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LTJ Bukem Presents Earth Volume One Good Looking

EarthCD001

Pussy Galore

Pussy Foot CDLP007

Don't be fooled by the prominence given to LTJ Bukem's name on the Earth package; the drum'n'bass luminary contributes only one track to this compilation, which showcases instead other artists on his Good Looking label.

It's not, to be honest, that inspiring a collection. The likes of Blame and Pablo seem to have misconstrued that line about jungle being the new bebop, smearing their busy rhythms with the kind of insipid wind and electric piano textures you might find on dreary Seventies jazz-funk albums. The best things here are by Paul Hunter, aka Poets of Thought, who demonstrates a wider frame of reference with the melodica dub groove "The Rhyme Goes On" and the Latin-jazz outing "Samba With JC", which has a nicely antique feel to it.

The Pussy Galore compilation is vastly superior, not least for its wider range of rhythmic styles, which take in all hues of the BPM spectrum, from the deep acid-dub of Dr Zaius's "Sine Wave Assassin" to the hip-hop break-beat of Dobie's "The Return Of The Revenge Of The Legacy Of Golgol 13" and, most unusual of all, the surf-funk of Natural 7's "Secret Of Natural 7".

Mostly, though, it succeeds through conceptual unity. Taking the LP's catalogue number as inspiration, the label commissioned tracks on the theme of spy movies, a brief to which the likes of Luke Gordon, Howie B and Toshio Nakanishi have responded in sterling manner with a series of glamorous, spooky grooves.

The results are sometimes not too far removed from those on Earth - Spacer's "Contrazoom" applies drum'n'bass to classical music, with inquisitive string stabs and horn swells harnessed to the ubiquitous double-time snare, but they make far more sense in this context.

JOHNNY CASH

Unchained

American 74321 39742

Back with a band - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, as it happens - after the solo American Recordings, Johnny Cash displays as vigorous an interest in modern music as you'll encounter anywhere in country music, with cover versions of songs by Beck, Soundgarden and Petty nestling comfortably alongside standards like "Memories Are Made of This", "Sea of Heartbreak" and "I've Been Everywhere" (the same song that Rolf Harris popularised, but with more evocative American place-names).

The latter song says it all, really. Cash has indeed been everywhere, including several of America's less salubrious cells, but he wears his experience with the equanimity of age. What his maturity gives him is the ability to bend songs to his own will - it's no great surprise to hear Petty's "Southern Accent" given due granite-jawed pathos and dignity, but the real shocker here is Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage", for which Cash reverses the usual development of rock from blues. Locating its dark blue heart, he plays the song as a country-blues lament which gradually develops grunge muscles as it progresses.

Producer Rick Rubin doubtless had something to do with such an approach, but Cash deserves credit just for considering it. What other country star would even consider trying it?

DELINQUENT HABITS

Delinquent Habits

PMP/RCA 07863 66929 2

It doesn't take much more than the empty threats of the guesting 2Pac on fellow "playa" Richie Rich's new album to highlight the pathetic, literal dead-end nature of gangsta rap. Nas aside, there is little of interest currently happening in the genre, though this debut offering from a black/Hispanic American crew of "down-ass Blaxicans" has more than the usual complement of ideas.

Executive-produced by Cypress Hill's SenDog, Delinquent Habits possesses some of that group's infectious rough-house appeal, with the grooves blended from crunching beats, unusual samples - The Byrds' "Lay Lady Lay", Fifties' easy-listening exotica, and, most effectively, the wistful trumpet from "The Lonely Bull" on the single "Tres Delinquentes" - and some virtuouso turntable-scratching.

The lyrics may be just the usual criminal braggadocio interspersed with maudlin regret, but their language and culture do at least give the rappers plenty of access to seams of reference and articulation rarely encountered in the field. As they say: "Hard like an Aztec, swift like a Zulu".

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