Rudy Ray Moore
(The Right Stuff)
Most white folks haven't heard of Moore and that's a shame, because he's inspired a lot of the best music and comedy to spring from the African-American culture over the past thirty years. It's almost impossible to imagine either Ice Cube or Richard Pryor without him, and Andrew Dice Clay, the honkie's honkie, owes a lot to Moore, too; his obscene-nursery-rhyme shtick is ripped straight from Rudy Ray's playbook. Building on the double-entendre humor of an earlier generation of black comics, Moore developed routines that are variations on the tall tales of pioneer America yet still snap with the profane rhythms of the 'hood. "Dolemite," about the terror of San Antonio, is a case in point. "The day he was dropped from his mama's ass, he slapped his pappy's face/ And said, 'From now on, cocksucker, I'm runnin' this place,'" Moore shouts, his gruff voice singsonging over the sound of roadhouse music and the squeals of listeners delighted to hear someone willing to break every rule of proper decorum. If anything, "Petey Wheatstraw," a seven-minute epic about a pimp who claims to be "the devil's son-in-law," is even more extreme: Petey's pants-down duel with a street whore is the wildest face-off since Godzilla battled the Smog Monster. (During the Seventies, both "Dolemite" and "Petey Wheatstraw" were turned into movies that starred Moore.) Calling this stuff childish and sexist is beside the point: Of course it's childish and sexist. But Moore's juvenilia is so epic and so unique that it's absurdly spellbinding--and his anything-goes approach to language has opened far more doors to expression than it's closed. Greatest Hits, which also features "Pimpin' Sam" and the stomach-churning "Rings n' Thangs," is a declaration of verbal freedom that's so gleeful in its offensiveness that it may not offend anyone. The work of Moore's acolytes frequently does, but that's not Moore's fault. If you're going to blame anyone, blame Dolemite, cocksucker.--Michael Roberts
David Krakauer & the Krakauer Trio
Often the finest releases spring from small independent labels that lack the funds to ensure that more than a few hundred people hear them. That's certainly true here. This disc, an inspired collection of the pumping, funky Yiddish improvisational music known as klezmer, is among the best five or so albums put out in 1995, but no one knows it. The Krakauer Trio remains mired in obscurity--a travesty given the talent of the musicians involved. Group leader/clarinetist David Krakauer is as comfortable playing in classical and avant-garde settings as he is blowing klezmer; he's recorded with the American Symphony, the Aspen Wind Quintet and the Klezmatics, an act cofounded by Trio percussionist David Licht. For his part, vocalist/accordionist Michael Alpert is viewed as one of the finest traditional Yiddish singers of the boomer generation. On Madness!, this threesome is joined by keyboardist Anthony Coleman, guitarist Adam Rogers and the Latin percussion group Los Macondos de Colombia on cuts that range from traditional Jewish folk songs and Krakauer originals to an interpretation of a composition by John Zorn, the platter's executive producer. Genre cross-pollination is not only tolerated but encouraged: Of particular note is "Bogota Bulgar," a number that evolved from a jam session at a wedding where the groom was Jewish and the bride was Colombian. Throughout, Krakauer performs so superbly that he begs comparison with the finest clarinetists of the century, including Benny Goodman. His skill helps broaden the appeal of the music, which should attract anyone who likes a good groove, cool tunes, clever arrangements and vibrant, soulful playing.--Linda Gruno
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Number One Cup
Possum Trot Plan
I won't lie to you--Possum Trot Plan is really just another one of those crazy, indie-rock records you've been bombarded with lately. You know, the type that features goofy song titles (such as "Aspirin Burns" and "Seminar for Backward Pupils"), lo-fi guitar chops à la Lou Barlow, and abominable homemade artwork on the cover. All of these characteristics are here. So why is this album so brilliant? Because on tunes such as "Just Let Go" and "Divebomb," Cupsters Seth Cohen, Michael Lenzi and Patrick O'Connell cast more well-aimed hooks than participants at a fly-tying convention. Just as strong are "Apple Cider" and "Patch Kit," which exude enough pseudo-bubblegum zeal to earn the band a place in the Post-Punk-Indie-Garage-Pop Hall of Fame alongside the Flaming Lips and Pavement. Add to that wily lyrics such as "If you're lonely now/Wait 'til Tuesday" and "Lincoln, Nebraska/Is so much further than Juneau, Alaska" and you have a record that outshines all but a fraction of the CDs on the now-glutted indie market. The members of Number One Cup don't reinvent the wheel. They just take it for a much-needed joyride.