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Tribal Tech bassist Gary Willis, who moved to Colorado Springs back in 1993, takes a solo turn on No Sweat, released on the Alchemy label. The style in which Willis prefers to operate is probably closer to jazz fusion than anything else, but what's being fused is more interesting than usual. "Knothead" recalls late-Seventies Miles Davis, "The Everlasting Night" begins with a gorgeous bass solo that brings Jaco Pastorius to mind, and "'Til the Cows Come Home" shifts and shimmers over more than eleven minutes without losing its way. Accompanists Dennis Chambers (drums), Steve Tavaglione (saxophone) and Scott Kinsey (keyboards) make valuable contributions, but it's Willis who really heats up No Sweat (available in area record stores). Four for the Road, by John Baker, consists of--surprise--four songs that share a traveling motif. Baker earnestly strums "Headin' Back to Denver," "Telluride" and the rest, but his gruff, somewhat tuneless delivery and stereotypical themes won't inspire many repeat listens. Adamantly average (available in area record stores).

Rather than allowing you folks out there to call my objectivity into question, I'm going to avoid reviewing the latest demo tape from frequent Westword contributor John Jesitus. Instead, I'll offer you a content analysis. "The Long Ball," "Great Blue," "Hammers + Nails" and "Steel Town" can be classified in the David Wilcox genus; "Jenny Likes Girls" humorously describes a dude's crush on a lesbian; and "Molly With a Gun" blatantly rips off the melody from the Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty in Pink"--but I'm almost certain that Jesitus does it on purpose. Am I right, John? (428-0139.) The self-titled debut by D Mama's Lava will force you to give the treble control on your stereo a counterclockwise twist--meaning that it's pretty damn tinny. But those of you who make it past the squeals and squeaks will discover noisy pop from the Matthew Sweet school. "Bully Rag" mates a treated vocal and the occasional profanity with a catchy hook; "The Courtship of Eddy's Fodder" knits together several agreeably angular riffs; and "TV Themes" percolates nicely. It's familiar stuff, but I've heard far worse (561-2380). Along with a copy of his group's self-titled CD, drummer Mark Trippensee of Longmont's Hearsay sent a letter that read in part, "My band and I fully understand that our kind of melodic rock is not what is usually reviewed or liked a lot by some publications, but we're proud of our work, we have fun at it, and it comes from the heart. Plus, there's no such thing as bad press." With that in mind, let me confirm that much of what Trippensee writes is on the mark. Hearsay cuts like "Tell Me," "Nowhere to Run" and "Guar-antees" are equal parts Bryan Adams and Journey--and that's not a blend that many analysts (including this one) are apt to champion. But the players come by this stuff honestly--and since the people out there who like it never pay attention to critics anyhow, it really doesn't matter much what I say. It's depressing to realize that you're completely powerless, isn't it? (Hearsay, 1130 Francis Street, Box 7004, Longmont 80501.)

A Sick update. The band received some label interest as the result of a 1996 single, "Strength"/"Only," that was cut as part of a production deal with Jerry Dixon (bassist for one of rock's lamest bands, Warrant) and engineer Stephen Neary (his credits include the Judgment Night soundtrack). To capitalize on these feelers, the act will travel to Los Angeles in April to record a full-length CD under the auspices of Dixon and Neary. "We're still writing right now," notes Sick frontman Romero. "We're shooting for ten songs, and we hope they'll be out by June."

Out this week is UnVailed, a snowboard event in Vail to which a couple of notable concerts at the city's Dobson Arena have been tied. On Thursday, March 27, the bill includes Morphine, Rusted Root and Leah Andreone; on Friday, March 28, Dinosaur Jr, the Bloodhound Gang and L7 slide into town. Ticket prices are pretty reasonable ($15 per night, $25 for both), although hotel rates undoubtedly won't be. Call 970-476-7752 for more details.

Closer to home. On Thursday, March 27, W.A.R.? signee 24-7 Spyz, whose new disc is called Heavy Metal Soul by the Pound, sneaks into the Bluebird Theater, and Mrs. Larvae joins Chaos Theory, Gestapo Pussy Ranch and the Hate Fuck Trio at Market 41. On Friday, March 28, Rorshach Test returns to Seven South alongside Spite Boy, and Moot is the living end at Cafe Euphrates. On Saturday, March 29, the AUTONO drives to Cricket on the Hill, and Dick Dale, the king of the surf guitar, battles ho-dads at the Fox Theatre. On Monday, March 31, Denverite-made-good Jill Sobule opens for Duncan Sheik at the Bluebird. And on Wednesday, April 2, Element is surprised at the Mercury, and the Presidents of the United States of America need Redd Kross at the Ogden Theatre. Apparently, their insurance has lapsed.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com

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