THE YEAR OF LISTENING DANGEROUSLY
Prowl through our hit list of 1990's killer tunes, lyrics and riffs 1. FASTER PUSSYCAT Rubaiyat "You're So Vain" (Elektra). For anyone who's ever secretly desired to headbang to Carly Simon, here's a chance to get off royally.
2. JANET JACKSON Rhythm Nation: 1814 "Black Cat" (A&M). Doing her best Joan Jett impersonation, Jackson proves how nasty she can really be. The guitar licks alone are dirty enough to make brother Michael blush!
3. SCRAWL Smallmouth "Tell You What" (Rough Trade). Ted Nugent nut Marcy Mays comes down with a bad case of cat scratch fever on this slice of Seventies speedway rock. Who ever said six-string wanking was for guys only?
4. SCATTERBRAIN Here Comes Trouble "Don't Call Me Dude" (In-Effect). Not only a fluently executed rifforama, but also a funny, on-target tirade against the dreaded d word.
5. LUSH Scar "Baby Talk" (4AD). Cocteau Twins dreaminess collides with thrashy guitar chorales. Versatile listening--from the easy chair or the mosh pit.
6. JANE'S ADDICTION Ritual de lo Habitual "Stop" (Warner Bros.). All the proof you need that David Navarro pumps out the meanest power chordage in postmodern metal.
7. DREAD ZEPPELIN Un-Led-Ed "Your Time Is Gonna Come" (I.R.S.). In the absence of any new Cult singles, this qualifies as one of the year's most hilarious Zeppelin parodies.
8. BONHAM The Disregard of Timekeeping "Guilty" (WTG/CBS). See No. 7.
9. DWARVES Blood, Guts & Pussy "Let's Fuck" (Sub Pop). Punk finally delivers its deformed progeny with this twisted slab of amped-out fuzz.
10. PIXIES Bossanova "Rock Music" (4AD/Elektra). A violent guitar maelstrom and seductively dark lyrics combine to form the ultimate teen-suicide soundtrack. And to think some parents are picking on Judas Priest!
The Purest Poets
1. PUBLIC ENEMY Fear of a Black Planet "Welcome to the Terrordome" (Def Jam/Columbia). "Here's your ticket/Hear the drummer get wicked." When Chuck D hits the last word "WICK-it!" like a Baptist preacher, you gotta throw ya hands in the air. More than a hint that the rapper can get any party, political or otherwise, started right.
2. DIGITAL UNDERGROUND Sex Packets "Doowutchyalike" (Tommy Boy). "Straight hair, curls, casual or glamour/From Connecticut or from Louisiana/Bad table etiquette, too much chatter/Very well-spoken or real bad grammar/A minority token, a brother in the slammer/A free civilian with a house in Santa Ana/If ya got a million and live in Atlanta/If ya got a weak bladder or can't climb a ladder/What we're sayin' is it really doesn't matter." The melting-pot trip as dance-floor orgy. A thoroughly pomo hip-hop answer to Sly Stone's "Everyday People."
3. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST People's Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm "Bonita Applebum" (Jive/RCA). "Satisfaction, I have the right tactics/And if ya need 'em, I got crazy prophylactics." This isn't just your average safer-sex PSA. Q-Tip's song-stopping rhyme captures all the tenderness, awkwardness and hilarity of fumbling around in the dark for your jimmy hat.
4. BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS Edutainment "Beef" (Jive/RCA). "Just before it dies, it cries/In the slaughterhouse, full of germs and flies." KRS-One's sobering tour of a meat factory is the hypest vegetarian spot since the k.d. lang commercial.
5. ICE CUBE Amerikkka's Most Wanted "This Is a Man's World" (Priority). The song begins with a sample survey of the word "bitch." It ends, for all intents and purposes, with woman rapper Yo-Yo destroying Cube: "Ya come in a room with ya three-inch killa/Thinkin' you can do damage to my backbone/Leave ya child in the yard until it's full grown." Yo-Yo sounds as tough next to Ice Cube as any of his former N.W.A rapmates, making this the best hard-core hip-hop love-hate duet yet.
6. 3RD BASS The Cactus Re-Mix "The Gas Face" (Def Jam/Columbia) "Nelson Mandela's not free/Because he can't even vote in his own country." A rhetorician for racial equality, 3rd Bassman M.C. Serch takes time on this rhyme, a Cactus Album carry-over, to dig as deep into white supremacy as any rapper ever has.
7. TWO NICE GIRLS Like a Version "I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer" (Rough Trade) "Before that last heartbreak/Nothing made me more sick/Than a hairy chested,/ Cheap double-breasted/Suited man with a hard dick." The ultimate lesbian honky-tonk ballad of 1989 shows up again on our lists, just as fresh, heading toward timelessness.
