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`It's an almost classic final-act debacle, given some coherence by the White Album out-takes'

The Beatles

Anthology 3

EMI 724383445349

If the second Anthology was supposed to represent "the days of dash and daring", then this one, presumably, represents the days of fluff and farewell.

In covering the post-Pepper period of the White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be, the package offers the out-takes and omissions from, respectively, their most patchily self-indulgent LP; the LP on which the production gloss is most at odds with the triviality of much of the material; and the LP which was so poor the band themselves baulked at releasing it for a year. Considering the Beatles' fractiousness by this point, Anthology 3 makes for a sorry contrast with its predecessors.

It's an almost classic final-act debacle, given some coherence, oddly enough, by the condition of the White Album out-takes. Much of the material for that LP was written while the group were with the Maharishi at Rishikesh, where the lack of electricity had thrown them back on to their basic acoustic guitar skills; many of the subsequent home and studio run-throughs collected here were initially presented in that manner, giving the first disc of this collection something of the feel of a Beatles folk-rock album.

Were it not for George Harrison's eventual maturity as a songwriter, Abbey Road would have ended up the archetypal polished turd: aside from his "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun"- the latter not present here - the album featured only one substantial song (Lennon's "Come Together") adrift in a sea of inconsequential fragments buffed to a specious shine by the sure hand of George Martin. Without that veneer, none of the rehearsals included here passes muster.

There are, of course, a few previously unreleased tracks - demo versions of "Step Inside Love" and "Come And Get It"- of which the most significant is Lennon's "What's the New Mary Jane", a naive, stumbling piano number that dissolves into a musique concrete collage of surprising gentleness. Apart from that, it's pretty slim pickings hereabouts.


Headz 2

Mo' Wax 061/062

Upping the ante considerably from their original Headz compilation, Mo' Wax here offer two double-CDs of contemporary computer-groove instrumentals. It's a staggering set, brimful of diverse vitality, and constitutes the best one-off snapshot of where the whole dance/ techno/ ambient/ trip- hop/ jungle scene is at. In particular, it profits from not being end- to-end jungle, while the trip-hop cuts gain in depth from being set alongside the virtuoso turntable scratching of DJ Krush, the ramshackle hip-hop grooves of the Beastie Boys, and the post-rock rumblings of Tortoise. The standout track of the 54, for me, is Grantsby's eerie, evocative "It's Coming", in which a particularly cinematic sample and trumpet phrase are put through various studio blenders and driven along on a succession of breakbeats, making smooth transitions between driving rhythms and crepuscular, dockside moods.


Autobiography of Mistachuck

Mercury 532 944-2

The last few Public Enemy LPs have seen Chuck D re-aligning his bomb- sight from its former lock on white-devil oppressors towards the self- deluding, criminal worldview that helps hold black Americans back from complete emancipation. So too here: this album is saturated with enough anti-gangsta diatribes and general moral righteousness to get Chuck adopted as Bob Dole's running mate.

Unfortunately, there's no Flavor Flav around to sweeten these bitter pills with a little cartoon levity. Instead, unfunny skits are interspersed between tracks, and Professor Griff - no comedian he - invited to harangue us further. What's even more depressing is that Chuck's still prey to the same associations, and the same habits of language, as those he attacks. One track features chums who brag they'd "rip a bitch in London just for one shilling". Surely Chuck realises that violent hyperbole breeds its own culture?


Trailer Park Heavenly


The debut album by East Anglian songstress Beth Orton is a very timely response to the deluge of American female artistes - the Sheryls, Alanises and Pattis of the Nineties - in that its unflinchingly contemporary production shames their hand-me-down retro-rock leanings.

Using such musicians as Red Snapper's Ali Friend on double-bass and the Sandals' Will Blanchard on drums, along with judiciously applied touches of harmonium, strings and mandolin, producers Victor Van Vught (Tindersticks, Nick Cave) and Andrew Weatherall (Primal Scream, Sabres of Paradise) have given her songs an air of bohemian modernism in keeping with their wistful melancholy.

The end result, on tracks like "Tangent" and the 10-minute "Galaxy of Emptiness" is highly suggestive of what the late Nick Drake might have come up with had he dabbled in dub. Stylish, individual and impressiven