job well, and whomever writes the songs pens some pretty stellar bar rock. The only bad thing I can say is that the band neglected to include a phone number on either the cassette box or the tape itself. Oh, well.

Okay, this one isn't even a tape. Janet Elliott's New Day New Way is an absolutely professional, slick, four-song CD of KZON-ready music. I think the proper term is "adult contemporary." Singer/songwriter Elliott possesses a throaty, powerful, androgynous voice that wraps itself with equal ease around gospel (particularly on "Crossroads," with backing vocals by local heavyweight Alice Tatum) and easy-flowing pop (check out the Christine McVie-ish "Second Chance"). The playing and writing on New Day is, to my pink, misshapen little ears, so smooth as to be almost too perfect. What saves the day is Elliott's unusual voice. She's a Valley native and has been on the performing scape for many years, yet this is her first recording project. One heck of a debut. Call 838-7738.

Who is Mike Pinder? Let's flip all the cards and make things easy--he's the guy who read all the poems in the Moody Blues songs.

He was also the band's original keyboardist and resident spiritual adviser, but left the group in 1977 to marry an American woman, buy a 60-acre ranch near Malibu and pursue a life of tranquil anonymity. Now, after 18 years of musical silence, Pinder's starting from the bottom up with Among the Stars, a self-promoted, self-distributed album on his own One Step Records label. This grassroots project has Pinder out stumping around the country, popping up at record stores to press the flesh, say howdy and sign whatever the hordes of Moodies fans stick in his face. All that will happen right here in Phoenix at the Best Buy in the Colonnade Mall on Saturday at 11 a.m. Call 266-3400 for details. But first, Pinder answers crucial questions.

Screed: How come it's taken you 18 years to follow up your first solo album, The Promise?

Pinder: I haven't spent 18 years thinking about what my follow-up album would be. I actually just ducked out of the whole scene. The way I look at it is that I'd successfully raised a band; now I've successfully raised a family. Now I'm writing a new chapter in my life, coming back to the music. All my sons are doing fine; they're all my height. So this is the time for me to get back involved in music.

Screed: Do you consider yourself the most mystical of the Moodies?
Pinder: That's for someone else to say.
Screed: What's your favorite science-fiction movie?

Pinder: Probably The Day the Earth Stood Still. I think the robot was pretty awesome. The ship was great.

Screed: Have you ever seen a UFO?
Pinder: Yes, I have. The original Moody Blues had an encounter in the north of England, August of 1966, off the freeway at night. It was a beautiful red light that was following us, but we thought it was the light from a radio-station tower. We were doing about 120 miles an hour, which was legal at that time, in a '64 Chevy Impala. I looked in the back window after a half an hour, and 60 miles later and this light was still in the same place. I began to get suspicious, so we pulled over.

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