ALBUMS / Do the don't be a lemming polka

KD LANG

Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

(Sire 9362-45433-2)

CONTINUING the collaboration with Ben Mink which produced the nearly perfect Ingenue, kd lang's half-dozen vocal performances here are as charming and winsome as any she's ever done. Interspersed with incidental instrumental interludes by Mink, the result is a delightful blend of ancient and modern, making for one of the most satisfying soundtrack albums of recent years.

'Hush Sweet Lover' finds lang in full torch mode, backed by a warm glow of violins; 'In Perfect Dreams' is honkier and tonkier by comparison, a smooth, uptempo country ballad with more than a hint of Mary Ford in her phrasing, and 'Don't Be A Lemming Polka' is a knees-up holdover from lang and Mink's Reclines era. Not all the songs, though, are as easily sorted into categories. 'Just Keep Me Moving', for instance, is quite sublime, a crossover dance track which transmutes mid-song into a sort of cool orchestral jazz, with slippery flute soloing over sweeping strings, and lang hymning freedom in terms of movement - a well thought- out drawing-together of the themes of Tom Robbins' book. Mink's musical interludes, meanwhile, range from the faux-Morricone twang of 'Ride of Bonanza Jellybean' to the Satie-esque piano progressions of 'Myth', taking in scat waltzes, pedal-steel feels and pseudo-Bulgarian chorale fragments along the way.

INXS

Full Moon, Dirty Hearts

(Mercury 518 637-2)

THIS album is something of a retrograde step for INXS, following as it does the multifarious delights of Welcome to Wherever You Are. It's a return to rock music, pure and simple, with hard drums and big, dirty guitars well to the fore. Recorded on the heels of a small club tour which itself broke a long gig hiatus, it sounds like a great live album ought to sound, bursting with vitality and bottle at the expense of more considered compositional niceties.

There are fewer truly memorable tunes than on any of their albums since they broke through with Kick, and a greater reliance on basic riffs - though few have the pleasing mathematical form of 'Need You Tonight' or 'Devil Inside'. For most of the LP, tracks such as 'Days of Rust' (an anti-corrosion footnote to Neil Young), 'Cut Your Roses Down' and the single 'The Gift', they have the hammer well down on flimsy dance-rock material which all but shatters under the strain.

There are some exceptions to the general course, notably the gentle, impressionistic ballad 'Kill The Pain'. 'Freedom Deep', meanwhile, is one of the few tracks which could have come from the previous album, its subtle Eastern flavour gradually supplanted by something more muscularly occidental. Elsewhere, the guest duets with Ray Charles and Chrissie Hynde are efficiently dispatched, but again the songs themselves sound like rather ordinary fare tricked out with celebrity.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Stone Free: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix

(Reprise 9362-45438-2)

THERE HAVE been tribute albums to Jimi Hendrix before, but the big difference with Stone Free is the noticeable absence of shambling indie outfits, tongues gripped between lips and eyes glued firmly to fretboards as they struggle to stretch their meagre talents to match the blinding genius of the composer. Instead, stops have been pulled out and favours called in to ensure the great man is garlanded with a fitting tribute.

Whether it's Pat Metheny, diligently working away (with loops of the late Jaco Pastorius) on a creditably euphoric version of 'Third Stone From The Sun', or Spin Doctors bringing a gigging-band enthusiasm to 'Spanish Castle Magic', most of the artists involved have gone to some trouble to exemplify one or more aspects of Hendrix's art. Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy offer purist nods to his rock and blues roots with, respectively, 'Stone Free' and 'Red House', while the Cure capture his 'sonic-architect' side with a house cut-up version of 'Purple Haze' which pulls the project smack into the face of the present. Only the fiddling buffoon Nigel Kennedy gets the wrong end of the stick completely, attacking 'Fire' with all the mistaken art-rock assumptions available to a classically-trained muso.

By way of compensation, though, are a clutch of tracks where artist matches subject so perfectly, their versions all but shade the originals. Chrissie Hynde's voice could have been built specifically to express the blend of yearning wonder and offhand poetry in 'Bold As Love', whilst Seal and Jeff Beck combine to powerful effect on 'Manic Depression': Seal captures Hendrix's panther-like sexual grace better than any other vocalist, and Beck shows why, of all the top guitarists featured here, he is surely the closest to Jimi's flamboyant stunt-guitar trickster temperament.

All in all, a noble and fitting tribute.

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