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East River Pipe, Mel (Merge)

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The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue
BOB DYLAN
Columbia/Legacy

Although culled from multiple shows, Live 1975 is packaged as a typical set list from the heralded Rolling Thunder Revue tour that served as an exclamation point to Dylan's mid-1970s comeback. Conducted between the releases of two No. 1 albums — Blood on the Tracks and Desire — the run captures Dylan during his "second coming" phase, a time when he would approach the glory attained during his stupendous mid-1960s parade that produced the holy trinity of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

The '60s classics from this two-disc package are innovatively recast with such trappings as violin and pedal steel; the new Desire material teems with a fervor not found on the studio recordings that lined shelves the following year.

Right out of the gate, Bob Dylan and his sprawling 10-piece backing band come charging with a full head of steam — recasting the syrupy "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" into a blast-furnace proclamation of arrival wherein all in attendance are told to "get ready" in no uncertain terms. When not flanked by his all-star bandmates (Mick Ronson, T-Bone Burnnett, Roger McGuinn, among others) and turning in torrid rock statements, like the seething take on "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," Dylan takes the stage solo, delicately expressing the hurt rampant in such songs as "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

Throwing a bone to his folk fans, Dylan turns in an inspired reading of "Blowing in the Wind" (performed only once in public since 1965) while accompanied by erstwhile lover and fellow folk icon Joan Baez, whose also heard on this collection accompanying Dylan on "Mama, You Been on My Mind," "I Shall Be Released" and the traditional "The Water is Wide." On the sublime closer "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" — completely reworked as a steel-tinged gospel number — Byrds founder McGuinn shares the mic with Dylan.

The shows used as source material for this set have for years circulated on bootlegs, but even ardent Dylan collectors will be impressed by this sonically superior collection and agree that it does justice to one of Dylan's best tours. 1/2 —Wade Tatangelo

Log Bomb
BOB LOG III
Fat Possum/Epitaph

His noggin crammed into a crash helmet, singing into its built-in telephone headset, feet working a bastard drum rig, hands furiously attacking a slide guitar, Bob Log III is a one-man band of a different stripe. At first blush, Log looks to be coppin' JSBX, but on further review it quickly becomes apparent that this Tuscon wacko has some real blues in his blood. In fact, he's far closer to the droney, Mississippi sounds of labelmates like R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford than some faux New York gutbucket. Log Bomb sounds like it was recorded on mini-cassette in a bus station bathroom — well, not that bad. But lo-fi, definitely lo-fi. Log yelps a bunch of nonsensical shit ("boob Scotch on the rocks") and a lot of times you just wish he'd shut his yapper. But he can sure produce one hellaciously grimy racket scraping his slide across the strings, all fuzz and distortion and overtones, boogie-in' to stay one step ahead of Beelzebub. After a while, the whole deal gets too buzzy and manic and stupid, but it's pretty breathtaking for as long as you can take it. Must be sick live. On that note, Log plays the New World Brewery in Tampa on March 14. www.fatpossum.com —Eric Snider

Soft Rock
LIFTER PULLER
The Self-Starter Foundation

Art-damaged Minneapolis storytellers Lifter Puller spent the latter half of the '90s climbing to the forefront of their hometown's punk scene, only to call it quits in 2000 with a national fanbase and burgeoning cult-fave status. Self-Starter compiles two out-of-print albums, a self-produced EP, along with comp, 7-inch and unreleased tracks — basically everything but the band's still available Fiestas + Fiascos LP. At two discs and 40 tracks, it's a lot of material to digest, particularly when their sonic milieu careens from post-punk to synth-pop, from anthem to ballad, and from stellar to pedestrian. But it's worth the effort, thanks largely to the incomparable lyrical ability of cynical romantic Craig Finn. Finn's literate yet casual loser-culture soap operas — delivered in a throaty, spoken/sung baritone reminiscent of some anti-heroic Beat-generation Springsteen — flawlessly breathe life into a compelling (and often hilarious) cadre of underbelly-dwellers and their interactions. The music is more often than not up to snuff, particularly when simple, upbeat and throbbing enough to recall Girls Against Boys. It doesn't always equal either the substance or liquid, somewhat hip-hop-esque style of the lyrics, however, and occasionally descends into disruptive noodling. That's not saying Finn's wordplay could do without it — these are songs, not poetry, and they would undoubtedly come off as lacking without the band's muscle and experimentation. But when both elements completely realize their potential, it makes those missteps all the more glaring by comparison. Still and all, Soft Rock is mandatory listening for lyric-philes and fans of edgy '90s fringe-rock alike. www.selfstarterfoundation.com —Scott Harrell

