Prophet Jones Prophet Jones; Various Artists Philadelphia Folk Festival 40th Anniversary; Clinic Internal Wrangler; Kings of Convenience Versus; Nick Lowe The Convincer 

Now Hear This

Prophet Jones Prophet Jones - (University/Motown)

It has slick production. It fits the mold for urban radio play, and the record company is behind it 100 percent. To top it off, this soulful quartet showcases talented vocals. So why does the debut of this promising group fall flat on its face?

Billed as the second coming of Jodeci, Prophet Jones mixes old-school soul with contemporary Othug love. The bastardization of a nicely mixed and sampled Stevie Wonder song All I Do is characteristic of the pretentiousness of the CD. The chorus makes me shudder: OAll I do/ is think about sexin you/ so tell me what to do/ so I can get next to you.

Another recognizable remake that works on certain vocal and musical levels is the O'Jays cover Cry Together, but in the context of the CD it detracts more than it adds. If there is any reason to add this disc to your library, it is for the up-tempo OWoofO that is bound to make you bob your head, along with the follow-up track I Know I Wanna. Long Barry White-esque intros, routine (but at times convincing) croonin and thinly disguised metaphors for sexual escapades, I guess, are what is meant by Othug love. Prophet Jones reminds us of the genius of Jodeci, and until Prophet Jones develops its own voice and style, it will suffer by paling in comparison. - Spencer Sadler

Various Artists Philadelphia Folk Festival 40th Anniversary (Sliced Bread)

This massive collection of live recordings is a folk-music lover's slice of heaven. Released in late September, the four-hour, four-CD anthology is a remarkable sampling of four decades of folk sounds, and many of its best performers are included here. There's Pete Seeger and Ramblin' Jack Elliott captured at the very first festival in 1962. Bonnie Raitt (with her brother David on bass) offers Kokomo Blues from Raitt's first festival appearance in1970. Mississippi John Hurt casts his spell at the 63 show, and Steve Goodman leads a good-time version of City of New Orleans from 76. Janis Ian plays a 1999 version of her 60s hit OSociety's Child, and Nanci Griffith's performance from the 2000 event captivates. Others featured from 40 years of shows include Tom Rush, Taj Mahal, Nickel Creek, Judy Collins, Richard Thompson, John Prine and Arlo Guthrie, just to name a handful. An informative 58-page booklet with song-by-song descriptions, photos and festival stories ties the project together. This fine release will pleasantly overwhelm any fan of folk and folk-blues music. - Ames Arnold

Clinic Internal Wrangler - (Domino)

Here's the situation: Radiohead mentions a band from Liverpool named Clinic as one of its favorite modern music groups and the little-known, experimental act opens numerous European dates for the rock behemoth. Enter the sirens, confetti guns and general hoopla - we have a sweepstakes winner in the Onext great art band contest sponsored by Radiohead Inc. The music press and industry at large follow this lead methodically. Rolling Stone allots 200 words between reviews of transient major-label artists, U.K. music bible New Musical Express adopts the quartet unconditionally, and British radio magnate John Peel of BBC Radio calls Clinic Oone of the very best bands we have in this country, I think. In all seriousness, these accolades are also Clinic's chief selling point and vehicle for mass-audience identification. So be it. There is certainly room in the artistically impotent commercial market for a bit of originality.

Clinic's debut full-length Internal Wrangler is a great album and is worth the dime-word superlatives and networking-privilege booster shots that have earned it well-deserved pre-release recognition. The 14 songs are an exhibit in acceptable disparity and overwhelming eclecticism. For example, the lead cut entitled Voodoo Wop offers a splash of surprisingly danceable ambient post-rock, whereas C.Q. comes off as novice garage rock. An identity crisis for sure, yet it works for Clinic. Keeping with the theme of confusion is the ever-so-intriguing Ade BlackburnOs muddled vocal style, which barely registers as intelligible English. The trick is all part of Clinic's secret game of keeping listeners filling in the blanks and second-guessing. The only insight Clinic offers comes on the album's best cut, Distortions. The intro pilfers lyrics straight from Velvet Underground's Candy Says (note: influence), and then Blackburn launches into a line like, It's serious, so scary/Don't know who to marry. Quite an unnerving realization for an apparently insecure young adult. It is also the only substantial clue openly released concerning the cryptic group's personality. Invest some time in Internal Wrangler and attempt to unravel the rest of the mystery yourself. - Bret Booth

Kings of Convenience Versus - (Astralwerks)

Kings of Convenience (Eirik Glambek Be and Erlend _ye) are Norway's modern day Simon and Garfunkel. Their sophomore album Quiet Is the New Loud is full of chilled out acoustic pop songs.

It can be insufferably mellow. That's why the Norwegian duos recent follow up, Versus, was a great idea. This album took songs from Quiet is the New Loud handed them over to various European musicians (mostly of the electronica genre) who remix, rearrange and in some cases remake them.

What a huge difference collaboration can make. Besides all the knob tweaking electronic musicians bring to the table, what Versus really has above Quiet is the New Loud is variety. Some artists, like David Whitaker, provide a new string arrangement or make some other subtle change to a song. Evil Tordivel takes his track and absolutely ruins it. Two of the best come from Four Tet and Ladytron, who pick up the tempo and give their tracks a much needed un-acoustic edge. The songs are still mellow, but in this updated form much more interesting, a near perfect blending of acoustics and electronics. Lets hope Be and ye give the same treatment to their next big statement. - Wayne Melton

Nick Lowe The Convincer - (Yep Roc)

You think you're having a bad day? Usually cheery Nick Lowe has a serious case of the blues on his new release. The nice thing about it, though, is that he's so down-and-out for these 12 songs that the whole project is engrossing, smart and, yes, even a trifle funny around the edges. The set's opener, Homewrecker, aptly sets the stage with the story of a weak man's foibles, and from there on, Lowe laments love lost and mistakes made. Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart points out how hard it is to forget old love and anyone who has ever wandered in a heartbreak fog will easily relate to Lately I've Let Things Slide and I'm a Mess. Midst the disasters and dread, Bygones (Won't Go) and OCupid Must Be Angry manage to draw a bit of dark laughter, while Has She Got A Friend? strikes a small optimistic note. Things get a bit hammy with a new version of Johnny Rivers 60s hit Poor Side of Town and Let's Stay In and Make Love, but the highs far outweigh the lows throughout. Lowe's easygoing baritone is completely honest, and instrumentally there's plenty of appropriate restraint with low-key organ, horns and guitars. I didn't like this CD much the first time through, but now it makes so much sense it's scary.

- A. A.

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