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Reviews of CDs by Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeff Buckley, Tracy Chapman, All, and The Kingston Trio

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Sunny Day Real Estate, "The Rising Tide"(Time Bomb)— Three seems to be the right number for Sunny Day Real Estate. After breaking up as a quartet in 1994 and reforming as a trio in 1997, the Seattle-based band has had its share of lineup problems. On its fourth full-length album, "The Rising Tide," the band has seemingly found the right lineup, but is still hard to define musically.

Those who read Seattle and think Alice in Chains will be surprised; Sunny Day Real Estate isn't a grunge band. In fact, they're more reminiscent of Rush with their guitar-and-drum driven music and vocalist Jeremy Enigk's Geddy Leelike vocals. Of course, they're not progressive rock either.

On the title track, and songs "Killed by an Angel," and "The Ocean," the band combines the energy of punk with the emotion and melody of emo. Lyrically, the 11 songs are dark themes about life, betrayal and complacency, but the album doesn't leave you feeling down

— Jacob Parcell



Jeff Buckley, "Mystery White Boy" (Columbia) - What's this, a time capsule? I didn't think anybody played rock 'n' roll anymore, not the two-guitars-bass-and-drums kind.

Well, Jeff Buckley plays it — or played it, until he drowned in 1997. This latest CD is culled from a collection of live performances he gave before his untimely death.

Cutting-edge British groups such as Radiohead and Travis credit Buckley's jams as contributing to their music. Maybe they saw the way he and his mates start their songs slowly, their riffs distinctly evident, then smash together the guitars, bass and drums, then pull them apart again.

"Dream Brother" begins with Buckley eerily picking at the high end of his guitar and quietly singing along. He waits a full four minutes for the smash, really tears into it, then pulls back toward the end.

This is the kind of concertlike ride that guitarist Michael Tighe and Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, wanted to offer when they selected the songs for this album.

This collection shows that even in this day of techno, metal-rap and anger-rock, just because it's rock 'n' roll doesn't mean it's worn out.

— Lon Wagner, The Virginian-Pilot



Tracy Chapman, "Telling Stories" (Elektra) - Tracy Chapman's genius is her gift for clarity — with lyrics and arrangements that resonate in lines that engage, not clutter. For as simplistic as this 11-song set appears, complex layers of emotion and harmonies remain her hallmark.

Chapman repeats brief verses for power. Her haunting vibrato shakes the conscience of reluctant and inattentive lovers on the title cut and "Less Than Strangers." Chord changes and well-timed solos propel "Wedding Song." More melancholy is "Unsung Psalms," with its heavier folk feel, a mood indicative of the second half of the album.

But the weightier disposition doesn't diminish this CD's power. After all, it was Chapman's striking skills at social commentary through storytelling that launched her in 1988 with "Fast Car." She continues her keen observations here, such as when she considers the progress of black people on "Nothing Yet." Among the pointed lyrics lies this thought: "Broken and in disrepair/ Forty acres to a 40-ounce/ Don't seem fair."

Often such moral platitudes come across as hollow or manufactured. Thankfully, there still exists the sincerity of Chapman.

— Nia Ngina Meeks, The Virginian-Pilot



All, "Problematic" (Epitaph Records) — When the frontman for the Descendents left the band in the late '80s, the remaining three members — Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton and Karl Alvarez (on drums, guitar and bass respectively) — formed All without missing a beat. At first it may have seemed like their former group would be a hard act to follow, since they were largely credited with single-handedly creating the whole pop-punk genre. After a few false starts with vocalists, the very capable Chad Price came on board in 1993.

All has basically carried on where the original Descendents left off, as illustrated on their newest release "Problematic." Musically they continue their legacy of well-written and memorable songs. On occasion, you can still find one of their signature off-time and off-kilter numbers breaking up the record's forward-rolling movement. With "Problematic," All has proven that they are just as prolific now as they've ever been. They even continue the tradition of having the subject matter of each song generally fall into the categories of life ("I Want Out"), love ("Carry You"), personal politics ("Crucifiction") and silliness for the sake of fun ("She Broke My Dick").

All has once again manufactured an enjoyable album in the form of "Problematic" while continuing to expand on their tried-and-true sound. If you've never gotten over the initial breakup of the Descendents, then you need only wait for their next reunion tour and album. In the meantime, you can enjoy All's latest effort instead.

— Angelo DeFranzo



The Kingston Trio, "Both Sides of The Kingston Trio, Volumes I & II," (Silverwolf) — Just when you thought you've heard everything, along comes two CDs from The Kingston Trio. Only lead singer Bob Shane remains from the original trio that first recorded in the late '50s, but the contemporary group manages to sound much like the hootenanny-era band. It's easy to wonder why these guys still bother, yet it can't be denied that the group once sold records by the truckload as it introduced a huge slice of the American populace to "folk music." Of course, the Trio's sanitized version of this genre wasn't exactly the stuff of field hollers. But it was partly because of guys like the Kingston Trio and the Beatles that every middle-class white boy in 1960s America started playing guitar. That said, these are rerecorded versions of many of the Trio's hits and for anyone who grew up hearing this music, "Both Sides" is quite a trip down memory lane. "Tom Dooley," "M.T.A.," "Greenback Dollar," "Scotch and Soda" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" are all here along with much more. I can't imagine that these CDs will earn the boys a batch of new fans. But for some, it'll be a fine musical snapshot that recalls a long-ago time when Vietnam was merely a nasty rumor and America had something to sing about.

— Ames Arnold

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