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Music Reviews

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January 29, 1997
101 Dalmatians CD-ROM
Here's a children's review by my sweetheart, Gail:

101 dalmations Interactive CD, 101 Dalmatians (Disney 1996) -- Dalmatians!!!! They're here on Disney's CD-Rom game for children. Yes, all 101 of the dogs appear on this interactive animated storybook CD-Rom. These Dalmatians spotlight reading and vocabulary-building skills.

The Dalmatians entertain children with sing-alongs. The dogs also help children build their vocabulary with a fun talking thesaurus and dictionary that defines words with poetry: there is also an option to have the story read aloud to help the little ones increase their word pronunciation. In addition, four exciting and doggone fun games are included for hours of play.

The interactive games have progressively difficult learning levels. If you have any little detectives in the house, they are sure to be amused with FIND THE PUPPIES and BREAK THE SECRET CODE games. I often hear, "I did it!" and "I found the puppies."

The Dalmatians have captured my childrens' attention for many, many hours. They enjoy, of course, the DOGS and Cruella De Vil (Don't you just love that hair!). They like the element of surprise in the animations and the feeling of success they achieve by winning the games.

As an added feature, Disney Interactive is 100% committed to satisfaction and provides a toll-free assistance line to all its customers.

101 Dalmatians helps children ages 4 to 8 learn to read at the touch of a finger. This is the kind of Dalmatian that would be welcome in any home with youngsters. So go shopping for Pongo, Perdy and their adorable pups at your local computer store. Let your children travel through 15 story screens to encourage exploration and discovery.

  Better Than Ezra-Friction, Baby Better Than Ezra, Friction, Baby (Elektra 1996) - The second full disc from Better Than Ezra (and first regular studio album) finds the hard-rocking trio ready for action. Recorded at New Orleans' Kingsway Studios, Friction, Baby builds on the group's first album (Deluxe) to create (in the band's words) "a big overblown, self-gratuitous album. And a whole lot more."

Founded nearly ten years ago by singer and guitarist Kevin Griffin, Better Than Ezra (the name comes from a line in Hemingway's "Movable Feast"), has endured several line-up changes before reaching its current incarnation, which includes Travis McNabb on drums and Tom Drummond on bass. Better Than Ezra also has strong New Orleans roots, as its members have either attended and/or graduated from LSU.

Deluxe was originally released as an indy project, but was subsequently re-issued on Elektra, where it sold more than 500,000 copies. Yet singer Kevin Griffin notes that, "Success has its downside. People who don't know history think we're just another pop hit band. But nothing could be further from the truth."

Because the band forged its solid, unpretentious sound during countless nights on the road. That steadiness is reflected on such numbers as "Still Life With Cooley" and "Return of the Post-Moderns." Better Than Ezra proves that the venerable three-piece band has life (as did Semisonic on last year's, Great Divide), and, Friction, Baby is ready to kick some butt.
  Squeeze Squeeze, Picadilly Collection (A & M Records 1996) - 80s popmeisters Squeeze are the subject of another reissue in Picadilly Collection. Featuring 18 songs, including five never-before-available on CD, the biggest draw of the album is its digital remastering.

Built around the great songwriting of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze was a terrific pop band. And all the classics, like "Tempted," "Black Coffee in Bed," and "Pulling Mussels from the Shell," are featured. The album also includes newer material, like "Loving You Tonight" and "Some Fantastic Place."

Inexplicably, the album doesn't include the band's recent collaboration with Aimee Mann, "All Over Now." And I'm not convinced that the remastering job is completely faithful to the original masters. For my money, Singles - 7" and Under remains the essential Squeeze collection. But Picadilly Collection is a good introduction.

  Vassar Clements
Vassar Clements, Vassar's Jazz: Golden Anniversary (Winter Harvest 1996) - You may not have heard of him, but you have certainly heard from him. The 11 songs on Vassar's Jazz show fiddle player Vassar Clements at work, with a well-honed ensemble behind him.

During his 50-year recording career, the maestro has appeared on more than 2,000 albums, including 27 discs released in his own name. A consummate studio professional, Vassar has worked with artists ranging from Bob Wills to Leon Russell to Paul McCartney.

Vassar's willingness to be part of the band (not the star) is evident on Vassar's Jazz, as he fronts an able four-piece combo (piano, bass, drums, and guitar). More jazz-oriented than the recordings by contemporary fiddle wizard Mark O'Connor, Vassar still has a little country in him, as displayed on such cuts as "Mixed Melody." Fiddle-playing fans will flock to this release.

-- Randy Krbechek
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