Cuban Odyssey
JANE BURNETT
Blue Note

By and large, the problem with Latin jazz is a lack of authenticity. An instrumentalist will put together a Latin project and often the result is what you'd expect: jazz cats blowin' solos over Afro-Cuban grooves with, maybe, a conga player added to the lineup. This doesn't make for bad music, but rarely does it burrow deep enough. You can't level such an allegation at Canadian soprano saxophonist/flutist Jane Burnett. She and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, have taken numerous sojourns to Cuba over the last 20 years, making friends and music all the while. Cuban Odyssey comprises full versions of music recorded for a documentary called Spirits of Havana, the title of which is misleading 'cause the film captures the couple at several locales on the island nation, collaborating with a plethora of native musicians. It's a rich and rewarding trip. Burnett performs with young, conservatory-trained jazz virtuosos and with rural Cuban ensembles. The music is at turns utterly modern and antique. She fits her fluid soprano work into the indigenous setting, not the other way around. Many of the songs are driven by celebratory call-and-response vocals. And she goes well beyond rumbas and salsa-flavored numbers — most intriguingly in three tunes with the 10-piece choir called Desandann, descendants of Haitian slaves and emigres. The ensemble's ethereal sound comes off like a cross between Catholic mass and African-American gospel, and Burnett smartly lets them take center stage. With Cuban Odyssey, Burnett gets to the essence of the country's rich musical tapestry, and does so without the album ever sounding like a musicological dig. —Eric Snider

UPCOMING RELEASES>

The following CDs will be available in stores Feb. 18:

AC/DC, Back in Black (Epic)

AC/DC, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Epic)

AC/DC, Live (Epic)

AC/DC, Highway to Hell (Epic)

AC/DC, High Voltage (Epic)

Aereogramme, Sleep and Release (Matador)

Anti-Pop Consortium, Anti-Pop Vs. Matthew Shipp (Thirsty Ear)

Braid, Frame and Canvas (Polyvinyl)

Cat Power, You Are Free (Matador)

Calexico, Feast of Wire (Quarterstick)

Covenant, Northern Light (Metropolis)

The Datsuns, The Datsuns (V2)

Decoded Feedback, Shockwave (Metropolis)

The Dirty Three, She Has No Strings Apollo (Touch and Go)

The Downbeat 5, lsm (Sympathy for the Record Industry)

Easy Star All-Stars, Dub Side of the Moon (Easy Star)

The Gadjits, Our Time to... (RCA)

The Go-Betweens, Bright Yellow, Bright Orange (Jetset)

Gray Market Goods, Gray Market Goods (Thrill Jockey)

Hayseed Dixie, Kiss My Grass: A Hillbilly Tribute to KISS (DualTone)

Daniel Johnston & Mark Linkous, Fear Yourself (Gammon)

Ministry, Animositisomina (Sanctuary)

Morphine, The Best of '92-'95 (Rykodisc)

Mouse on Mars, Best of (Beggars Group)

Outspoken, Bitter Shovel (Atlantic)

The Owl & the Pussycat, The Owl & the Pussycat (Kill Rock Stars)

Postal Service, Give Up (Sub Pop)

Reggie & the Full Effect, Under the Tray (Vagrant)

Rye Coalition, Jersey Girls (Tiger Style)

Shipping News, Three-Four (Quarterstick)

Styx, Cyclorama (Sanctuary)

Ben Taylor Band, Famous Among the Barns (Ryko)

Nobukazu Takemura, 10th (Thrill Jockey)

Various Artists, Bangin'-Progressive Beats (Tommy Boy)

Various Artists, Carnivals, Cotton Candy and You (Orange Sky)

Various Artists, Survive and Advance Vol. 2 (Merge)

Vue, Babies Are for Petting (RCA)

IN OUR EARS

SCOTT HARRELL, MUSIC CRITIC
Beautiful, simple, melancholy pop recorded by a recovering alcoholic (F.M. Cornog) at home with a guitar, a 4-track and a drum machine. This one's from '96; there are a bunch of E.R.P. releases out there, and most of them are excellent.

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