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Di Meola Plays Piazzolla
Blue Moon Recordings

DURING DI MEOLA'S heyday as a fusion legend, he was heavily entrenched in a somewhat awkward Spanish romanticism that has since matured into the much more refined style you'll hear here. He could have piddled away his post-Return To Forever career the way peers Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea have. Instead, he dropped the speed-guitar schtick and became the protégé of heavier musicians like tango god Astor Piazzolla. Di Meola hung out with the Argentine legend during his last days, and the result is the best album in the guitarist's catalogue. If "Oblivion" doesn't put you over the edge, you bought your heart at a swap meet. The tango needs to be stolen back from the Arthur Murray dance studio, and Di Meola certainly does his part in presenting it to the jazz/guitar wizard crowd.

--Dave McElfresh


Interstate City
Hightone Records

THIS DISC SHOULD be played out on a desert highway headed toward California, the broken promised land, where, Alvin sings, "they killed all the Indians and shot all the grizzly bears." With hot wind in your face and grit in your teeth, you'll be right in sync with the bittersweet vision of white-line America that Alvin and his sidemen conjure in this 14-song live set, recorded last summer at Austin's Continental Club. Every tune works its earnest wonders, from the road-weary title cut to Alvin's reworkings of the Blasters' "So Long, Baby, Goodbye" and "Long White Cadillac." Cue it up and hit the highway.

--Gregory McNamee



THAT HIT SINGLE dominated the airwaves before, during and after The Cable Guy's theater run, and it's certainly a unique idea to fuse Lou Reed, keyboards that sound like steel drums, turntable scratching, and B. B. King. Profound this one-man band (Chris O'Connor) ain't, though, unless your idea of an epiphany involves asking, "If I die before I learn to speak/ Can money pay for all the days I lived awake but half asleep?" No Jim Morrison here. In fact, there's a real single-minded meanspiritedness to O'Connor. Sensitive male? "She's like a gong, you've got to bang her." Righteous dude? "I got a God-given right to smoke whatever I like." Pop-culture critic? "Pout and cry, fake suicide, then write a book." Delta bluesman? "I was born on the 7th of May on an overcast day." (Guess the "seventh son of the seventh son" shtick was checked out of the children's library the day O'Connor went in.)

The music is equally painful to endure, a hip-hoppy but unexciting marriage of Led Zep, Love And Rockets and Bowie.

--Fred Mills

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