Candy Dulfer (Arista 8674)
It's no picnic trying to get people interested in fusion jazz. Pitch it as pop, and people ask, "Where's the melody?" Redesign it as dance music, and they complain that the beat is too irregular. Market the musicianship, and their eyes glaze over. But sell it as sex -- now, there's an angle most pop fans can appreciate. Hence, "Saxuality," the American debut of Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer. Never mind that there's no heavy breathing here; a few well-placed double entendres (plus some snazzy photos of the saxophonist herself) are all it takes. In fact, the hype is so efficient, you might not even notice the quality of the music -- which, from "Lily Was Here" on, is tuneful, swinging and pleasantly approachable.
The Farm (Sire 26600)
Read their interviews, and it seems as if the new generation of English sampler bands -- Jesus Jones, EMF, Happy Mondays -- are about to give birth to a brave new world of rock and roll. Don't believe it for a minute. Some of these bands might be avowed modernists, but others, like the Farm, are simply old-fashioned rockers with newfangled toys. Thus, despite the state-of-the-art sounds sandwiched into the Farm's debut, "Spartacus," the music they're applied to is as cornily tuneful as any hit by Madness or Slade; in fact, "All Together Now," which takes its melody from Pachebel's Canon, is even cornier than most. La plus ca change. . . .
Dread Zeppelin (IRS 13092)
When is a joke band not a joke band? When its music is no longer funny, of course. For proof, look no further than "5,000,000" by Dread Zeppelin. Though the gag remains the same -- Led Zeppelin songs played reggae style and sung by an overweight Elvis impersonator -- the number of variations the band can pull from it has dwindled drastically. In fact, not even the reggae "Stairway to Heaven" generates much jollity, while the few attempts at originals, like "Do the Claw," make it easy to understand why the band resorted to humor in the first place. Face it: 5,000,000 Dread Zeppelin fans can be wrong.
The Kentucky Headhunters (Mercury 848 054)
As anyone who saw them on the Grammy Awards show realizes, the Kentucky Headhunters have a great gimmick. But what most people don't realize is that the gimmick isn't the group's clothes, or even its decidedly casual approach to personal hygiene. Actually, it's much simpler than that -- the Headhunters aren't really country musicians, they're rockers pretending to be country musicians. After all, why else would the most interesting moments on "Electric Barnyard" be flat-out rock tunes like "Love Bug Crawl" or "It's Chitlin' Time"? And what genuine country act would dare cover a song like "Spirit In the Sky"? Face it: Only a rock band would dare sound -- much less look -- like these guys.