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Music Reviews

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February 8, 1995

Bright Red

Bright RedLaurie Anderson, Bright Red (Warner Bros. 1994) -- Multi-media artist Laurie Anderson, now 20 years into her career, has released another quirky, hard-to-define album in Bright Red. Featuring 14 tales that alternate between socio-economic commentary and deadpan satire, Bright Red is one of her more accessible albums.

A graduate of Barnhardt College and Columbia University (MFA), Anderson is a New Yorker who has helped to define the modern concept of multi-media artist. Her work has encompassed records (her last was 1989's Strange Angels), books (including the recent, Stories From the Nerve Bible), films and videos, spoken word tours, and film scores for two movies by actor/writer/critic Spalding Gray (Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box).

Extremely bright and literate, Anderson is an avant-garde artist whose albums are a mix of spoken word parts and musical interludes. In the path later followed by Suzanne Vega, Anderson's discs meld storytelling, wry melodic riffs, and her delicate voice in a swirl that intoxicates when it works best and infuriates when it falls flat.

Fortunately Bright Red is longer on melody than some of Anderson's prior works, making it more accessible. The album is divided into two sections ("Bright Red" and "Tightrope"), which Anderson says are songs "about the same thing: love and destruction. How had this happened? And where did all of these characters come from?"

Anderson adds that "The production of Bright Red began as a series of faxes between Brian Eno and myself. The album wound up co-produced by Eno, and includes several songs that are duets, including work with Arto Lindsay, Lou Reed, and Phil Ballou."

Anderson's best songs mix metaphor and allusion in a fusion that transcends time. For example, the spoken word "Speechless" contains references to a daunting story by naturalist writer Annie Dillard, while the entertaining "Beautiful Pea Green Boat" is based on Edwin Lear's poem, "The Owl and the Pussycat."

My favorite cut, "Poison," includes allusions to Lady MacBeth ("Is there blood on my hands?") in a parable that features the sinewy guitar work of Adrian Belew and Marc Ribot against the tribal drumming of Joey Baron.

Laurie AndersonIn the end, Anderson's the kind of quirky performer who either grabs you or doesn't. Her world view was shaped at an early age. Says Anderson, "The first really strange stories I remember hearing were Bible stories. And these stories were completely amazing. About parting oceans and talking snakes. The people really seemed to believe these stories. And I'm talking about adults. Adults who mainly just did the most mundane things imaginable (mowing their lawns, throwing pot luck parties). They all believed in these wild stories.

"And they would sit around and discuss them in the most matter-of-fact way. So, in a way, I was introduced to a special local form of surrealism at an early age, and so there was always a question in my mind about what is actually true and what is just another art form."

You gotta try it to see if you like it. Test your boundaries.

ArbitronArbitron Radio Ratings -- According to information from Arbitron released at the end of last month, the top ten radio stations in Fresno County for the fall 1994 quarter (from September 22 through December 14, 1994) are as follows:

1. KMJ (AM 580) 14.7%
2. KBOS (FM 94.9) 9.8%
3. KSKS (FM 93.7) 5.8%
4. KRZR (FM 103.7) 5.7%
5. KJWL (FM 99.3) 4.4%
6. KEZL (FM 96.7) 4.2%
7. KNAX (FM 97.9) 3.9%
7. KOQO (FM 101.9) 3.9%
9. KJOI (FM 98.9) 3.5%
10. KJFX (FM 95.7) 3.2%

KMJ (talk & news) continues its reign as the number 1 station in what is now the 64th largest radio market in the U.S., and finally reverses its ratings slide from last spring and summer. Apparently, more people listen to talk radio in the fall, as KMJ's ratings are the strongest they've been since the fall of 1993 (when they scored a 15.2 share).

In the number 2 slot, the numbers at KBOS (CHR -- "contemporary hit radio") dropped slightly (down from 10.4% in the summer), but they just can't topple giant KMJ. KSKS ("the new KISS country") holds at number 3 (though its share dropped sharply, down from 6.9%), and KRZR (AOR -- "album oriented rock") stands strong at number 4.

Coming from nowhere is newcomer KJWL ("oldies but goodies"), which debuts at number 5 with a format featuring easy listening stars of the 40s and 50s. Also making an impressive return is number 6 KEZL (more oldies), which has not been in the top ten since the fall of 1993.

Tied at 7 are KNAX ("today's hot country") and KOQO (Spanish), both showing a disappointing share drop from the summer 1994 book (KOQO dropped from a summer rating of 6.1%, while KNAX's share continues to plummet from its lofty spring 1994 rating of 6.1%).

Rounding out the top ten are KJOI (adult contemporary) and KJFX ("classic rock 'n roll"), both holding tightly to their market share. Dropping from the top ten are KFSO ("oldies"), which had been at number 6, and KTHT (adult contemporary), which had been at number 10.

Required Legend -- These ratings are copyrighted by Arbitron, and are based on the percentage of listening audience ages 12 and over tuned in during any 15-minute period from 6 A.M. to midnight on Monday through Sunday.

Nate Butler -- Nate Butler and his band played a rousing set of Doors' songs last weekend at Club Fred. Featuring Nate on vocals, Craig Von Berg on keyboards, June Beard on drums, Jeff Fetters on guitar, and Rob Darby on bass, the band had a strong, bluesy feel, and got solidly in the groove on extended versions of such classics as "Light My Fire" and "Riders on the Storm."

Nate has begun assembling a crew of traveling all-stars; he has also put together bands to play tributes to the Beatles and Pink Floyd (all with success). Club Fred was packed for the Doors' show; manager Tony Martin (who's doing a great job of keeping live music in Fresno) said the turnout for the previous night's Miss Alans' show was ever stronger.

With Soho also beginning to feature live music, it appears that the local concert scene in Fresno is picking up (partly due to increased fan support). The Doors show was terrific. Get out there and catch a gig!

-- Randy Krbechek

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