The Black Crowes Three Snakes and One Charm American 74321 38484

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The Independent Culture
It'll probably grow on me over time, but for the moment this sounds like the most turgid offering yet from the Atlanta rockers. On their day, they're the best live band in the world, but here the layers of guitar and keyboards seem too densely packed to achieve lift-off, leaving several tracks straining to rise above their riffs.

The rootsy reference-points are all present and correctly wielded, from the Little Feat-sy blue funk of "Under a Mountain" and "Let Me Share the Ride" to the Sly Stone-style growled scat and staccato horns of "(Only) Halfway to Everywhere" - but they're sometimes piled up so high the songs have difficulty shining through. The single "One Mirror Too Many" is a case in point: the unison vocal/ guitar line is fine by itself, but when it's hammered home by thudding drums while electric sitar traces arabesques behind it, there's simply too much battling for our attention; it ends up sounding like a prog-rock also-ran.

There are hints, in many of the tracks, of well-crafted songs struggling to make themselves clear, but only in a few cases - most notably "Let Me Share the Ride" - do they succeed with anything like the condensed power of the last two Crowes albums.

Compiled from live DAT mixes of Miles Davis concerts between 1988 and 1990, this gives a decent impression of what the jazz giant was up to in his final years, which for the most part was busy but uninvolving jazz- funk workouts entirely lacking the mad spark and street style of his seminal work on albums like Bitches Brew and On the Corner.

Instead, there's an attention to noodly detail bordering on the anal, and some of the most horrible synthesiser tones since the first ELP album. And lots of "lead bass" - whatever that is - from someone called simply Foley. The best tracks are the longest: covers of "Time After Time" and "Human Nature" which offer the band the chance to improvise around truly strong tunes. The 13-minute "Human Nature" starts hurriedly, with Miles fluffing his second note, but gains in confidence to conclude with Kenny Garrett's stirring alto sax solo, ingeniously built up from an accretion of smaller phrases; "Time After Time" is slower and more ruminative, but just as well developed.

One of the best drum 'n' bass compilations yet, Lost In Space focuses on the lighter, more mellow end of the genre. As the sleeve slogan puts it, "Not everything that comes from the jungle is going to bite your head off..."

Tessera's "Freefall" opens the album with the purest of drum 'n' bass styles, the sighs of keyboard seemingly reluctant to disturb the pristine rhythmic purity. It's a subtle masterpiece, the track building up melodic character gradually throughout its six minutes, shuffling backwards into our presence with a humble suggestion of a tune. From there, the album barely lets up in quality or propulsion, whatever style the tracks take.

Jazz flavours quite a few of the pieces: "Ridge Racer" is a classic bebop- beat combination of double-time snare and loping double-bass from S Hosoe, and Jammin' Unit's cool, relaxed "Totally Unintelligent" lets laid-back horns share space with the hyperactive percussion. Peshay's remix of Ruby's "Saltwater Fish" is more in a sort of nervous ambient style, while for his mix of Cool Breeze's "Can't Deal With This", Alex Reece simply locates the resonant heart of the groove and just keeps it twanging away. The variety and sustained quality of these 12 tracks will surprise those for whom jungle, like reggae, "all sounds the same": there's more going on here than in most careers.

Miles Davis

Live Around the World

Warner Bros 9362-46032-2

Various Artists

Lost in Space: Drum 'n' Bass

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