SOUNDS OF YESTERDAY
LOOKING right back this week, pop pickers, with two retrospectives, a tribute, and two of yesterday's men trying to make a comeback.
Starting off with the 'retros', how about this for essential listening: The Best Of The Village People (BMG). If the record company was being honest, this 'best of' would consist of precisely two songs - YMCA and In The Navy. Since this would be difficultto justify for the price of a CD, the compilation includes 15 fillers and a remix of In The Navy. Unfortunately, the only version of YMCA is also a remix (remix these days meaning adding a cheesy synthesised snare drum a la every acid house record ever released).
No remixes on Aretha Franklin's latest compilation, Greatest Hits (1980-1994) (Arista) but there is a re-interpretation of You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman) which features Bonnie Raitt and Gloria Estefan. The most obvious thing about this retrospective is that Franklin was nowhere near as good in the '80s and '90s as she was in the '60s and '70s. Sure, there are some good tracks like I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) and A Deeper Love, but this is not the same feisty rebel who demanded Respect all those years back. It is still a great voice, but it has lacked conviction for a while now.
Someone who has always lacked conviction is Hammer. Very much passe, he is attempting to spruce down his image with The Funky Headhunter (RCA). Gone are the posh suits and Wayfarers to be replaced by muscle shirts, wraparounds and the requisite silly woolly hat. Hammer has re-created himself as a street urchin of the '90s, but he still remains one of the worst rappers around. He has nothing to say, and what he does say he says without wit or any degree of subtlety. What with rap entering new realms of creativity with acid jazz, Hammer sounds boring by comparison.
Talking of boring, David Lee Roth, the second of yesterday's men, is back with a little number provocatively titled Your Filthy Little Mouth (Reprise Records). Of course, if you are into good old fashioned middle American rock you will not find Roth boring at all, but if you are looking for something progressive or inventive, look elsewhere. All the old Roth tricks are here: the screeching vocals, the sexist lyrics, the wailing guitars... Despite a production job by the normally inspirational Nile Rodgers,Roth still sounds like he is re-hashing ideas he stole from Eddie Van Halen.
A man who was rarely short of ideas, however, is Curtis Mayfield. The great songwriter hit bad times recently and A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield (Warner) was put together to help him out. It also serves as a reminder of just how good a composer he was.
Classics like Billy Jack, It's All Right!, Fool for You and Woman's Got Soul are performed by Lenny Kravitz, Steve Winwood, Branford Marsalis and BB King respectively. Add to these alumni artists like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, The Isley Brothers and Franklin, and you have some idea of the respect for Mayfield within the rock music establishment. Phil Collins, Elton John and Rod Stewart also contribute, but then what charity or tribute disc would be complete without them?