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DECEMBER 21, 1998: 


Tomorrow Hit Today

HAIL, THE MIGHTY Mudhoney. Saviors of the Seattle rock scene (yeah, that's right--a big screw-you to vastly overrated Pearl Jam), Mudhoney returns after three years of inactivity with the magnificent Tomorrow Hit Today. Its garage-heavy dose of balls-out rock and mid-tempo power sludge places these four booze-swillin' grubworms back on top of the decimated grunge rock heap. It's all here, kids: The anguished, snarling howl of Mark Arm; Dan Peters' thud-heavy drumming; Matt Lukin's rumbling bass grooves; and the wah-wah fuzz romp of guitarist Steve Turner. What's more, new instruments beckon a graceful turn toward maturity: Generous helpings of organ, slide guitar, harmonica and keyboards are provided by Memphis über-producer Jim Dickinson (Replacements, Cramps, Rolling Stones). "This Is the Life" sounds suspiciously like mentors Iggy and the Stooges circa 1969, with Arm and Turner establishing the best fuzz guitar interplay since they first stumbled across a Ron Asheton-endorsed effects pedal. "Night of the Hunted" would fit easily next to one of Billy Childish's home-recorded garage efforts if vintage Nirvana were his backing band. "Ghost" sizzles with the dead junkie souls of the New York Dolls; perhaps prescription-damaged inspiration for Mudhoney reflecting on being once Ritalin-addicted toddlers. Mudhoney are truly the last torchbearers of full-fledged grunge rock hedonism. Get down on your knees and be thankful.

--Ron Bally

Like Minds

Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes and Dave Holland
(Concord Records)

LOTS OF CROSSBREEDING going on here: Burton and Corea have recorded duet albums; Metheny got his start in Burton's band; and Metheny has led a trio featuring Haynes and Holland. No wonder, then, that the disc is fine stuff, and a legit companion volume to Burton's Reunion from 1990. All but one of the 10 tunes were written by either Burton, Corea or Metheny, thankfully avoiding that dreadful tendency in jazz to attempt wringing blood from the long-dry bones of '40s standards. In fact, the three frontmen, because they're as solid in their writing as their improvising, make this a disc hardcore jazzers will either snag now, or grab as a four-star reissue two decades into the next millennium.

--Dave McElfresh

Dr. John

Anutha Zone

THE INDEFATIGABLE NEW Orleans-reared swamp-blues hepcat, Mac Rebennack (a.k.a. Dr. John), is back with his coolest and tastiest album in years with Anutha Zone, a spicy, hot gumbo of spacey Crescent City R&B vibes, extraterrestrial gris-gris mysticism and spooky voodoo-inspired rhythms. After battling drug addiction and weathering several erratic years of indifferent work (like goofy television commercial jingles and faux-sentimental ballads--remember the sappy duet with Rickie Lee Jones?), pianist Dr. John has reinvigorated his good-time, rollicking Big Easy musical muscle by hiring a choice crop of altrock movers-and-shakers, including various members of Supergrass, Portishead, Spiritualized and Primal Scream. Adding another element of hipster-cool authenticity to the crawfish pie is the mercurial Paul Weller, frontman of early '80s mod-punk icons the Jam. Weller adds steely background vocals and razor-sharp guitar lines to the poignant, bittersweet ballad "Party Hellfire." A melancholy reminder from the good doctor that too much Mardi Gras action will lead down a path to spiritual destruction and eventual death. What sets Anutha Zone apart (besides Jason Pierce's textured "space guitar" washes) is Dr. John's renewed songwriting prowess; a gift that shines brightly on "Sweet Home New Orleans," where he finally acknowledges his funky down-home Louisiana roots with long overdue zeal. Wacky '80s new wave keyboard stud Jools Holland (ex-Squeeze) bangs out some ultra funky Shaft-era Hammond organ riffs on "I Don't Wanna Know" (written by folk great John Martyn). Dr. John's gritty, emotion-drenched baritone rekindles his psychedelic Night Tripper persona, a potion-bearing medicine man brought to life on the classic '70s albums Gris Gris and Gumbo.

--Ron Bally

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