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Traveling Wilburys–Volume One

TRAVELING WILBURYS VOLUME ONE Traveling Wilburys Wilbury Records 25796-1 There was a time when the rock ‘n’ roll super session seemed almost meaningful. Clapton and Winwood–together! Beck and Stewart and Truth! Crosby and Stills and Nash and Young! It was thought that opposites–John and Paul-style–could somehow attract, calm each other’s excesses, and produce good music. […]

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Ho and Hum: Is success spoiling U2?

To every garage band, basement jammer, and Stratocaster-copy basher in America, U2 must be the Dream personified. With scant, almost minimal musical resources, vocalist “Bono,” bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen, and guitarist “The Edge” have carved out a solid and distinct artistic identity, a huge international audience, and a critical reputation as the band […]

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Keith Richards–Talk Is Cheap

TALK IS CHEAP Keith Richards Virgin Records America 790973-2 There is no freedom without constraint, no innocence without guilt; paradise exists only as paradise lost. If we lived in paradise, there would be no need to define these things: in paradise, freedom and innocence are the status quo. In music, syncopation–the lifeblood of rock ‘n’ […]

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Midnight Oil: rock around the apocalypse

Australian popular art–or at least the Australian popular art that becomes popular in the Western world these days–relies heavily on images of the apocalypse. This appears to come naturally to many Australian rock bands and movie directors, but it also tends to be what we expect them to deliver us. The most popular Australian band […]

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The well-trained pianist

From the early days in the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, blues and jazz have always provided both entertainment and an opportunity for personal expression. A kind of ecstatic longing that informs both the most joyful and the most mournful blues–as it did the spirituals that were the blues’ immediate precursor–brings the two poles together. […]

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Let’s Active

On his third full-length record, Every Dog Has Its Day, prodigy producer and ultrapop songster Mitch Easter continues his search for the perfect hook. There’s a drama to his efforts and a poiignancy as well: it’s a noble task but a hopeless one too, and sooner or later one realizes that that’s not really what […]

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More Songs About Politics and Sex

Halfway through his show at the Riviera, Billy Bragg, as is his wont, digressed into a short monologue before his new song “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards.” This song is the standout track on Bragg’s new record, Workers Playtime; it’s a luminous, transcontinental fantasy that begins in Cuba, rockets out to a nuclear test […]

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Chicago Sinfonietta

CHICAGO SINFONIETTA at Orchestra Hall September 27, 1988 The Chicago Sinfonietta, which prides itself on being an affirmative action organization, is the latest in a long line of midsize orchestras that have sought recognition despite the lengthy shadow of the Chicago Symphony. It faces formidable odds. As far as I can recollect, no other professional […]

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Serkin and Solti

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Orchestra Hall September 28 and October 1 The word “legendary” is thrown around so often in the arts that one hesitates to use it even when it seems deserved. Yet two of the figures who opened the Chicago Symphony’s 98th season in a special nonsubscription fund-raiser on September 28 are legendary. […]

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New Works by Local Composers

CHICAGO PRO MUSICA Ramsey Auditorium, Batavia It is always a rare and welcome occasion when works by area composers are heard locally. But it is a rarer and even more welcome occasion when such works are given a first-rate performance–as when the Chicago Pro Musica, the Grammy Award-winning chamber ensemble made up of virtuoso musicians […]

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Billy Branch’s blues: a foot in the past, an eye on the future

It’s getting to be more difficult for blues musicians to carry on a legacy and remain contemporary. Master-apprentice relationships and clear lines of musical descent connected earlier southern traditions with the blues of the mid-50s Chicago heyday, and reflected a time when musical changes occurred slowly, over years and generations. An artist like Muddy Waters, […]

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The Bach Way

THE CITY MUSICK at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall September 18 One of the main problems that has plagued the City Music, Chicago’s 18th-century period-instrument orchestra, has been finding a hall where the subtleties of the group can be clearly heard. But solving that problem, at least for the new Evanston series at the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, […]

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James Cotton–Recorded Live at Antone’s Night Club

JAMES COTTON RECORDED LIVE AT ANTONE’S NIGHT CLUB Antone’s Records and Tapes ANT0007 Harmonica player James Cotton has a reputation as an exhilarating live performer whose high-energy, boogie-laden blues has never been accurately captured on record. During the mid-70s, he carried what was arguably the tightest working blues band of its day–featuring Matt “Guitar” Murphy […]