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[whitespace] New Sun Born

New Sun Born

New Sun Born gives thanks to A Tribe Called Quest in the liner notes of its first album, Osaze, and it's evident why. Many of the tunes showcase laid-back jazzy licks and freestyle singing/rapping that bear a striking resemblance to Tribe's Q-Tip. In fact, the songs on Osaze make it quite clear where most of New Sun Born's influences come from. Although they lay down the funk like Maceo Parker, put a Digital Underground spin on some vocals and break down horn sections like the jazz greats, the NSB guys make their influences crystal clear. But it's also obvious that they've been paying serious attention to developing their own sound. This album shows NSB's striking promise. Though Osaze starts off on somewhat shaky ground (the first two songs are weak links), it embarks on a slow build, arriving in a spot that's tight, a near-perfect forum for NSB's socially conscious (but far from preachy), poetic songwriting. Keep an eye on these guys--if they live up to the promise of this first effort, they'll be ones to watch. (Karen Reardanz)

Slow Gherkin

Slow Gherkin
Shed Some Skin
Asian Man Records

Slow Gherkin is, of course, best experienced live and in the flesh. It's the band's onstage energy, in a packed club with hot lights and lots of sweat, that showcases the youthful vigor and the passion these guys have for music. Plain and simple, it's a tough order to capture that chutzpah on a little circular disc. But the Santa Cruz band comes pretty close on its new album, Shed Some Skin. The 12 songs cover the basics of Santa Cruz life--we're talking references to taquerias and cheap beer--as well as heavier issues, like Gherkin's meditations on rape ("Turned Off") and love ("Roger"). All are wrapped up in that Slow Gherkin trademark horn-heavy, keyboard-inflected ska with off-key punk vocal delivery. The music is super-infectious (as anything by Slow Gherkin should be) and quite cleanly mastered--well-produced without coming off slick and oily. It's brassy, it's bass-y, it's fun. (KR)

Rhan Wilson

Rhan Wilson
An Altared Christmas
Dhijuti Records

There have been many unusual takes on the classic Christmas album but never quite one like this. Simultaneously raucous and subdued, rollicking and genteel, An Altared Christmas is a ride through Xmas past and future. Standards like "Deck the Halls" and "Silent Night" are given a solemn, almost eerie treatment, while both versions of "Carol of the Bells" take on a world-beat vibe. "Little Drummer Boy" sounds like it should have been on Passion, Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ. On the flip side, "Away in the Manger" and "Jingle Bells" are eclectic ditties, peppered with gum-smacking Valley Girl speak--"Bells" even sounds like a score for a Tim Burton flick. Produced and performed by Rhan Wilson (with the help of a roster of local performers like Pipa Piñon, Bob Burnett and Gary Regina), this album not only offers up seasonal classics in a different light, but will earn those who purchase it a big visit from Santa this year--half of the album's proceeds go to AIDS charities. (KR)

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From the December 3-9, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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