8. CANDYMAN Ain't No Shame in My Game "Knockin' Boots" (Epic/CBS). After Candyman and a fan knock boots, she says, "Ooh, boy, I love you so/Never, ever, ever gonna let you go/I hope you feel the same way, too-oo." Then he rhymes, "Girl, I do." Some long-overdue romance in the age of Bell Biv DeVoe/ Mellow Man Ace sexist pap rap. Makes the rapper a Candyman among boys.
9. MADONNA The Immaculate Collection "Rescue Me" (Sire/Warner Bros.) "You see that I'm ferocious/You see that I am weak/You see that I am silly/And pretentious and a freak." In her patented dramatic white-rap style, Madonna delivers her most revealing confession to an unnamed boyfriend-of-the-minute. Tony Ward? Warren Beatty? Sean Penn? Jellybean? Only she and the Enquirer know.
10. M.C. HAMMER Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em "U Can't Touch This" (Capitol). "It's Hammer/Go Hammer/M.C. Hammer/Yo Hammer." U can't touch Hammer four times fast. A pop-rap fastball that explodes in your ears.
The Most Soul-Searing Blues Riffs
1. PAUL RISHELL Blues on a Holiday "Louise" (Tone-Cool). In the finest tradition of deep-South country-bluesmen, Rishell picks a mighty rag on his National steel guitar. His cascading licks pay homage to the down-home hoodoo and intricate acoustic sound of rural-baroque blues.
2. SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON Keep It to Ourselves "Let Your Right Hand Know" (Alligator). Sonny Boy's luminous reed-harp sound, expertly accented by Matt "Guitar" Murphy's Mississippi Delta-style acoustic strumming.
3. SAFFIRE--THE UPPITY BLUESWOMEN Saffire--The Uppity Blueswomen "Even Yuppies Get the Blues" (Alligator). Pianist Ann Rabson lays out a thick fog of barrelhouse runs, lending an authentic dose of guts to this heavy slice of postmodern life.
4. EARL KING Sexual Telepathy "Time for the Sunrise" (Black Top). A melancholy chordal drone paints a sobering, early-morning guitarscape. Dexterous, insightful and chilling.
5. LONNIE MACK Live!--Attack of the Killer V "Riding the Blinds" (Alligator). Electro-fuzz railroad riffs and solos that envelop your ears in steam.
6. JAMES PETERSON Rough & Ready "Bait Costs More Than the Fish" (King Snake). Fast-fingered guitar man James Peterson and his grooving bass player pick off hot licks like they're at a shooting gallery. An effortless fret-for-all.
7. BOBBY RADCLIFF Dresses Too Short "Bonehead" (Black Top). Radcliff struts a sassy theme that opens and closes this instrumental with a touch of class. In between, the solo action that goes down flashes with melodic blurs of unchained blues.
8. CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE Ace of Harps "River Hip Mama" (Alligator). Proof that after four decades, Musselwhite can still work his harp into rhythmically righteous groove overdrive.
9. MIKE MORGAN AND THE CRAWL Raw & Ready "You Better Watch Yourself" (Black Top). Anson Funderburgh joins Mike Morgan for some mysteriously moving dual-guitar jazz-chord dissonance.
10. VARIOUS ARTISTS Gulf Coast Blues, Volume One "Miss Too Fine" (Black Top). Joe "Guitar" Hughes lets his electric speak between the lines, and it sums up all you ever needed to know about unrequited love.
The Top Ten Feminist Country Manifestoes
1. PATTY LOVELESS On Down the Line "The Night's Too Long" (MCA). Loveless' tough vibrato strips down into raw emotion this tale of leather boys, livin' rough and unrequited love. It was the second hit off the album, but the best song of the year.
2. ROSEANNE CASH Interiors "Real Woman" (Columbia). Johnny's Little Girl? Rodney's Little Woman? Try again and not quite. This is definitive Roseanne--an in-your-face masterpiece by one of the best pens in the business and easily her best effort since "Seven Year Ache."
3. THE JUDDS Love Can Build a Bridge "Born to Be Blue" (RCA/Curb). The sneak preview of the year. If Wynonna Judd can erupt in a geyser of hot blues like this with crinoline-brained Naomi still dragging her all around, just think of what '91 and beyond will bring. Music City newsprint calls the pair's breakup "tragic." We call it liberation.
