Cherry-Picking the Past


"Konk Party"

(Soul Jazz)

Has it come to this? Of course it has: Dredge up a halcyon but long- forgotten era until it's practically coming out of the hipoisie's ears, and eventually you will scrape bottom. For the past four years, the era of choice for any self-respecting cutting-edge music lover has been early-'80s New York City, where, as we have been repeatedly reminded, rock bands got funky, hip-hop's birth was occasioned by adventurous-eared punk rockers and new wavers as well as early B-boys and -girls, and bands like the seven-piece and pronouncedly Latin-flavored Konk bridged art-noise (drummer Richard Edson left Sonic Youth to concentrate on the larger band), DJ culture, and barrio grooves. The catch? The Sound of Konk: Tales of the New York Underground 1981–88, the new CD of the band's oeuvre, kinda sucks. (Oh, fine—it's just mediocre. In our overproducing era, same diff.) The major exception, from 1982, opens with a Latin-funk groove similar to the opening of the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" (funny, so does one of the songs on the new Beastie Boys—see Nate Patrin's review, p. 41), before moving on to something harder and sweeter; soon, leader Dana Vlcek adds a sax riff with the same basic properties, and the whole thing gets harder and looser as it goes. Even the introducing-the-band vocals (in English and Spanish) stay out of the way. Before and after, it's diminishing returns—though if you absolutely must have more, there's a crappy new !!! album you might find of interest.


"Baseball Baby"


Unless you are a doo-wop maniac, great expec‑ tations do not accompany the purchase of a CD like Ace's new King Vocal Groups Vol. 2: Voo Vee Ah Bee—partly because most sensible record companies tend to include the good stuff on the first volume, partly because doo-wop is among the most over-compiled genres in the universe. But you don't have to be a doo-wop maniac to hope for more than one killer cut out of 24, even if you know better going in. Or so the doo-wop semi- maniacs among us like to think. Anyway, here's a brisk, charming nonhit from 1958 that's in debt down to its shoelaces to Clyde McPhatter's Dominoes (the lead vocal) and Lieber/Stoller's Coasters (the tempo, the sax break). Who's Johnny Darling? Not even the compilers know: "His real name is still unknown to us. The identity of his back-up group is equally a mystery." Not so the song's meaning: "I saw the game that you played last night/Can't play ball in the pale moonlight/Baseball baby, you'd better make a home run."

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