Chet Baker

Also: The Rough Guide to Boogaloo, Do the Bambi, Stereo Total, Mike Jones, Mariah Carey, and Goldie Lookin' Chain.

CHET BAKER

Career 1952–1988

(Shout! Factory)

In the stellar biographical essay found in this two-disc set's accompanying booklet, writer Ernest Hardy notes that Chet Baker's "emotionless singing style" allowed the jazz man to reach pop-star status—its blank slate was perfect for the projection of any listener's private fantasies. It's an observant point also evident in disc one's devotion to Baker's equally supple trumpeting, from the devastatingly charismatic melancholy of his first "My Funny Valentine" in 1952 through the tender yearning of a 1962 "Over the Rainbow" to an ironic request to "Look for the Silver Lining" just weeks before his death in 1988 (as on a few other tracks, the cool is cheesed out here by unnecessarily large backup; less is always more with Baker). On disc two, we're given ample proof of just how seductively open to suggestion that flat Oklahoman plain of his voice seemed. In early cuts, he sounds like some carnal teen angel crawling over the mussed sheets of a lazy Sunday morning, emanating both divine innocence and furtive experience: When he bemoans that "Everything Happens to Me," he's a pup who needs comfort and he's so languorously sexy on "The Thrill Is Gone" that you'd beg him to "pretend and let love linger on." Later, on his final "My Funny Valentine," the tone of sunken resignation has you swearing all horny hopes had disappeared right along with his teeth. Hardy says the icon "left even those who knew him . . . with more questions than answers as to who the real Chet Baker was." This fine retrospective does nice work giving us at least a glimpse into the whole of a mystery man. STEVE WIECKING

VARIOUS ARTISTS

The Rough Guide to Boogaloo

(World Music Network)

Boogaloo was born in the cultural crucible of New York in the mid-'60s, a mishmash of other Afro-Latin dances. Some say boogaloo came from Cuban guajira, others claim Puerto Rican guaracha; most agree that what made it different was the influence of American R&B. Any which way, boogaloo was custom-made for the parquet with its infectiously rhythmic melodies and catchy hooks. The dance was a short-lived but intense craze—between the mid- and late '60s, its popularity compelled almost every major (and minor) Latin artist to record boogaloos on their albums. As an introduction, The Rough Guide boasts Sue Steward's informative liner notes and 18 tracks attempting to cover the dance's diversity. These include standard-bearers like Pete Rodriguez's rambunctious "Do the Boogaloo," Joe Cuba Sextet's throaty anthem "Oh Yeah," and Ray Barretto's slinky "A Deeper Shade of Soul." The album also features novelty songs like Bobby Valentin's hokey "Batman's Boogaloo" as well as the Fania All-Stars' smoky 1974 recording of Gerald Wilson's "Viva Tirado"—not a true boogaloo but clearly influenced by its rhythmic signature. Like most anthologies trying to tackle an entire genre, there are notable exclusions on The Rough Guide. Such huge boogaloo artists as Ricardo "Richie" Ray, El Gran Combo, Johnny Colon, and Joe Bataan don't even merit a mention in the notes, let alone on the CD. Nonetheless, The Rough Guide is an important first step for a genre once derided as mere gimmick and finally now being accorded the accolades it deserves as a unique dance product of America's musical miscegenation. OLIVER WANG

STEREO TOTAL

Do the Bambi

(Kill Rock Stars)

Stereo Total are two decadent Old Europeans. They're a bitch, they're a geisha, they're a little girl, and we make love together. The notes to their fifth floating pop-pissoir pellet complain that "Life isn't a romantic novel, it's a disgusting movie," but the best songs are abundant with film references. "Babystrich" was "written to illustrate the play Christiane F." and uses the word "Deutschmark" for period flavor; "Orange Mecanique" does a surfabilly-Tomita on Wendy Carlos; "Ne M'Appelle Pas Ta Biche" alludes to Barb Wire; and "Cinemania" is a canon recitation splicing together Wild Planet–era B-52s and Shout-era Devo. Two tracks are about Weekend, a 1968 movie showing Europeans acting like Americans think they do on a daily basis, cracking eggs on each others' asses and gratuitously killing stuff. (Think there might be some projection going on there?) (I used "projection" and "splicing"—this cinema thing is infectious!) One of those, "Vive le Weekend," is like if Blur covered Shampoo's "Viva le Megababes." The other is "Tas de Tole," the lyrics of which ("Salaud, Merdeux, communiste!/Petit voyeu, tu veux une claque?/ Ta tire, ton tape-cul/Espece de cocu/Je t'emmerde") loosely mean "Shit-sucking communist shitstain/Dot com dot cum/I shit on your car, you shit-eating shitfucker." They like Godard so much there's even ooohs, like in "Sympathy for the Devil." You'll probably absentmindedly sing the chorus after hearing this—it's even catchier than the film-reference craze or lyme disease, which you can get from following the title's advice and fucking deer. Though if you did that, you'd probably get kicked in the balls. DAVE QUEEN

MIKE JONES

Who Is Mike Jones?

