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Reviews of CDs by Rip Dizzy, Front Rage, The Roy Haynes Trio featuring Danilo Perez & John Patitucci, and Asylum Street Spankers

Now Hear This

Rip Dizzy, "No Room To Dance" (Goth Records) — The Hampton Roads area has been a hotbed for raucous, innovative rock 'n' roll since the early days of Gene Vincent Bands such as The M-80's. Later, The Candy Snatchers would marry this strong rock tradition with punk. Spearheading the newest wave of Tidewater rock acts is Rip Dizzy.

Their explosive new album, "No Room To Dance," has put pure power back into Power Pop and has added the element of fun to this most welcome of diversions. Catchy hooks are accentuated by tight vocal harmonies sung by co-collaborators Tom Meeks and Shawn Bolling. Together, they specialize in writing lyrics filled with wit and comical irony. The cheerful feel of "Nuclear Holiday" belittles the fact that the song is about nuclear annihilation. It's soon followed by the entertaining musings of the brokenhearted on "Six-Gun Love." The lyrical content of other songs runs the gamut. Rip Dizzy pays homage to a roll call of rock pioneers in "Sex, Drugs & Rock 'N' Roll" and reminds us of our youth with the song "Seventeen."

What the album lacks in its low-fi production is more than made up for in the level of energy. "New Girlfriend" even has an inkling of mod revivalism, but without the rough edge of acts like The Who or The Jam. With drummer Mike Stetina's precision playing, I'm certain that Rip Dizzy is great to see live. Now if I can only get their songs out of my head long enough to get some work done.
— Angelo DeFranzo

Front Range, "Silent Ground" — "Silent Ground," the latest project by Front Range, is inspired by traditional bluegrass as much as by the Western swing styles of Bob Wills. A "boogie-woogie bluegrass" version of Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain" is thrown into the mix along with gospels, such as "Roll Call" that show off the four members' full range of vocals. Most of the songs on the album are the result of the somewhat diverging creative efforts of guitarist Robert Amos and banjo player Ron Lynam.

Amos brings into the band a straight-ahead bluegrass style in originals such as "Montana Gal," and the Bill Monroe-inspired "Leave Me to Cry." His lyrics at times border the familiar yet usually escape the cliché, particularly in the mellower tunes "Sing Me a River" and "Sweetest Flower of My Heart." Lynam claims he has "just as much Western swing in my blood as bluegrass" — an observation that is confirmed in his lively "Cowtown Boogie." Lynam's style shifts from the controlled trickling rolls of his traditional-sounding tune, "Silver Plume," to his finger-racing and sometimes jazzy "Dust Devil." Although the album pulls from many of the traditions that have influenced bluegrass and vice versa — such as blues, folk and Western swing styles — and has some impressive vocal melodies, "Silent Ground" leaves only a vague imprint behind.
— Kevin Finucane

"The Roy Haynes Trio featuring Danilo Perez & John Patitucci" (Verve)— The brilliant, brash, melodic drumming of Roy Haynes is front and center throughout this enjoyable recording. At 75, Haynes has played with some of the greatest musicians of all time, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and the inventor of the modern piano trio format, Bill Evans. Where Evans' sound is characterized by a lovely impressionistic ambiguity, Haynes' music swings and crackles with a kinetic specificity. Even the ballads are in sharp focus.

The other two-thirds of the trio are a perfect match for Haynes' approach. John Patitucci's style is rhythmic, precise and highly melodic. And Danilo Perez is simply one of the most galvanizing pianists around, capable of moving with lightning speed from fluid arpeggios to driving percussive attacks.

But this is a Haynes session. Where most jazz drummers keep time on the ride cymbal, Haynes uses the entire kit to shape the tempo. With more than an hour of music, beginning in the studio and ending with four selections recorded live in the players' hometown of Boston, the CD is generous, varied and an early candidate for "best of the year" jazz lists.
— Peter McElhinney

Asylum Street Spankers, "Spanker Madness," (Spanks-A-Lot) — I love this band and its irreverent nature, but "Spanker Madness" is a tiresome effort based on an old notion. Here in 2000 are we supposed to find massive reefer consumption particularly interesting, funny, thought-provoking or shocking? Hey, I really couldn't care less how this band spends its time or what habits it has, but I don't need 12 songs and one "interlude" about lying around smoking dope and watching television. Of course, the musicianship hits a fine groove in the usual eclectic Spanker Dixieland-blues-country vein. Some of the lines are funny and Wammo's ode to his favorite drug, "Beer," is pretty clever. Christina Marrs sings tough and bluesy. There's some great playing throughout. But, overall, this project sounds like it was thrown together with little lyrical or melodic thought. Considering the whacked-out nature of the band, that could easily have been the intent. However, it just doesn't keep my attention. A couple of these tunes thrown into the usual oddball Spanker mix would have worked great. But standing on their own, the songs don't hold up.
— Ames Arnold