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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

November 26, 1997

How Bizarre

OMCOMC, How Bizarre (Mercury 1996) - Rude boys rule. That's the best explanation for the success of How Bizarre, the brainchild of singer Pauly Fuemanaand producer Alan Jannson. Half rap, half singing, half playful, half threatening, How Bizarre is a unique release that has enjoyed worldwide success (the single has topped the charts from Australia to Sweden to Canada).

Equally surprised is Fuemana, a native New Zealander whose mother is a member of the Maori clan. Pauly was raised in a rough suburb of South Auckland, and caused his share of trouble as a young man. Now age 28, his heavy tattoos and slightly menacing appearance betray his prior gang affiliations.

Yet Pauly earnestly seeks to put his past behind him. "Everybody wants to rebel," Fuemana explains, talking of his early gangland days "and I rebelled the most. But what I became more, was an enemy to myself." In fact, Pauly broke up an early version of OMC because "All of these gang members starting showing up. In Auckland, there's a serious Bloods and Crips situation. I just decided to try and steer away from that and go in another direction where I could grow and get more into the music."

Despite the huge success of How Bizarre, Fuemana remains torn by internal demons, "My life was meant to fail," he says. "It wasn't mean to be like this. So from now on out, I have go to be true to myself. I have got to serve the art, not have the art serve me."

Though Pauly may believe that he was born under a bad sign (as he says in one song, "If you do the crime, you must handle the time"), How Bizarre is an instant classic, ranging from the stylish Spanish stroll of "How Bizarre" to the gorgeously-produced, "Land of Plenty" (with ethereal backing vocals by Taisha and Christine Fuemana) to "Right On," which is backed by a country-style slide guitar and swinging horn section.

How Bizarre is everything a rock record should be - brash, bold, and self-contained. A milestone release (and infinitely more listenable than anything from the much-hyped Beck), How Bizarre will go down as one of the best releases of the 90's.

Linda EderLinda Eder, It's Time (Atlantic 1997) - Linda Eder, who stars in the Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde, has released a new album of American standards. With her solid voice, Eder moves in the shadows of Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra.

Eder is the only performer I know who hails from Brainerd, Minnesota, a snowy town located in the north country. Eder remembers beginning her career at the Brainerd Holiday Inn, before graduating to success on TV's Star Search.

Linda Eder has big plans, and the 16 songs on It's Time show her as a crooner with a future.

CroceVarious Artists, Jim Croce: A Nashville Tribute (River North Records 1997) - Though he's been gone nearly 25 years, Jim Croce stands large in the realm of singer/songwriters. Nashville Tribute features some of Croce's best songs by country favorites, including "Box #10" by Charlie Daniels, "Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)" byMark Collie, and "Operator" by Rodney Crowell. Also included are "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Kim Carnes, and a sweet version of "I'll Have Say I Love You in a Song" by songstress Lane Brody (maybe the best song on the album).

Jim Croce had a string of hits on AM radio before his tragic death in 1973 in an air wreck. His widow, Ingrid, still owns a nightclub in San Diego, and his son, A. J. Croce, has released two albums, including last year's terrific, That's Me In The Bar (with help from such skilled studio session hands as Jim Keltner).

Unfortunately, Croce's songs don't translate easily to country standards: hearing them will only make you ache for the honest delivery of Croce (who, along with Harry Chapin, carried on the storytelling torch passed by Marty Robins). A worthy effort, Jim Croce: Nashville Tribute falls short of the mark.

CornershopCornershop, When I Was Born for the 7th Time (Warner Bros./Luaka Bop 1997) - If an album's released on Luaka Bop (a label headed by David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads), you can expect a multi-cultural experience. When I Was Borndips into the Eastern canon, as this London quintet has strong Indian influences.

Swirled in the British cultural melting pot, Cornershop has a little something for everyone. Explains singer, songwriter and producer Tjinder Singh, the new album ranges "from country to brunch with hip-hop, cricket on the lawn with Punjabi folk music, and a square-dance before dinner with the most righteous of beats."

Well, that's about right. The 15 tracks on When I Was Born cover a broad range of styles, from "Sleep on the Left Side" (with hip-hop undertones that are reminiscent ofP.M. Dawn), to the pop-based "Brimful of Asah," to the album's strongest track, "Good to be On the Road Back Home" (a folk-style duet with Paula Frazer of San Francisco'sTarnation).

The album ends (appropriately enough) with a cover of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," complete with authentic Indian sitar. For a stylish trip around the world, take a ride with When I Was Born for the 7th Time.

-- Randy Krbechek

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