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Gregory Heisler

Joni Mitchell
hits
Reprise

My dad went to Woodstock, and though he didn't take me, I can relate. I try to relate. The '60s were grand, as I imagine them. Folkstress Joni Mitchell has released a compilation--titled hits--which brings the opti-mystic spirit of the era back in tunes like "Woodstock," which Mitchell wrote but Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young immortalized. There are songs here from the sublime Court and Spark, and classics like "Big Yellow Taxi"--the lyrics of which still apply: "They paved Paradise/And put up a parking lot/They took all the trees/And put them in a tree museum." Hits includes Mitchell's disillusionment with age in albums like 1991's Night Ride Home, which features a mellowed, more-produced, but still-eloquent Mitchell. Perhaps "Chinese Cafe" sums up the album best: "We were wild in the old days/Birth of rock & roll days/Now your kids are coming up straight/And my child's a stranger/I bore her." (Ami Chen Mills)


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Bill Saul

The Halibuts
Life on the Bottom
Upstart

The Halibuts have finally come up for air, and the Southern California band's sophomore release contains 15 short-but-sweet, reverb-drenched delights. Less full-fledged surf music than cool instrumental stylings with a strong oceanic undertow, the album merges the sweetness of Hawaiian music with the rhythms of ska and the grit of R&B to create a sound as smooth and intoxicating as a well-mixed Polynesian drink. The churning surf of "Hammerhead" and "Noodles" evokes images of endless summers, the perfect wave and flaming cocktails, while the rollicking "Caldera" makes you want to slip on your flip-flops and do the mashed potato. (Judi Blackwell)


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Endre Tarczy
Ourang-Outang
Phantasmagoria Sounds

Leave it to Endre Tarczy to come up with a wacky name for his first go as a solo artist. From the sound of this project, those rumors that Tarczy may not be from this planet may be true (check his initials). As bassist and lead singer for W.H.a.T., Tarczy may have felt a little overlooked; it ain't easy playing second fiddle to a local guitar legend. In any case, Ourang-Outang has little in common with W.H.a.T.'s rock/blues/fusion orientation. The music here careens from weirdo rock of the title track to the jangly pop of "Happy Holidays"; from the ominous punk-styled "Guyana Down in Waco" to "Taco Time," a zany paean to multiculti delicacies. Tarczy is a one-man band, strapping on everything from guitars (name that tune) to Hammond B-3s and synthesizers, as he does on the very George Duke-ish "Isn't It Strange." Along with the unhinged numbers, there are some pretty tunes. The only real sore spot is extramusical--the production sucks like a new Hoover. In all fairness, E.T. forked over the currency to make the album himself. (Nicky Baxter)


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Paleface
Get Off
Elektra

"The Tormentor" tells at least part of the story here. We can infer, for instance, that Paleface is not from wine-and-cheese country; this is clearly a joint that only an urban pop band could come up with, circa "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Get Off is rife with odd and out-of-the-way tunesmithing. It has the feel of a demo that somehow made its way onto the consumer market--a happy accident. "Smoke" packs wicked humor that's part Zappa, part Tom Waits and all Paleface, thanks to a vocalist who is not so much a singer as an actor trying on various personas to fit a particular story. Paleface can be noisy as distinct from annoying, but I don't know if it could be called a "guitar group." No self-respecting goup of ax-ists would include a bloozy piano track like "I'll Be Right Back." (NB)

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From the November 27-December 4, 1996 issue of Metro

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