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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

November 5, 1997

Cleaning Out the Attic

Alisha'a AtticAlisha's Attic, Alisha Rules the World (Mercury 1997) - Fictional character Alisha is the creation of singing sisters Shelley and Karen Poole, the London-based duo who front the pop-smeared sextet known as Alisha's Attic. With production work byDave Stewart (formerly of the Eurythmics), Alisha Rules the World is a glorious blend of pop, angst, and alternative.

According to the Poole sisters, "Our early influences were Jimi Hendrix and theDoors. . .People hear our album and think that we're this poppy, friendly band. Then they'll experience us live and be afraid to get near us afterwards. It's a type of therapy playing live. We change songs around a bit. We love the energy we put out."

With that kind of mixed ambiance - blending pop harmonies with sexual undertones and edgy anxiety, producer Dave Stewart was a great choice. Like his work with Annie Lennox, Stewart guides the Poole sisters down a challenging line between lover and demon, princess and bitch.

The album begins with the poppy "Irresistible UR" before moving into an Alanis Morissette-styled alternative, "Intense." Continuing in the alternative vein is "White Room," while "The Golden Rule" shows that Stewart can still lay down a rock number with a backbeat.

Alisha Rules the World is a deliciously tension-filled album that explores the dichotomy in all of us. Take a chance with the Poole sisters.

Tommy CastroTommy Castro, Can't Keep a Good Man Down (Blind Pig Records 1997) - Bay Area blues guitar stalwart Tommy Castro has been heralded as the next blues rock hero. And Can't Keep a Good Man Down will find new fans for this stalwart player.

Since forming in the Bay Area in 1991, the Tommy Castro Band has won a slew of awards. The new album features a new up-tempo, boogie blues sound, with Castro on lead guitar and vocals, Randy McDonald on bass, Chad Harris on drums, Keith Crossan lending his strong sax with Castro's guitar riffs and Jim Pugh on Hammond B3 organ.

While Can't Keep a Good Man Down is uneven at points, the focus is on Castro's guitar playing. With a high energy rock sound that heads into Stevie Ray Vaughan territory, Castro has solid chops. Catch a rising star.

David WilcoxDavid Wilcox, Turning Point (Koch International 1997) - North Carolina's David Wilcox has drawn comparisons to James Taylor. That's reasonable, since both are cut from the same mold of intelligent, sensitive singer/songwriters. (Sorry David. That description maybe the kiss of death.)

Though seemingly unknown, David Wilcox has a strong fan base: his 1989 release, How Did You Find Me Here?, sold more than 100,000 copies. In a testament to the expectations of big record companies, those sales figures weren't adequate to satisfy A & M Records, which dropped Wilcox after three releases.

There ought to be a place for this kind of music in contemporary pop. Wilcox is the genuine article, and songs like "Glory" and "Human Cannonball" (which employs a moody background reminiscent of Joe Henry) deserve to be heard every bit as much asShawn Colvin. (For more information, see David's fine homepage

Brenda KahnBrenda Kahn, Outside the Beauty Salon (Shanachie 1997) - Give Brenda Kahn credit for perseverance: she has survived childhood in suburban New Jersey, harsh Minnesota winters, and the disintegration of a record label after her album was ready for release (this disc surfaced last year on Shanachie as Destination Anywhere).

Now back in New York City, Kahn has again teamed up with the seemingly-tireless Tim Patalan of Sponge. (Patalan also produced the sweet but underappreciated Scribble by Mary Stuart). On Outside the Beauty Salon, Kahn continues to dabble in acoustic folk. Which is too bad. Because her real strength is in two-minute girl punk rockers such as "Lincoln Hotel" (a killer single). If Kahn would stick to the rock sound that is her strength, she might break big.

-- Randy Krbechek

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