New on CD

Friday, July 12, 2002


"Stardust" is bassist Ron Carter's tribute to jazz bass player-composer Oscar Pettiford, whose gems include the classic "The Man I Love" and the title track.

Pettiford's involvement in the small groups working in the burgeoning New York jazz scene of the mid-1940s earned him the title "first bebop bassist." Playing with seminal bebop figures such as Dizzy Gillespie, Pettiford forged a new style that combined a technical dexterity, original note selection and a renewed emphasis on rhythm; all qualities that Carter has embraced.

Carter is as solid as ever as the group works through the eight tracks on the disc including Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark" and "Blues in the Closet."-- AP

Salvatore Licitra: The Debut'

Salvatore Licitra wowed audiences and critics alike with his smooth, powerful singing in his closing-night Metropolitan Opera debut as Luciano Pavarotti's stand-in.

Now, in this rather portentously titled album -- "Salvatore Licitra: The Debut" -- the young Italian tenor shows in a selection of Puccini and Verdi arias that it was no fluke.

Licitra is the strongest contender yet to emerge as a worthy successor to Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, who jointly dominated the Italian tenor repertory throughout the last decades of the 20th century. Indeed, as critics have noted, he combines some of their best qualities -- the former's ringing high notes and the latter's strength in the lower register.

What impresses the listener on this disc above all is Licitra's confidence, his ebullience as he approaches even the sternest technical challenges (like the elegant fade-out on the high note at the end of Verdi's "Celeste, Aida").

The 14 selections include the two tenor arias from Puccini's "Tosca," the role of his Met triumph. In less familiar repertory, there's a stunning account of Dick Johnson's brief Act Three aria from "Girl of the Golden West" and arias from Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" and "Macbeth." In the "Barcarole" from Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," Licitra shows off his baritonal strength by taking the end of the phrase "defying the anger of heaven and hell" a full octave lower than written.

And of course there's the fiery "Di quella pira" from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." That last is the aria that brought him boos at La Scala when conductor Riccardo Muti barred him from singing the two interpolated high C's. This time he lets loose with as dazzling a pair as you're likely to hear.

The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Carlo Rizzi.

-- Mike Silverman, AP Writer

-- Jim Collins, AP Writer

"Steady as She Goes" (Victory Records, $14.98) -- Voodoo Glow Skulls

If you're 19, bursting with beer and surfing a frenzied mosh pit in some sweaty dive, "Steady as She Goes," the sixth CD from the Voodoo Glow Skulls, may have some appeal.

Otherwise, you'll be disappointed. These pioneers of the West Coast punk/ska movement blaze through 12 tracks with inane lyrics, heartless horn arrangements and breakneck tempos that barely distinguish one track from the next.

The speed at which the tunes on "Steady as She Goes" are played and the muscled-up guitar licks seem categorically at odds with the gentle soulfulness of original ska. Nor does the quickness of the tunes necessarily translate as a manifestation of punk aesthetic.

The album opens with "Voodoo Anthem," a recording taken from one of their live shows where expletives are hurled at the listener at each refrain. If this "anthem" is supposed to represent something, it's not readily apparent -- unless it's a celebration of slipshod music-making.

-- Jim Collins, AP Writer

"O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits" (Columbia, $24.98) -- Aerosmith

"Same Old Song and Dance" is the third track on this double-disc, greatest hits release. But it would make a good substitute title for "O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits."

Almost all the 30 songs on this double-disc set have appeared on the band's four previous hit compilations, meaning most longtime fans have purchased these songs several times already.

However, for newcomers, "O, Yeah!" offers a good survey of Aerosmith's 30-year history, with '70s songs such as "Dream On" and "Sweet Emotion," 1980s comeback hits such as "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" and "Rag Doll," plus recent chart-toppers "Jaded" and "Just Push Play."

Two new tracks, "Girls of Summer" and "Lay it Down," show Aerosmith still has the cocky defiance and musical potency that has kept them going long after similar bands have self-destructed or become nostalgia acts. But it isn't enough to justify yet another re-tread album.

-- Anthony Breznican, AP Entertainment Writer

"Like, Omigod! The '80s Pop Culture Box (Totally)" (Rhino, $99.98) -- Various Artists

"Hey, Dad, I was listening to this new boxed set of '80s music that you got. A lot of it is pretty awful. Is this really what you listened to growing up?"

Well, the '80s were an escapist decade, but these songs were hard to escape. Toto, REO Speedwagon, Christopher Cross -- they were always on the radio. I have to admit I like a lot of this stuff. You've got the Pretenders, Blondie, the Cars, INXS, the Cure -- those were all great bands.

"The Cure? I was listening to their song. I get sent to my room when I whine like that."

Yeah, some of the groups on "Like, Omigod! The '80s Pop Culture Box (Totally)" were pretty whiny. Lots of synthesizers and drum machines, too -- computer music, much like today. It wasn't always that way.

"Seven CDS, 142 songs, is anyone else missing?"

There's no Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N' Roses, Beastie Boys or Huey Lewis and the News. And no Falco.


Never mind.

"So why'd you buy this?"

Well, any collection that begins with Devo and ends with the B-52s has at least a couple of things going for it. And where else can you find the best of Animotion, Dead or Alive, John Parr and Bertie Higgins?

"Does that mean we have to listen to this all week?"

For sure.

-- Steven Wine, AP Writer

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