- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2000

RICHIE FURAYIn My Father's House (Calvary Chapel)
Call this the great lost Poco album or, if you prefer, the holdover CD until the Buffalo Springfield box set is finally released.
One of the more unusual stories coming out of the musical 1960s was Springfield/Poco founding member Richie Furay's decision to abandon popular music for Christian ministry. The presiding pastor of an evangelical church in Boulder, Colo., since the late 1970s, Mr. Furay's subsequent musical offerings have been rare and hard to find.
"In My Father's House" is his first album in a decade and features some of Mr. Furay's strongest original compositions since Poco's classic "A Good Feelin' to Know" album. Songs such as "Hallel," "Peace That Passes All Understanding" and "Give Thanks to the Lord" rank with Poco's "Pickin' up the Pieces" and the Springfield's "Kind Woman" in the Furay songbook. "I Will Bless the Name of the Lord" is perhaps his most haunting composition ever.
Don't be put off if Christian music isn't your bag. Mr. Furay doesn't bludgeon his listeners, and fans of the Springfield, which Mr. Furay fronted with Stephen Stills and Neil Young, and Poco, which he formed with Jim Messina, will find plenty to listen to here. — Fran Coombs


Thirteen Tales From Urban

Bohemia (Capitol Records)

This is an album that has been garnering largely rave press reviews, which seems almost laughable for a band that seems willing to sacrifice the pursuit of any high-minded "artistic merit" for a simple good groove.
As with their last album, 1997's well-received "The Dandy Warhols Come Down," "Thirteen Tales" is a mix of five-minute-plus head trips and brisk 31/2-minute pop-rock cuts. Although longer songs such as "Godless" and "Sleep" are superb, principal songwriter Courtney Taylor is at his best when he is at his least expansive. The shorter, more up-tempo songs highlight Mr. Taylor's flair for shamelessly drawing on his influences and coming up with catchy pop-rock gems. (This is a man who gleefully admitted to constructing the out-of-left-field, sorta-hit single "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth" from "The Dandy Warhols Come Down" around the opening riff to ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down.")
While the Velvet Underground is a constant presence, of course, Mr. Taylor draws on a variety of sounds, ranging from country to new wave. The song "Country Leaver" is chicken-fried bohemia similar to early Cracker, while "Horse Pills" strongly recalls the vocal inflections and sardonic tone of Cake's first album. (Cake trumpeter Vince di Fiore appears elsewhere on the album, so you know Mr. Taylor's been listening.) "Cool Scene" is '60s bubble-gum pop meets the Jesus and Mary Chain, "Shakin'" has the Cars written all over it and "Bohemian Like You" has the most flagrant Rolling Stones riff ever stolen by anybody.
Mr. Taylor ably works this stew into a cohesive dish that is at its best when providing needles to puncture ultra-hipster balloons, as in the catchy "Bohemian Like You," with it's oh-so-perfect lyrics: "So what do you do? Oh, yeah, I wait tables, too. No, I haven't heard your band because you guys are pretty new." — Joe Schaeffer


Boyoubetterunow (Up Records)

It's a shame that summer is ending because the Concretes have provided the perfect pop soundtrack for the season.
The Swedish band was founded by a trio of Stockholm girls who have seen their core lineup grow to six. The group's apparently very rare live shows feature as many as 18 members when the band brings along its own horn section.
"Boyoubetterunow," the band's LP debut, is loose yet well-crafted pop with a sense of earnestness that belies the generally breezy feel of the album's 11 songs. Eclectic yet immediately accessible, the songs start with a solid core of guitar, organ-esque keyboards and steady, excellent bass lines that are frequently punctuated by harmonica or trumpet flourishes.
This restrained but tight backdrop expertly complements the vocals of lead singer Victoria (the band doesn't use any last names), whose voice falls somewhere between the sheer beauty of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and the warbly warmth of Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk. The simple lyrics hint at the band's limited English, which only adds to the songs' winsome innocence.
Standout tracks include the bouncy, pleasant opening cut "Teen Love"; the plaintive "Be Mine," which features a gorgeous trumpet solo toward the end; "Vacation," which skirts the very edge of cuteness without going overboard; and the irresistible "Give a Little," whose light and frothy playfulness gives way to a runaway guitar-harmonica swirl at the end. "Boyoubetterunow" is not an album that will blow your mind away with its brilliance, but it is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of the pop music fan with discriminating tastes. — J.S.


Ryde or Die Vol. II

(Ruff Ryders/Interscope)

The latest compilation from the Ruff Ryders family presents both the best and worst of modern hip-hop: It's catchy, it's hard-hitting and sometimes it's so tasteless you have to shut it off.
Producer Swizz Beatz, who's behind everyone from Jay-Z to Snoop Dogg nowadays, lays down simple, jerking beats for this ultra-violent collection, which promotes younger members of the Ruff Ryders crew like the Lox and poorly named newcomer Yung Wun much more than in Vol. I. That means only one song each from DMX ("The Great") and Eve, whose battling duet with Jadakiss, "Got It All," is the standout track, and nothing at all from Jay-Z. Even with guest appearances from Snoop, Redman and Method Man, the focus on less-established artists hurts the appeal.
Still, besides some duds from Yung Wun and the mediocre-at-best Drag On, there's some real gems here. "WW III," in which Snoop makes his play, starts the album off with a bang, and the Busta Rhymes song, "Fright Night," is a keeper.
As usual, there are moments the album can do without. One skit makes Eminem look like a women's advocate. And take, for instance, this rhyme from the Lox's Jadakiss: "I got 'em looking for my solo album like Kennedy Jr." After that line, sure you do.— Scott Silverstein


Songs From an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile(Capitol)

Art Alexakis' objective with this album is Everclear, but the reason why the frontman strayed away from his group's normal formula for this concept album isn't. Not that change is a bad thing in this case.
The trio slows it down for what serves as the first half of the soundtrack for "American Movie" to create an ode to pop culture in America. Anyone expecting the noisy modern rock for which Everclear is known for will be sorely disappointed, but those willing to delve in anyway will find a personal pop album written mostly by Mr. Alexakis that's just as intriguing.
The album finds its roots in everything from bluegrass to rap. It begins with the title track, a countrified, reflective ballad, and bursts immediately into the hip-hop-flavored "Here We Go Again," fresh with a sample from Public Enemy. The experiments continue with the sample of "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight in the '70s-flavored "AM Radio" and the first single, "Wonderful," Everclear's take on modern pop.
The biggest disappointment is the cover of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," a good idea that falls flat perhaps because the majority of the album is so autobiographical. And that's the best part of "Learning How to Smile": Except for the one flop, Mr. Alexakis stays true to himself without sacrificing any of the adventure of the album. (For those wanting vintage Everclear, the band will release "Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude" later this year.) — S.S.

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