LIVE: BINGE & PURGE
Metallica (Elektra 61594)
What's the difference between a fan and a fanatic? Easy. A fan would be satisfied with a concert album that simply culled the highlights of a band's live show; a fanatic will insist on hearing every note. So what does it say about Metallica fans that "Live: Binge & Purge" offers not one but three complete concerts? Slogging through its three hours of audio plus five and a half hours of video is literally a full day's work, and by the third version of "Creeping Death" or "Seek & Destroy," casual listeners will be climbing the walls. But for the faithful, "Binge & Purge" offers more than excessive length and a nifty, foam-lined flight case package; it delivers all the passion, wit and rhythmic intensity that have made Metallica concerts seem so superior to the band's studio work.
SWING BATTA SWING
K7 (Tommy Boy 1071)
When K7 raps, his vocals fall somewhere between the hard-rhyming punch of hardcore and the sing-song cadences of dancehall; when he sings, his sound tends more toward Latin hip-hop. How should he be pegged, then? Well, judging from the hit potential of "Swing Batta Swing," "star-in-the-making" will do just fine. From the soulful exuberance of "Come Baby Come" to the melancholy groove of "Move It Like This," it's clear that K7 has a firm command of the pop hook, even if some of the catchiest tunes here are somewhat less than original, with "Let's Bang" borrowing from David Bowie's "Let's Dance" while "Move It Like This" takes its basic melody from the "Love Theme From the Godfather." Besides, he has great taste in source material, and, as "Hi De Ho" (a funky rethink of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher") makes plain, a terrific sense of style.
SUPER BLACK MARKET CLASH
The Clash (Epic/Legacy 53191)
Who'd have thought that the Clash, who once railed so passionately against the glorification of rock stars (remember "1977" and its cry of "No more Beatles, no Rolling Stones"?), would wind up treated like royalty by the re-issues market? Just look at "Super Black Market Clash," a lavish CD package that expands the original 1980 mini-LP "Black Market Clash" to a stunning 77 minutes. Ironically, the "Super" version is missing a few tracks, including the 1977 "Capital Radio" (we get the '79 remake instead) and including only the latter part of "Bank Robber/Robber Dub." But it makes up for those lapses by including other rarities, like the legendarily funky "The Magnificent Dance."
Michael Nyman (Virgin 88274)
It's always difficult for a modern composer to score a period piece, but Michael Nyman faced a special challenge when writing the music for Jane Campion's film "The Piano." After all, the music plays a major part in the story, and it would be somewhat unseemly to have 19th-century New Zealanders offering a taste of 20th-century minimalism. Yet the music found on Nyman's album, "The Piano," neatly walks the line between old and new, classic and modern. True, his harmonies are far more advanced than anything Campion's characters would have known, but that actually helps the music emphasize the film's emotional depth. Besides, Nyman restricts his most adventurous writing to the orchestral segments, keeping the piano parts more or less in character, so that his score is both accessible and
Jamal-Ski (Columbia 52459)
Despite Jamal-Ski's obvious fondness for dancehall cadences and Jamaican patois, all it takes is one listen to "Roughneck Reality" to realize that his roots run as deep in hardcore hip-hop as in the reggae tradition. How else could he have so deftly delivered on the polysyllabic menace of "Texas Rumpus" or handled the jazzy swagger of "Put It On"? Yet at the same time, he's just as at home with the rolling bass line and Jamaican
groove of "Hanging Tree," and has no trouble holding his own in a duet with Black Uhuru's Michael Rose on "Ragga Youth." Could it be that Jamal-Ski's reality is being able to have the best of both rap and reggae?
CUBAN GOLD: QUE SE SEPA, YO SOY DE LA HABANA
Various Artists (Qbadisc 9006)
Just as cigar smokers suffered from the trade embargoes against Cuba, music fans have had a hard time hearing the latest from great bands like Irakere and Orquesta Ritmo Oriental. Fortunately, things are beginning to open up musically, and one label that's making the most of this change is Qbadisc. It would be hard to imagine a more concise overview of the contemporary Cuban scene than the one offered by "Cuban Gold: Que Se Sepa, Yo Soy de la Habana." After all, not only does it offer high-octane hits by Los Van Van and Conjunto Rumbavana, it also introduces American listeners to the inimitable harmony singing of Son 14 as well as the inventive string playing of Estrellas de Arieto. All told, it's the next best thing to being there.