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Local artists captured for posterity.
Hot on the heels of Between the Lines: The Complete Studio Recordings, a gorgeous reissue of late-Eighties/early-Nineties sessions issued in 1998, Fred Hess and the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble are back with Ninth Street Park, a new collection that finds the act's members with their chops very much in order. "Loose Leaves," an interpolation of the chestnut "Autumn Leaves," is a sterling showcase for trumpeter Ron Miles; "Pretty Little Gypsy/Chuggin'" features a gorgeous arrangement that spotlights woodwind players Hess, Mark Harris and Glenn Nitta; and "Planet T" is an exuberant dollop of Art Ensemble of Chicago squeaking and bleeping that hangs together because of the impressive rhythm section of drummer Tim Sullivan and bassist Kent McLagen. During a period when all too many jazz artists stick to safe commercial paths, the Ensemble deserves credit for refusing to let tradition become a creative straitjacket. First-rate (Tapestry, P.O. Box 2163, Evergreen, CO 80437).

The Face in the Mirror finds Colorado Springs guitarist Terry Spence using his acoustic guitar to create inoffensive soundscapes for the easy-listening crowd. "The God of Light" and "A Wind of Change" display the influence of Native American music, but "A Day in the Life," "Gone but Not Forgotten" and "A Song for Sue" are pretty, if rather superficial, examples of quasi-new-age background music. The CD is probably playing in a bookstore somewhere at this very moment (terry.j.spence@LMCO.COM). ON IN THE MILE HIGH CITY, WESTWORD PROFILE SUBJECT SISTA D ("SISTA DOES IT FOR HERSELF," FEBRUARY 25) IS HOBBLED TO SOME DEGREE BY LOW-BUDGET PRODUCTION; IF A LOT OF THE BACKING TRACKS SOUND LIKE A HOMAGE TO "PLANET ROCK," IT'S BECAUSE THE ELECTRO-BEATS ON THEM HARK BACK TO HIP-HOP OF THE EARLY EIGHTIES. BUT SHE'S A STRONG VOCAL PRESENCE, AND SO IS GUEST RAPPER VIGILANTE, WHO GIVES A BOOST TO "COLORS," "EVERYDAY" AND "MONEY." SOME OF THE MATERIAL IS REALLY LAME (ESPECIALLY THE EMBARRASSING "I GOT THA KILLA"), BUT THERE'S ENOUGH PROMISE ON "HIT AND RUN" AND A COUPLE OF OTHER EFFORTS TO MAKE PARTS OF MILE HIGH CITY WORTH A VISIT (AVAILABLE IN AREA MUSIC STORES).

CZ IS THE STAGE MONIKER OF COUNTRY SONGSTRESS CAROL ZIEGLER, WHOSE DISC SHOULD'VE BEEN YOU GENERALLY STICKS TO THE WEEPIER SIDE OF THE GENRE. "LOVE LIVES ON" IS STUNNINGLY LACHRYMOSE, AND THE TITLE TRACK REMINDED ME UNCOMFORTABLY OF CHARLENE'S "I'VE NEVER BEEN TO ME," THE ALL-TIME NADIR OF HOUSEWIFE SHLOCK. SOME OF THE ARRANGEMENTS ARE DECENT, AND I ENJOYED GORDON BURT'S VIOLIN PLAYING, BUT THE MATERIAL IS EXTREMELY TEPID, AND ZIEGLER OWNS THE KIND OF GENTLE, MATERNAL VOICE THAT WILL MAKE MANY LISTENERS WANT TO RACE UP TO THEIR ROOMS AND CRANK SOME MONSTER MAGNET. THIS ONE INCLUDED (FOREVER ENTERTAINMENT, P.O. BOX 472318, AURORA, CO 80047-2318). SKULL FLUX'S LATEST EFFORT, ...A FEW DIFFERENT THINGS, ADVERTISES ITSELF AS A "DEMO VERSION, WITH BUDGET 8-TRACK MIXES!!" IN TRUTH, THE SOUND QUALITY IS ABOVE AVERAGE (ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING SOME OF THE EARDRUM-PUNISHING STUFF THAT CROSSES THIS DESK), ALLOWING LISTENERS TO HEAR A GOOD REPRESENTATION OF THE ACT'S WEIGHTY GUITARISTICS. "THREEPEAT," THE OPENING TRACK, USES SOFT-LOUD DYNAMICS A LITTLE TOO PREDICTABLY, BUT ON "MAN, WOMAN, GOD, DEVIL," THE VARIOUS INSTRUMENTS INTERTWINE AND INTERLOCK IN STIMULATING WAYS. THE TUNES HAVE A HIGHFALUTIN AURA THAT MAY PUT OFF METAL FANATICS WHO JUST WANT TO BANG THEIR HEADS TO A BLOODY PULP, BUT CEREBRAL TYPES INTO HEAVY MUSIC ARE APT TO ENJOY THESE DIFFERENT THINGS (SKULL FLUX, 2075 SOUTH UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD, SUITE 161, DENVER, CO 80210).

DRUGMURDERSEXORGY (DMSO FOR SHORT) CHECKS IN WITH PHANTOM FREAK SHOW, AND WHILE IT'S PROBABLY NOT A CD THAT YOU'LL REGRET NOT HAVING GIVEN AS A MOTHER'S DAY GIFT (UNLESS YOUR MOM'S A SERIAL KILLER), THERE'S A LOT TO RECOMMEND IT. GROUP DIAL-TWISTER DEMAJ DE SADE USES HIS HANDY MACHINES TO MAKE A SLEW OF INTRIGUING ELECTRO-NOISES "Deadhouse" brims with massive beats and conversational samples, and "Ectoplasmagoria" merges haunted-house tones and skittering rhythms. The first half of the CD, recorded in 1997 and 1998, is better than the second, which dates from 1995 and 1996--a good sign--and the rough production values actually enhance the ultra-creepiness of the music and lyrics. Let the Show go on (DMSO Productions, 848 South Dexter, #200, Denver, CO 80246).

The Blasting Room, on the Owned & Operated imprint, is a twenty-song compilation of tracks mainly cut at the Fort Collins sound lab of the same name, and thanks to the slew of groovy acts that have recorded there, it's plenty appealing. The highlights for me were All's "Insensitive," the New Rob Robbies' "Pot Au Fue," My Name's "It's a Miserable Life," Hagfish's "Moaner" and the Descendents' "Like the Way I Know," a previously unreleased pounder originally laid down in 1982 at the time that the band's best album, Milo Goes to College, was being assembled. But there are loads of other speed demons represented, ranging from local favorites (Armchair Martian, Electric Summer, Wretch Like Me) to national acts with national reps (MxPx, Lagwagon, Mustard Plug). Odds are good that folks who like pop, punk or a combination of the two will find something to like. Ditto for All, an Owned & Operated collection culled from eight of All's nine previous discs (only last year's Mass Nerder isn't represented). The 22-tune primer will remind the forgetful how groovy Allroy for Prez's "Skin Deep," Breaking Things' "Shreen" and Percolator's "Dot" were in the first place (available in area music stores).

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