(Swisha House/Asylum)

Houston rap has ascended to next-big-thing status this year in part because Houston rappers have amazing voices. Guys like Bun B and Slim Thug have commanding miles-deep rumbling prehistoric drawls, the type that seem to have existed since the planet's birth. Mike Jones does not have one of these voices. Jones' pinched, high-pitched wheeze sounds like nothing so much as a 10-year-old impersonating Donald Duck. Jones is no great lyricist, either. His favorite subjects are cars and jewelry: "I'm in it to win it/Drop the top, 24 spinnin'/I got diamonds in my grill; you can tell when I'm grinnin'," he says on "Turning Lane." He sounds lost on those rare moments when he clumsily, halfheartedly takes on social commentary. But Jones gets by on pure disarming babyish charisma, yelling his name every 20 seconds, constantly recycling his favorite catchphrases, and touchingly eulogizing his dead grandmother. Even better, Who Is Mike Jones? succeeds by sticking to the gloopy, slow-motion organ-funk that no one makes outside Texas. Like Juvenile's 1998 album, 400 Degreez, Who Is Mike Jones? introduces a national audience to a distinctly regional Southern aesthetic by serving it up undiluted: no out-of-town guest rappers, no superstar producers. Jones' producers pull hooks from unlikely sources—a mournful violin sample on "Still Tippin'," a chopped-up yodel on "Cuttin'"—and weave them into thick, airy, magnetic tracks. And on the bonus remix disc, DJ Michael Watts slows these tracks down even further, turning them into a stunningly murky kaleidoscopic funk that hits like a drug. TOM BREIHAN

MARIAH CAREY

The Emancipation of Mimi

(Island)

Much of Emancipation—which, for those unfamiliar with the word, is handily defined over a photo in the booklet of Mariah posed as a gauzy butterfly—is a lot like the tongue-tripping rap-hopping that characterizes lead single "It's Like That," which packages the massive breadth of Carey's voice into a piercing little stone that she and her co- producers send skipping off over funky grooves. The wails and whistles that made her name are often squashed and multitracked or used as foundation for the many guest artists to shuffle across, which isn't entirely a negative—when the familiar screeching pops up again (and, sure, it does), an emancipated Mariah doesn't sound like such a bad idea after all. Whenever she finds the middle ground between her old histrionics and her new attitude, the album has a smooth, seductive old-school shimmer and is a lot more fun than her many detractors will want to admit. There are effective ex-lover laments like "Mine Again" set against the undeniable hooks of hot summer day come-ons: the I'm- gonna-put-those-naughty-thoughts-into-your-mind promise of "Your Girl"; "Get Your Number," where Jermaine Dupri is informed that Mimi's "gotta pip penthouse with a sick hot tub"; "To the Floor," with Nelly angling for a piece of her; and, best of all, "Say Somethin'," in which Carey breezily instructs Snoop Dog, "If it's worth your while/Say something good to me." Well, here's something good, Mariah: This is worth our while. STEVE WIECKING

GOLDIE LOOKIN' CHAIN

Straight Outta Newport

(Record Collection)

"Guns don't kill people, rappers do," ran this Welsh crew's U.K. breakthrough hit. Those blameless guns still shot Goldie Lookin' Chain in the foot—that track sold them as a sneery joke at hip-hop's expense, when for most of Straight Outta Newport they're just a bunch of overgrown lads rapping for fun. "Guns Don't" typifies the sound: brazen, bargain pop-hop beats, a cheeky steal from KRS-One, and the unschooled, thickly accented MCing that gives the band novelty value. Dicking about with mikes and home studios is an international language, but Goldie Lookin' lyrics are a compost of addled local references, backed up by bottom-drawer gags about cheap porn and cheaper pot. "Roller Disco" samples early-'80s funkers D-Train, retells childhood tales, and borders on pretty, but "Your Mother's Got a Penis" catches the mood best—a picture of Eric Clapton with a mustache and tits drawn on in black marker. There's a simple joy even in their worst rhyming, but gusto can only take a band so far. This is a sloppy, grubby album—on "Self Suicide," two different MCs reel off the same creaky Michael Hutchence cracks, weak repetition that sums up a slapdash approach. Tracks about the A-Team and early-'80s roller discos date the band and puncture their alibi: They're simply too old to be this shambolic and get away with it. TOM EWING

 
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