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Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By edited by Stephen Grimstead

Who Hit John, Hey Buffy (Not So Permanent Records)

JULY 28, 1997:  GOD MUST HAVE LOVED WHITE-boy power-pop bands, because He made so damn many of them. Yet, in His infinite wisdom, He decreed that the best of the modern-day crop would reside right here in the South. Submitted for your consideration is Who Hit John, a fifth-generation power-pop quartet from Middle Tennessee who've been slugging away at it for about three years. Hey Buffy is their first full-length release (available at Shangri-La Records or directly from the band at P.O. Box 120562, Nashville, TN 37212) and finds the band poised and ready to strike, with their influences on their sleeves and a dogged determinism to be heard.

So what the hell does "fifth-generation" power pop mean? The progression moves loosely between the last four decades, something like this: (1) The Kinks/The Beatles to (2) Big Star/Raspberries to (3) Elvis Costello/The Records to (4) The Replacements/The Posies. Who Hit John are an amalgam of all these artists who went before. To their credit, they still manage to sound contemporary, even though their musical brew is steeped in the essence of the past.

Hey Buffy features 10 original songs, nine by the core writing team of Sam Powers and Chuck Tate, who also both sing and play guitar. From the oscillating opener, "Smile Together," through the crunching closer, "Means So Much," Hey Buffy reveals Who Hit John to be greater than the sum of its parts. Shining moments include "Claim To Fame" and "Incomplete," with resonant echoes of The Searchers (on "Somebody") and Cheap Trick (on "The Mona Lisa"). For a little dissonant variety, one tune about celebrity obsession ("Above The Fold") was penned and sung by bassist/vocalist Pat Meusel. Drummer Dean Bratcher and engineer/co-producer Bart Pursley round out the mix, adding the appropriate thunder and flash where needed.

Like many debut albums, Hey Buffy is a little rough and raspy around the edges, but the Who Hit John foundation is definitely solid. The only helpful suggestion this reviewer can offer would be to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies, i.e., aligning too closely with the Big Star legacy (as witnessed in "The Ballad Of What Will Never Be," an unnecessary but serviceable cover of "Don't Lie To Me," and the utilization of a five-pointed star as band logo). Collector's Note: There's one of those pesky "hidden tracks" at the end of cut eleven on the CD. Wait (or fast-forward scan) through five minutes of silence and you'll be rewarded with two minutes and 12 seconds of extemporaneous controlled insanity. -- David D. Duncan

(Decide for yourself whether Who Hit John is a question, an answer, a factual statement, or a simple declaration to just rock without reservations; they play Barristers on Saturday night, July 26th.)

Neilson Hubbard, The Slide Project (e pluribus unum)

SHOULD A SOUTHERN POP REvival occur, Neilson Hubbard may have just reserved himself a spot at the front of the line. After listening to This Living Hand -- Hubbard's solo debut away from his Jackson, Mississippi-based band This Living Hand -- I turned the liner notes over and over and over again trying to figure out how Mitch Easter was involved. There's Garrison Starr on backing vocals; mixing done at Ardent; but no Mitch. Amazing

Sandwiched somewhere between Let's Active and The Connells, this record sounds just like the stuff that came flowing out of North Carolina in the Eighties. Hell, "15 Minutes" even throws in a Tarheel indie-rock symphony à la Superchunk. Not to say that it's a rip-off, despite how much Hubbard's wilting falsetto resembles that of The Connells' Doug MacMillan. There's more muscle here than you'll find in its precursors, as demonstrated by the driving drums and punchy riff in "Everybody's Doin' It." And, when necessary, it's got more mess too. Check out the guitar swirl near the end of "Car Wars."

On a few tracks, like "Things Are Golden" and "Promise," a loss of power slips things into preciousness, but we'll hold that space for you anyway, Neilson. And don't let Matthew Sweet give you no lip about it, either. -- Jim Hanas

Art Blakey, Orgy in Rhythm, Volumes One & Two (Blue Note)

BLAKEY IS MOST ASSOCIATED with the Jazz Messengers, his hard-bop school for up-and-coming jazz greats. The alumni list from Blakey's Messengers includes such luminaries as Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and both Branford and Wynton Marsalis. Driven by his intense and brilliant drumming, the Jazz Messengers brought the gospel of hard-bop to the masses for nearly four decades.

Given this context, this reissue of Orgy in Rhythm brings back a fascinating departure from form for Blakey. This disc collects two 1957 albums on one limited-edition CD as part of Blue Note's illustrious Connoisseur series. It's an aptly titled set, with Blakey surrounding himself with three other drummers (Art Taylor, Jo Jones, and Specs Wright), five Latin percussionists, as well as a bass, Ray Bryant's piano, and the flutes of Herbie Mann.

This is percussion heaven, carefully orchestrated and executed. Tympanis, trap sets, congas, timbales, tree logs, and assorted percussion blend Latin, African, and jazz influences into a magical mix. Drums echo one another in African call-and-response patterns, with percussionist Sabu and Blakey chanting and singing in Swahili and other African tongues. Mann, in an uncharacteristic setting, adds some enchanting wooden flute to a number of selections. This reissue is unlike anything else in the extensive Blakey canon and makes for an extremely pleasant percussion indulgence. -- Gene Hyde

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