Pink Floyd (Columbia 67065)
Although it's billed as a live album, it would probably be more accurate to describe Pink Floyd's "Pulse" simply as a concert recording. "Live," after all, suggests a certain amount of chance-taking and vivacity, and neither of those qualities are much in evidence in this double-CD set. Recorded in Europe during the group's last tour, "Pulse" is as stately and well-recorded as the group's last concert album, "The Delicate Sound of Thunder," and just about as boring. It does include a performance of the entire "Dark Side of the Moon" album, but apart from a soulful stroll through "The Great Gig in the Sky," this rendition brings nothing to the music beyond a slightly expanded sonic palette. Beyond that, though, the only possible reason for interest in the set would be the packaging, which includes a beautifully illustrated booklet and a red light that pulses at about the same rate as a human heartbeat. Too bad that's as close to live as the set gets.
TALES FROM THE PUNCHBOWL
Primus (Interscope 92553)
Primus is a player's band at heart, meaning what goes on between the musicians is generally more interesting than any of the tunes in their repertoire. Though "Tales from the Punchbowl" has its share of hooks, they rarely pop up where expected. In "Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats," the most tuneful moments arrive with a repeating bass-and-drum figure that crops up throughout the piece, while what carries "Glass Sandwich" isn't the sing-song vocal or growling bass, but the broken-calliope guitar riffs that clambers through the chorus. That's not to say Primus is lacking in conventional songwriting skills, as there's plenty of warped pop charm in "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" and the delightfully deranged "De Anza Jig." But even those tunes take a back seat to the near-telepathic interplay between bassist Les Claypool and drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander, one of the most kinetic combinations in modern rock.
JAGGED LITTLE PILL
Alanis Morissette (Maverick/Reprise 45901)
Most singer/songwriters are better at one than the other, meaning that some deliver beautifully composed tunes badly, while others specialize in exquisite renderings of piffle. Alanis Morissette, by contrast, does both wonderfully well. Even though "Jagged Little Pill" is full of well-turned phrases and brutally funny insights, Morissette brings her words and music to life with such verve that it hardly matters who wrote the songs. Except, of course, that few others could have encapsulated the rage of a jilted lover as wittily as Morissette does on "You Oughta Know," or conveyed the serenity of acceptance as vividly as she does in "Hand in My Pocket." The players involved -- Glenn Ballard, Benmont Tench, Dave Navarro and Flea -- make it all the easier to swallow "Pill," but the ultimate responsibility for these songs lies with Morissette. And as the untitled, a capella tune at the end of the album makes plain, she's more than up to the challenge.
BING, BING, BING!
Charlie Hunter Trio (Blue Note 31809)
Forget those young, neotraditionalist jazz musicians trying to drag us back into the hard-bop '50s; the music's real future lies with post-modernist players like those in the Charlie Hunter Trio. Rather than devote themselves to a single, well-defined genre, what the Trio does on "Bing, Bing, Bing!" is mix and match, so while "Greasy Granny" may start off sounding like something off an old Groove Holmes album, Hunter's wah-wah guitar solo evokes the electrified excitement of classic fusion. "Come As You Are," on the other hand, manages to capture much of the teen spirit of Nirvana's original while somehow sounding like a Horace Silver workout. Amazingly, Hunter's 8-string guitar not only allows him to handle both guitar and bass chores, but does an impressive job of imitating the Leslie-speaker swirl of a Hammond organ. Good as he is, though, Hunter is hardly the whole show, as Dave Ellis' fluid, Coltrane-schooled tenor work and Jay Lane's exceptionally supple percussion keep the music flowing smoothly.