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Tippy, from the cranium of Denver's Neil Slade, reminded me of Seventies-vintage Todd Rundgren in its juxtaposition of pure pop melodies, sometimes arch lyrics, challenging structural conceits and substantial ambition. "Shauna," "Couch" and several others are extremely hummable, yet they also ask for (and reward) closer inspection. So does the concluding "Concerto for Saxophone, 1st Mov.," a sprightly journey through several decades of American musical tradition (Neil Slade Brain Music, 2816 East 11th Avenue, Denver 80206). On their poorly recorded demo, the Soul Felons serve up rock the old-fashioned way: "Sunrise" barrels along on the strength of its brass riffs, "Hard Life" musically suggests a less Southern take on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps," and "Fool's Blues (Vagabondage)" is a Stones-friendly two-tempo piece. Listen to them while you're hoisting a few and they'll probably sound okay (The Soul Felons, 2507 South Sherman Street, Denver 80210).

Lynn Patrick has been a part of the local music scene for a long time now, and she remains what she was in the beginning--a fine guitarist. Her demo, Four Guitar Originals, sports a solid quartet of numbers that show off her picking skills. Although not showy enough to thrust itself into the foreground, the offering makes for a gentle soundtrack (Lynn Patrick, c/o Jennifer Woodhull, P.O. Box 19203, Boulder 80308). The Hillbilly Hellcats disc Rev It Up With Taz contains some material that Hellcats aficionados may already own, including the local fave "My Baby Moved." But that's no reason to leave this CD on the shelf. All of its twenty songs go, go, go, thanks to the drumming of Taz Bentley, known for contributing to three albums by Reverend Horton Heat as well as for the two slabs of wax by his own act, Tenderloin. As a result, this invention of longtimer Chuck Hughes rocks harder than ever, endowing you and yours with more fun per mile than should be allowable by law (available in area record stores). Bob Tyler is most often linked with Celeste Krenz, with whom he collaborates personally and professionally, but he's also a singer and songwriter whose attributes should not be dismissed. On Nothing to Be Afraid Of, Tyler roots around in his closet and comes out with a handful of compositions (most penned in 1992) that establish him as an impressive phrasemaker. He turns "Fortune Cookies" into a beauty of a metaphor and wittily updates a classic on "Frankie & Johnny Revisited" ("Fifty years of compromise/That's the way relationships go"). The playing of acoustic bassist Stu Miller adds a persuasive pulse to many of the tunes, and John Magnie makes some contributions as well. But Nothing is Tyler's show, and it's one that he should be proud of (Emergency Records, P.O. Box 101056, Denver 80250).

Anyone who'd like a window into the soul of Westword contributing writer Steve Gray (and who wouldn't?) is hereby directed to the demo tape by his band, Maraca Five-O. Since my objectivity can be called into question in this instance, I'll simply note that these five songs have compelling names (like "Tube City, Pakistan") and spring from the surf-instrumental tradition epitomized by Dick Dale and Link Wray. Oh, and I really liked them (Maraca Five-0, 1540 Grant Street, #28, Denver 80203). You've got to appreciate the skill level of the players in Five52Fern; on their new CD, these guys duplicate the sonic characteristics of so-called modern rock with a precision that's technically unimpeachable. Whether this is a good thing or not, I leave up to others to decide, but suffice it to say that "Labor Pains" and the ten additional selections on parade fit snugly within the confines of the subgenre established by Live and the other 7 billion outfits that sound a heck of a lot like it. It's probably a recipe for success, but I've got my tastebuds set for something else (available in area record stores).

The Christines are the latest popular local act to make plans for leaving the Denver area; according to the band's Mike Kirschmann, "The whole band is moving to San Francisco, probably next spring." The spur for this decision was Kirschmann's wife, who landed an excellent job in the Bay Area--but Kirschmann feels that relocation would have been the right move under any circumstances. "After playing four years in Denver at the same five or six clubs, it gets kind of tiring," he notes. "Plus, San Francisco has a really vibrant music scene. We're excited about diving into it." In the meantime, locals can catch gig one in the Christines' farewell tour on Friday, August 23; they appear with the Girls at the Lion's Lair.

Hitting the highway even sooner is former 40th Day guitarist Neil Satterfield, who's moving to Boston in about a week. Reveals Satterfield, "I'm going back to school, to the Berklee College of Music. They've got a film-scoring program there, and I'm going to get involved with that." Satterfield fans will get a last chance to enjoy his instrumental skills on Sunday, August 25, at Cameron Church, 1600 South Pearl, where he'll perform classical selections on guitar and piano.

A staggering lineup of notables comes to the Fox Theatre for this year's Gavin A3 convention. On Thursday, August 22, the Blue Nile plays its first live show in eight years; the combo is joined by Crash Test Dummies, Suzanne Vega and the Wallflowers. The bill on Saturday, August 24, is even more impressive: Patti Smith makes her first area appearance in ages in the company of Paul Westerberg, Keb' Mo' and Patti Rothberg. Unfortunately, Friday, August 23, is a date open only to conventioneers and contest winners, who will get to see John Mellencamp's first post-heart-attack performance.

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