Ballpark tenors: 3 strikes and you're out?


Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti (Atlantic 82614)


In a way, it's fitting that the reunion performance of Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti was broadcast live from Dodgers Stadium. Because as "The Three Tenors in Concert, 1994" makes plain, this particular spectacle had more in common with athletic events than with any kind of concert. Tremble as Pavarotti brings nail-biting suspense to the high notes in "Nessun Dorma"! Thrill as Domingo packs more ham than Hormel into "Granada"! Marvel as Carreras makes "With a Song In My Heart" sound like second-rate Andrew Lloyd Webber! Wonder what idiot suggested they sing "My Way"! Puzzle over why anyone with an ear for opera would bother with such overblown twaddle! Eject the disc from your machine! Listen to something else!



Public Enemy (Def Jam 314 523 362)

Thanks to early and extremely negative reviews in Rolling Stone and The Source, the advance word on Public Enemy's "Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age" was that P.E. was finished. As these critics had it, Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Terminator X are too hard, too unfashionable, and too old to mean much to today's hip-hop fans. But before consigning this crew to the has-been bin, the fans might want to listen for themselves. True, the album's sound is much edgier than most rap these days, emphasizing its bass-pumping drive instead of lazily teasing the beat along, but the music P.E. makes here is also more soulful, building off a communal groove that at its best has all the energy and enthusiasm of a classic gospel rouser. And it's that underlying spirit that powers everything here, from the slow build of "Give It Up" to the contagious chant-along chorus of "What Side You On?" to the exuberant James Brown-isms of "I Ain't Mad at All."


311 (Capricorn 20262)

Even though 311 covers much of the same stylistic ground occupied by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys, there's nothing secondhand about the sound of "Grassroots." For one thing, 311 has developed a more natural fusion of rock and rhyme than either the Beasties or Chili Peppers, so that the rapped and sung segments coexist in their songs without seeming crowded together; for another, there's a jazziness to 311's playing that lets songs like "8:16 A.M." swing in ways the other bands could never manage. But the band's greatest strength is that it delivers maximum energy without ever getting mired in musical extremes, meaning that the funky crunch of "Homebrew" flows just as easily as the reggae slam of "Omaha Stylee."


Changing Faces (Big Beat 92369)

If all you know of Changing Faces is the hit "Stroke You Up," you probably think this duo is just another heavy-breathing exponent of the "freak me, baby" school of R&B.; Think again. True, these two handle the single's sultry groove and innuendo-laden lyrics as well as any of R. Kelly's proteges, but that's just one facet of "Changing Faces." Cue up "Baby Your Love," and you'll hear Cassandra and Charise (the two faces) work the groove with the kind of understated confidence Diana Ross & the Supremes once exuded; skip over "Keep It Right There," and they evince enough slow-burning passion to make you wonder if Anita Baker could possibly have daughters this old. All told, "Changing Faces" offers 13 good reasons not to judge an album by its first single.