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Reviews of The Clash Tribute, "Burning London," Chief Jim Billie's "Alligator Tales," and John McCutcheon's "Springsongs"

CD Review

The Clash Tribute, "Burning London"Chief Jim Billie "Alligator Tales"John McCutcheon "Springsongs"
Play These Songs"Should I Stay Or Should I Go" - Ice Cube and Mack"Clampdown" - Indigo Girls"White Riot" - Cracker

Real Audio RequiredThe Clash Tribute, "Burning London" (Epic) — There are some things in life you shouldn't mess with: A hot fudge sundae. The Thanksgiving triad of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. The national anthem. Apparently the 12 artists who contributed songs to "Burning London," a tribute to the seminal English punk band the Clash, aren't familiar with the expression "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." For if the Clash's groundbreaking blend of punk rock, ska, reggae, dub and funk isn't musical perfection, then nothing is. Any attempt to improve upon the formula is bound to fail. And it does. Miserably. Unless, of course, your fondest dream is to hear the Indigo Girls play a completely unaffecting acoustic version of "Clampdown."

Ice Cube and Mack 10 turn "Should I Stay or Should I Go" into an insipid, profanity- and drug-reference-laden hip-hop tune, complete with "new and improved" lyrics: "You still want to be a 'ho/I got to know baby/should I stay or should I go?"

Third Eye Blind tries to funk up the guitars on "Train in Vain" (as if that's necessary) but otherwise plays it straight. Cracker does "White Riot" as a boozy country barroom romp, which sort of actually makes sense. But without the intensity, urgency and rage of the original, the most important elements are lost. Other contributors include No Doubt ("Hateful"), The Mighty Mighty Bosstones ("Rudie Can't Fail") and Silverchair ("London's Burning").

Skip this CD and pay a real tribute to the Clash. Pop "London Calling" into your CD player and revel in the unadulterated perfection.

— Jessica Ronky Haddad

Play These Songs"Big Alligator""Saw Grass Flower""Mah Te Nah"

Real Audio RequiredChief Jim Billie "Alligator Tales" (Sound of America Records) — Seminole Indian Chief Jim Billie's 12-cut CD is the product of a most unusual life, and an eerie and lovely mix of music, philosophy and culture. Billie's colorful background includes stints as a Vietnam paratrooper, alligator wrestler, adventurer's guide in his Big Cypress Swamp home in the Florida Everglades, and his present status as chief of the Seminole nation. The music he draws from all this reflects his heritage and a world view that embraces both man and beast, and the respect he's learned for all living things. Produced by John McEuen, the project takes Billie's stories of swamps, gators, dancing buzzards and graceful panthers and wraps them in a folky, airy blend of South American and Mexican acoustic musical styles. "Alligator Tales" is not the stuff of pop radio, but rather an entertaining and educational look at a culture that remains largely a secret to mainstream America.

— Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"Spring Fever""Spring Cleaning""Grounded"

Real Audio RequiredJohn McCutcheon "Springsongs" (Rounder Kids CD) — With "Springsongs," multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon delivers the last part of his "Four Seasons" series in which he makes folky, fun music for all-around family enjoyment. "Springsongs" is billed as a kid-oriented project, but it's actually sophisticated enough conceptually and musically to keep folks of all ages entertained. Through the course of the 12-cut CD, McCutcheon recalls a wide range of childhood emotions from the joys of baseball tryouts to the bummer of being grounded. Backed by a full band and the occasional strings and harmonies, McCutcheon handles vocals on each song and shows his various skills on guitar, banjo, fiddle and hammer dulcimer. Previous CDs in this musical series were nominated for Grammys and "Springsongs" is no doubt headed for the same recognition. This family-oriented project is a well-timed fresh breath of air. (John McCutcheon appears in Richmond Tuesday, June 1, as part of the GE Financial Assurance concert series, 6604 W. Broad St.)

— A.A.

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