4. EMMYLOU HARRIS Brand New Dance "Tougher Than the Rest" (Reprise). This soon-to-be-classic track proves that just because the Hot Band is a cold memory doesn't mean the godmother of neo-twang is hanging out at the Lawrence Welk Museum. The oft-imitated vibrato that redefined country music don't need no 'lectric gee-tar tagging along.
5. K.T. OSLIN Love in a Small Town "Come Next Monday" (RCA). "I'm going on a diet--just like sugar, honey/Come next Monday, I'm gonna give up on you." No one belts out an ultimatum like sassy K.T.
6. MATRACA BERG Lying to the Moon "Baby, Walk On" (RCA). Long revered in songwriting circles, Berg lets the rest of the world know she's no slouch on the mike either. Anyone who's listened to this clinic in cucumber-cool crooning might wonder why such a muscular singer ever gave away all those great tunes.
7. SWEETHEARTS OF THE RODEO Buffalo Zone "Midnight Girl in a Sunset Town" (Columbia). The Sweethearts deliver harmonies to write home about in a style that makes it pretty clear why God invented dance floors.
8. BAILLIE AND THE BOYS The Lights of Home "Fool Such As I" (RCA). Kathie Baillie sends Hank Snow's signature song hurtling into the Nineties with a radical soprano makeover. Makes you wonder why she even bothers with the Boys at all.
9. HOLLY DUNN Heart Full of Love "You Really Had Me Going" (Warner Bros.). Given Dunn's usual nouveau-traditionalist, balladeering approach, her rockabluesy way with this tune is the year's most pleasant surprise.
10. LORRIE MORGAN Leave the Lights On "Five Minutes" (RCA). Not one bit content to be known simply as Keith Whitley's widow, Morgan's tossed away the weeds and brought forth this gutsy number. But we're not talking mere resolve here: The Brenda Lee-like strength and sinewy flexibility of her delivery show she can prove it all night.
The Ten Most Outrageous Jazz Covers
1. GEORGE ADAMS America "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (Blue Note). On this engaging exercise in weirdness, the wild tenor trades off between snippets of melody and vicious stabs of atonality. What Harry Caray would sound like on acid.
2. BILL FRISELL Is That You? "The Days of Wine and Roses" (Elektra Musician). Mix equal measures of pedal steel played on a roller coaster and a Jim Beam hangover, and you get Frisell's sound--a perfectly appropriate woozy remake of alcohol abuse's prettiest tune.
3. SUN RA Purple Night "Stars Fell on Alabama" (A&M). Any Sun Ra offering that isn't preaching his outer-space roots is a rare treat. The off-kilter interpretation of this classic is a fun-filled reminder of his Fletcher Henderson big-band origins.
4. HARVIE SWARTZ In a Different Light "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" (Bluemoon). Actually, the song belongs to guitarist Mike Stern. Bassist Swartz gives the ex-Miles sideman a chance to stretch out, and Stern reproduces on record for the first time the nasty, smoking chops he's famous for in live settings.
5. MARC RIBOT Rootless Cosmopolitans "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Island). Kurt Weill and Conlon Nancarrow meet the Beatles. Guitarist Ribot turns the George Harrison hit into a twisted, arrogant march, full of the severity that's made such an imprint on the Lounge Lizards and Tom Waits.
6. PAT METHENY WITH DAVE HOLLAND AND ROY HAYNES Question and Answer "All the Things You Are" (Geffen). It's baffling that anyone would write off Metheny's work as pretty, "quiet storm" mush. His creativity and ease with the breakneck pace of this standard shows him capable of guitar-wrestling anyone on the scene today.
7. MACEO PARKER Roots Revisited "Over the Rainbow" (Verve/Polygram). Alto saxman Parker, with Don Pullen on organ, makes the sentimental composition sound like it should've been written as a soulful R&B ballad in the first place.
8. BLUESIANA TRIANGLE Bluesiana Triangle "For All We Know" (Windham Hill Jazz). One of Art Blakey's last recordings bravely reshapes this worn ballad into cry-in-your-beer blues. Stepping out in front for a vocal cameo, the sandpaper-voiced drummer gives his hard-bop roots a rest for a rare show of his gutbucket side.
9. RAY ANDERSON What Because "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So" (Gramavision). The strange vocal sounds like a crossbreeding of Satchmo with a train whistle, but it proves that even fringe-jazz artists can remain reverent to their blues roots.
10. BERNIE WORRELL Funk of Ages "Volunteered Slavery/Bern's Blues/ Outer Spaceways" (Gramavision). Ex-Funkadelic sideman Worrell's salute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Sun Ra. In one swoop, the keyboardist echoes the despondency both his heroes captured in their instrumental essays on black American life.
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