ROCK / ALBUMS: Coming up stumps: Andy Gill on Jagger's third solo album and Cooder's umpteenth soundtrack. Plus gloomy old The The

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MICK JAGGER

Wandering Spirit

(Atlantic 7567-82436-2)

JAGGER's first solo album for Atlantic has its positive aspects - not least the co-production by Rick Rubin, which gives Mick a bit of bite again - but once he's through the raunch-o-rama openers like 'Wired All Night' and 'Out of Focus', he starts casting about for other things to do and comes up with lacklustre carbon- copy covers of Bill Withers' 'Use Me' (featuring rock's ersatz-man, Lenny Kravitz) and Frederick Knight's 'I've Been Lonely for So Long'. And when he gets stuck, he simply adapts an old idea to new ends: 'Sweet Thing', for instance, is a thinly-disguised 'Miss You' with a lumpy funk backbeat, while 'Angel in My Heart' brazenly adopts the stately chamber- pop manner of 'Lady Jane'. When he's really, really stumped, though, he gets back to roots - even taking on the traditional folk air 'Handsome Molly', which wouldn't be quite so embarrassing were it not sung in the most risible of fake Oirish accents.

The drummer Curt Bisquera lends sprightliness to the songs, but the dominant instrumental textures here are keyboards: the moody electric pianos and organs, the bubbly clavinets, the harpsichord of 'Angel in My Heart'. They're all marshalled effectively by Jagger and Rubin, but to largely questionable ends. It's a pity that Jagger hasn't taken greater note of the success of the title-track - a modern country- blues with a bit of real fire in its belly - and made an earthier, bluesier record in the mould of Chris Whitley's 1991 debut. With, say, Rainer Ptacek on bottleneck guitar, and Daniel Lanois producing. Surely there's a market for The Bohemian Jet-Set Walking Blues?

THE THE

Dusk

(Epic 472468 2)

THAT'S effectively what Matt Johnson has done here. He reverts to a more personal, bluesy style following the mixed reception accorded his Mindbomb album attempt at playing the prophet of doom, which involved Matt stating the blindingly obvious as if it were a revelation.

He admits as much in 'Slow Emotion Replay': 'Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world / But I don't even know what's going on in myself' - and judging by the success of Dusk, he's considerably more effective dealing with the interior world than the exterior, attempting to distil generalities from personal observations.

Musically, he's aided by the sympathetic work of his band, especially Johnny Marr's thoughtful guitar parts, and the raw harmonica adding a streak of visceral authenticity to 'Dogs of Lust' that was lacking on Mindbomb. The brass shadings burnishing the adulterer's confession 'Bluer Than Midnight' and the misty 'Lung Shadows' offer the most effective encapsulation of the mood of the album title. At last, Johnson has made a record almost commensurate with his hype.

RY COODER

'Trespass' - Original Motion Picture Score

(Sire 9362-45220-2)

SIRE's Seymour Stein certainly knows how to milk a movie / music crossover for maximum return. Following the label's mega-blitz on Dick Tracy - three different soundtrack albums for the one film - here's the second soundtrack album from the Walter Hill actioner starring Ice-T and Ice Cube. And being a Walter Hill film, of course, it goes without saying that Ry Cooder gets the gig for the background atmospherics.

Unlike Cooder's previous soundtracks for Hill and others, however, this one doesn't call for his patented pioneer-spirit slide- guitar sound. Instead, he sets out for territory more usually associated with avant-garde improvisers. Accordingly, he has drafted in his drumming sidekick Jim Keltner to fuss and bother in a tinkly-bonk percussive manner, and chamber-jazz trumpeter Jon Hassell to provide a few muted banshee wails.

The result is intriguingly different from anything Cooder has done before, a fetid, nervy score booby-trapped with vertiginous swoops and plunges. On a track like 'Video Drive-By', it resembles organised musique concrete, with Keltner's jumpy percussion and Hassell's strangulated trumpet squeals sundered by Cooder's broadsword strokes of slide guitar, performed on an extraordinary six-foot long 'floor slide'. Only the concluding 'Party Lights' offers any real respite, being a kitsch country offering from one Junior Brown, accompanied by an all-star session band which includes Van Dyke Parks and David Lindley.

808 STATE

Gorgeous

(ZTT 4509-91100-2)

WHY DOES so much of the highest-technology music sound so boring? Take 808 State's latest album. Bland and anonymous, there's considerably less here than meets the ear: whether it's routine techno pumpers like 'Colony' and 'Timebomb', or the new- agey muzak signalled by titles like 'Nimbus' and 'Southern Cross', the album seems enervated, even when bustling along in requisite dance-floor manner.

Contrast, too, the huge list of equipment they use with the deliberately brief list (one sampler, one computer programme, one acoustic guitar) offered by the late, lamented KLF on The White Room. The item missing from the latter's list was their bottomless fund of ideas - which are, for the most part, just missing from Gorgeous.

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