RECORD REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
Michael Jackson: HIStory (Epic, double CD/ triple LP/double tape). Making the first half of this release a Greatest Hits selection is a clever move, but an unwise one, in that the new material seems like a B-side to the world's biggest single. On the A-side, as it were, are fabulous pop thrills - "Billie Jean", "Bad", "Thriller", "Beat It" - but they're backed with a gargantuan, exhausting, 15-song, 70-minute expression of Jackson's feelings, a record as wacko as his life. You can't fault it for ambition: it's bursting with samples, special effects and strings, and with the talents of Slash, Jam and Lewis, Boyz II Men, R Kelly, and sister Janet. But where is the song to match any on the "A-side"? I couldn't find it among the cacophonous "Scream"; "They Don't Care About Us", effectively a remake of Queen's "We Will Rock You"; "Earth Song" ("What about elephants? / Have we lost their trust?"); a tense version of the Beatles' "Come Together"; the Disneyland hell that is "Childhood"; the title track, which is "Blowin' in the Wind" given a Sergeant Pepper treatment . . . or any of the others. But if you throw enough HIStory at a wall, some of it will stick, and there are some good tracks in here. There's everything in here - that's the trouble. Nicholas Barber

Dollar Brand: African Marketplace (Discovery, CD). This record first appeared (on Elektra) in 1980, a mid-point in the great South African pianist's career, when he became Abdullah Ibrahim and began to compose longing, hymn-like songs full of nostalgia and anger. Featuring the incomparable Carlos Ward on alto among an Elektra-styled band, the album boasts the original version of "The Wedding" and some rare Fender Rhodes playing from the leader. Phil Johnson

Various Artists: Macro Dub Infection Vol 1 (Virgin Ambient, CD/LP). This hefty and imaginative compilation posits dub as an intersection where all musics can meet, with contributors' points of origin varying from metal (Scorn) to techno (Bandulu) to jungle (The Omni Trio). An echo chamber and some knob- twiddling do not automatically a daring sonic experiment make, but the best work here - Tricky's ghostly "Ambient Pumpkin" and 4-Hero's demented "The Paranormal in 4 Form" - is truly mind-bending. Ben Thompson

Isaac Hayes: Branded (Virgin, CD/tape). A record as smooth as the Black Moses's head, and twice as sexy. NB

Boy George: Cheapness and Beauty (Virgin, CD/LP/tape). Sensitive, bitchy, hard-rocking pop treat: George slays his dragons. NB

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 (Atlantic Jazz/Rhino, CD). Light, spare and wonderfully melodic: a perfect soundtrack for summer. PJ

Foo Fighters: This is a Call (Roswell, single). If Dave Grohl keeps coming up with songs as catchy as this, he won't be known as "Nirvana's ex-drummer" for much longer. NB

Teenage Fanclub: Grand Prix (Creation, CD/ LP/tape). Lovelorn guitar- pop genius from start to finish. BT

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