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Music Reviews

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July 28, 1993

Sin to be Saved

Dick DaleDick Dale, Tribal Thunder (Hightone 1993) -- Dick Dale, the original King of the Surf Guitar, makes his resounding return after many years of self-imposed exile with this boisterous collection of studio instrumentals.

For the uninitiated, Dick Dale was one of the first surf rockers to emerge from Southern California, predating Brian Wilson & Co. (aka the Beach Boys) by a couple of years. I originally discovered Dick's recordings while studying for the bar exam -- his screaming guitar runs were a needed antidote for the arcane refinements so revered by the Committee of Bar Examiners.

Like Brian Wilson, Dick also had major career clashes with his dad. In the mid '60s, Dick gave it all up and moved to Hawaii, where he started raising tigers and other wild animals. Dick has since retaken residence to California, and has rediscovered the stage (a summer series of live gigs is underway).

With his awesome reverb and stunning arpeggios, Dick is one of the most potent guitar players in rock (and certainly one of its most distinctive). Scott Mathews, Dick's producer on Tribal Thunder, boasts that the "drums were captured with room microphones and no extra outboard gear was used. What you hear is meat, blood, and room ... Digital schmidigital."

Absent an introduction to Dick Dale, your appreciation of rock's roots is not complete. Tribal Thunder is a welcome homecoming, and well worth a listen.

Maria McKeeMaria McKee, You Gotta Sin To Get Saved (Geffen 1993) -- Maria McKee, a little lady with a big voice, also makes a long-delayed return with You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, an eclectic collection of tunes that she hopes will propel her to stardom.

In the early '80s, Maria fronted Lone Justice, a critic's favorite from Los Angeles. When Lone Justice failed to live up to its billing, the band broke up and Maria released a self-titled solo album. When the solo release stalled on the charts, Maria retreated to Ireland, where she has lived and regrouped during the last few years.

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved is a diverse, if sometimes meandering (and overproduced) collection of rock and pop songs highlighting Maria's pipes. This is one of those albums that has to be listened to a few times to be appreciated. After awhile, her vocals grow on you and you can overlook the lack of musical focus. No great shakes, but possibly a portent of the future.

TribeTribe, Sleeper (Slash/Warner 1993) -- Tribe is a five-piece outfit from Boston fronted by vocalist Janet LaValley. Their sound comes from the alternative camp, with links to the later Souxie & the Banshees (albeit less strident) and the Cocteau Twins (albeit less layered). If you jam up on alternative rock with dreamy-type female vocals, Sleeper will light your rockets.

Buy Some Records -- The oldest (and lamest) excuse for not buying new releases is "I'm so out of it. I just don't know what to listen to any more." This is self-defeating crap. Take some initiative. Who's got the buying power -- you or some burger flipper (no offense to the burger flippers of this world). Don't let teenyboppers control our pop culture.

More TribeAdmittedly, the barrage of new releases is almost overwhelming. Part of the problem is radio. Stations don't (or won't) give the guidance they used to give. What happened to album-oriented rock? Did any radio stations play the new U2 release in its entirety?

Part of the problem is point of sales ("POS") information. In the old days, record sales were based on subjective oral (and notoriously inaccurate) reports from record stores. Nowadays, POS data is used to measure record sales.

This explains why country music has suddenly become such a force. Country albums were selling all along, but nobody reported them. With POS reports, it's impossible to ignore the sales. There's confusion in the marketplace, as consumers and record companies are adapting to the suddenly revamped Top 100.

Here's a simple tip (and I have lots of record buying tips). Go to the record store once a week. There's plenty of new releases. Give a listen to what's being played in the store. Look for the featured releases.

It's not that hard. And here's a bitch. CDs cost too much. When record companies eliminated the wasteful longbox (which was one of the dumbest marketing ideas ever), they raised the price of most new releases by $1.00.

Now, the report was that each longbox cost the record company $1.00. So when you couple this savings with the price increase, record companies just increased their profit margin by $2.00 per release. This pisses me off. We're in a recession. Prices should have been lowered, not raised. It's a ripoff.

-- Randy Krbechek

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