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Randy Krbechek's Metronews
Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

May 11, 1994

Intelligent Pop

Ssam PhillipsSam Phillips, Martinis & Bikinis (Virgin 1994) -- Martinis & Bikinis, the third disc from singer Sam Phillips, is her best outing yet. Filled with catchy beats, hypnotic instrumentals, and biting, incisive lyrics, Martinis & Bikinis is intelligent pop at its best. Sam has a gig scheduled for June 7th at a venue to be announced; be sure to catch this talented and engaging lady when she appears in Fresno.

The 13 tracks on Martinis & Bikinis were produced by Phillips' husband, T-Bone Burnett. The production is challenging and engaging; the cuts are clean and sparkling, yet ever different. Thus, a string section appears on "Baby I Can't Please You": heavily reverbed guitars are featured on "Circle of Fire": and a variety of percussion instruments are liberally sprinkled throughout the album.

Front and center on each cut are Phillips' singular voice and remarkable lyrics. Perhaps the best track is "Strawberry Road," a song about the place where "our hearts break into love." Discussing this song, Phillips says "The Iroquois Indians have a story that the road to heaven is paved with strawberries, which is such a pretty image. In addition to that, the song is about longing. The longing in my soul is what propels me through life, it keeps me going."

Phillips' focus on society and interpersonal relationships is the result of her continuing growth as an artist and a person. In the 80s she recorded several albums for the fundamentalist Christian label Myrrh, and became a big star on the Christian circuit under her given name, Leslie Phillips. By the end of the decade, she began to question the expectations of her audience: "The audience was demanding propaganda and that wasn't what I wanted to do. People would say you are a heretic if you asked questions and didn't give them the fundamentalist party line."

This personal exploration and refusal to accept dogma soon propelled her into a career as a self-defined pop artist. Phillips' sense of questioning and interest in things spiritual is present on Martinis & Bikinis, yet never overpowering. With songs like "When I Fall" and "Wheel of the Broken Voice," Phillips examines life, love, and the world around her. There are no easy answers to these issues, but Phillips recognizes that there can be no answers without the investigation.

In the end, Martinis & Bikinis may owe its deepest debt to John Lennon vintage 1972. The album concludes with a John Lennon song ("Gimme Some Truth"), and other Beatles allusions are prominent. Phillips' music is smart, challenging pop that is demanding of both herself and her audience. The lady deserves a big audience -- let's give it to her.

ArbitronArbitron Radio Ratings -- According to newly-released information from Arbitron, the top ten radio stations in Fresno County for the winter 1994 quarter (from January 6, 1994 through March 30, 1994) are as follows:

1. KMJ (AM 580) 13.1%
2. KBOS (FM 94.9) 10.0%
3. KRZR (FM 103.7) 4.3%
4. KSKS (FM 93.7) 6.6%
5. KNAX (FM 97.9) 5.5%
6. KFSO (FM 92.9) 4.6%
7. KJFX (FM 95.7) 4.3%
8. KTHT (FM 102.7) 3.5%
9. KJOI (FM 98.9) 3.1%
10. KSLK (FM 105.1) 3.0%

Although KMJ (talk & news) and KBOS (CHR -- "contemporary hit radio") continue to hold the number one and number two spots, their shares dropped sharply (KMJ dropped from 15.2 to 13.1; KBOS dropped from 10.6 to 10.0). Also plummeting was KTHT (adult contemporary), which went from a 5.1 share to a 3.5 share.

On the other hand, the big winners are KRZR (AOR -- "album oriented rock"), which jumped from 6th to 3rd, and KFSO (oldies), which jumped from 9th to 6th.

Making new appearances are KJOI (adult contemporary) and KSLK (easy listening), which displaced KEZL (oldies) and KFRE (traditional country) from the top ten. Finally, KKDJ (AAA -- "adult alternative album") continues to lag outside the top ten, as it registered only a 2.6 share.

Speaking of radio, here's three big cheers to John Quinlan and Tom Barkett, who handle the play-by-play for the Fresno State University baseball broadcasts on KMJ. John and Tom have brought a new level of professionalism to live local coverage of the Diamond 'Dogs, and we look forward to their long association with KMJ and FSU baseball.

The last homestand for the Bulldog Nine is this weekend (May 13-15); if you can't make it to the ballpark, be sure to tune into 580 AM for every exciting inning.

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.

-- Randy Krbechek

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