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Various Artists

A Tribute To The Exploited: Punk's Not Dead

(Radical)

***

LET'S FACE FACTS. Most tribute albums suck (anyone remember the Kiss tribute a couple years back, with Garth Brooks and other assorted Top 40 losers?). What makes this one rise above all those other certified duds is that every band on this collection was directly and passionately influenced by the Exploited (probably the greatest post-Pistols, pre-hardcore thrash group to emerge from the UK in the early '80s). The exhilarating results reflect that band's enormous impact. Sure, most of these street punk upstarts can't out-punk the down-in-the-gutter raggedness and instrumental velocity of frontman Wattie Buchan and company, but the bands' sheer grittiness and youthful enthusiasm compensate.

The harsh, blazing-fast sounds of the Exploited live on in Billy Club's "UK 82"; the Bruisers' "SPG", featuring vocalist Al Barr (most recently of the Dropkick Murphys); Niblick Henbane's "Cop Cars"; U.S. Chaos' "U.S.A."; and Squiggy's "Fuck the Mods." The incredible, female-fronted I.C.U. clean up on "Dead Cities." The 17 groups on this superior tribute album eat, breathe, drink and ultimately worship the Exploited on a daily basis. So lace up your Doc Martens, spike up the Mohawk haircut and mosh till you puke.

-- Ron Bally

Steve Million

Truth Is....

(Palmetto)

***

ALTHOUGH "MODERN JAZZ" is now 40 years old, people still pursue the genre as if it were invented yesterday. Chicago-based pianist Steve Million has released a set of engaging originals that sounds new and shiny, yet hearkens back to the Chick Corea quintets of the mid 1960s. The top-notch front line of trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Dick Oatts achieves a warm blend, and is ably supported by New York bass stalwart Michael Moore and drummer Ron Vincent (who co-produces this CD). Guitarist Steve Cardenas accents the group on some tracks, functioning well in the rhythm section and adding tasteful solos. While it doesn't break any new stylistic ground, the music is superbly written, and performed with swinging conviction. Million's playing evokes Monk, Bill Evans and early Corea, yet he manages to create something unique in his compositions. His polytonal treatment of the tired standard "All The Things You Are" is wryly inventive and ear-provoking, making it once again an interesting tune -- something it hasn't been in, oh...40 years.

-- Ed Friedland

John Fahey

The Dance Of Death And Other Plantation Favorites

(Takoma)

***

DAMN NEAR EVERY acoustic guitar instrumentalist over the last 30 years -- from Leo Kottke to William Ackerman -- can thank John Fahey for proving that deep blues and folk traditions can be transformed into digestible recordings for urbanites. Still, the eccentric picker is a bit like Phillip Glass in that you either love or hate the simplistic and repetitious style, but, either way, have to admire the museum quality of the work. Fahey's guitar so strongly rings with admiration and understanding of Southern music that if heard on a scratchy recording, many of his cuts could mistakenly be dated back to the '30s. The authenticity should come as no surprise, given that years ago Fahey was a folklorist who uncovered lost Southern blues artists like Bukka White, who, thanks to him, were able to record again before they passed on. The reissue of 1965's Dance Of Death includes several Fahey classics: "The Last Steam Engine Train" and "When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose." Fahey bridges the gap between New Age music and delta blues -- no small accomplishment, and one that none of his protégés have done with such seduction for a past era.

-- Dave McElfresh

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