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December 22, 1993

Live Al Stewart

CeremonyCeremony, Hang Out Your Poetry (Geffen 1993) -- Hang Out Your Poetry is the debut release from Ceremony, a six-piece band fronted by singer/songwriters Chastity Bono and Chance. Hang Out Your Poetry bears heavy tribute to 60s rock (including the indelible imprint of the Beatles circa Magical Mystery Tour), while also mixing in elements of Los Angeles female power pop (ala The Bangles). The album is true to its roots, and doesn't pretend to be more than it is.

Of course, Chastity comes from a storied background, as her parents were Sonny and Cher (Chastity says that she grew up with her mother in southern California after her folks separated). She and Chance were roommates at New York University, and they decided to form a band after graduation. Although the intense East Coast media pressure early in their career nearly caused them to split up, the band toughed it out and recorded this disc last year in Los Angeles.

As reported by Chance, there are no synthesizers or digital effects anywhere on the album. Chance says, "We turned our back on technology. Everything you hear was played by humans. It's reminiscent of the 60s, but more a tip of the hat than emulating it. We took the music we love and rejuvenated it, made it 90s."

Featuring a string section and complicated arrangements, Hang Out Your Poetry occasionally leans toward the overproduced side (but not nearly to the absurd reaches of Wilson Phillips). However, Chastity and Chance are talented ladies, and their skills rise above the temporary excesses on this confection-laden collection. Fans of this kind of pop -- soaring harmonies, backed by a strong production effort -- will be pleased to find Hang Out Your Poetry.

MilkmenThe Dead Milkmen, Not Richard, But Dick (Hollywood Records 1993) -- Not Richard, But Dick is the seventh album from Philadelphia-based The Dead Milkmen. While the disc is on the short side (clocking in at only 28 minutes), the band's humorous alternative/punk roots come through undisguised.

Let's not pull any punches here. The Dead Milkmen are not interested in making high art. They just want to have a good time and sell a few albums along the way. As the band acknowledges, they reached a high-water mark in 1988 when they had a video featured on MTV and received substantial air play on college radio.

MilkmenBy last year, the fortunes of the four band members, Arr. Trad. (aka Rodney Anonymous) on vocals and keyboards, Butterfly Fairweather (aka Joe Jack Talcum) on vocals and guitars, 11070 (aka Dave Blood) on bass, and Dean Clean on drums were facing the other side of the hill. So the band assembled in their basement studio to begin writing and rehearsing new songs.

Hollywood Records (which is showing new signs of life) picked them up, and the result is Not Richard, But Dick. Featuring songs like "I Dream of Jesus," "Let's Get the Baby High" and "I Started to Hate You," the band finds itself in waters previously charted by the late, great Frank Zappa. If you're looking for a fun party band, ring up The Dead Milkmen.

Supreme Love GodsRecent Concerts -- Gail and I had the pleasure to see two fine live shows recently in Fresno. First, Fresno's own Supreme Love Gods played a jumpin' year-end farewell gig at Club Fred. The band, whose debut album on American Records contained the college alternative hit "Fire," is now preparing to return to Los Angeles to begin recording their sophomore album. The one-off set was tight, as the band showed the effect of many nights on the road; however, a certain unease/tension was in the air. Is the band still on speaking terms?

The Love Gods have a distinctive sound, and should avoid undue influences from third parties trying to make them into something they are not. In addition, the Love Gods should be careful around American Records owner (and multi-millionaire) Rick Rubin; Rick is evidently determined to push the First Amendment to its furthest limits, and the Love Gods don't want to get caught in the Tipper Gore-led backlash that is sure to result.

Two nights later, Al Stewart played a revved-up set at the Wild Blue. This was Al's second appearance in Fresno, and the welcome mat is always out for this gracious and erudite crowd pleaser. Al's new album, Famous Last Words, is now available on Mesa Records: for jazz/rock buffs, Mesa has also released a swell new instrumental set from Andy Summers and John Ethridge entitled Invisible Threads.

Al StewartAl was in good spirits and fine voice as he played several songs from Famous Last Words, including "Genie on a Tabletop" and the historically-inspired "Charlotte Corday," which Al prefaced with a fascinating tale of the French revolution.

Also appearing with Al was ace jazz guitarist Peter White. For this show, Peter played an electric six-string; the result on old favorites like "Year of the Cat" (also featuring Dave Camp on sax), "End of the Day" (a sweet, lilting number), and "Almost Lucy" was terrific country-oriented rock.

Al and Peter have assembled a great band, and they had the crowd on its feet by the end of the show. They should cut a rock album, and break loose from Al's recent quasi-acoustic tendencies -- the result might be a big-seller.

-- Randy Krbechek

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