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EW finds some hidden gems in last year's albuyms

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EW finds some hidden gems in last year’s albuyms

In a recent Billboard article on record-company financial losses, a Geffen executive observed that ”one success pays for 10 mistakes.” That means that of the roughly 3,000 albums released annually, 2,700 aren’t bought by very many people beyond members of the artists’ families. (Actually, a sale of fewer than 100,000 copies generally constitutes a disaster in major-label land.) Many of those albums deserve to bomb, but amid the failures are a few that merit a better fate than the bargain bins. Here are four from the class of ’91, only one of which sold more than 40,000 copies.

Last year, Queen Latifah may have been the media darling and Salt-N-Pepa may have had a pop hit, but neither made rap as wild-eyed as Nikki D.’s Daddy’s Little Girl. The album (which has sold 100,000 copies so far) has the raw, almost primitive sound of early rap, all hard beats and crackling samples. Yet Nikki is the centerpiece, whether rapping slyly about coming on to a guy (in the funky hoedown ”All About You”) or regally dismissing some jerk. Like some rappers, Nikki spends too much time cussin’ and braggin’, but the album has a funny, slinky vibe and the year’s best introduction to the obligatory list of thank-you credits: ”First of all, why do you think I should thank you?” B+

Rap, of course, constitutes only one aspect of black music. Just ask the Black Rock Coalition, an organization dedicated to the idea that black rockers should be accepted for playing any style they want. Living Colour is the BRC’s best-known graduate, but judging from the terrific 10-band BRC sampler The History of Our Future, they shouldn’t be. A few bands will remind you of Living Colour’s heavy-guitar bravado, but the music also takes in new-jack folk-rock protest (Royal Pain’s ”H.O.P.E.”), bludgeoning metal (Jupiter’s ”Tough Times”), and the silky mesh of R&B sax, funk bass, and pop on JJ Jumpers’ ”(It Will All) Workout.” All this genre-mixing means that most of these bands aren’t easily classifiable — which is both their charm and, in record-biz terms, their curse. A-

There’s also plenty of charm in Richard X. Heyman’s major-label debut, Hey Man!. Obviously a student of the British Invasion, Heyman, who plays most of the instruments himself, has made a delightfully low-rent glop o’ pop, with catchy-as-flu melodies like ”Falling Away” and kinetic, sticks-bouncing-off-skins drumming. Hey Man! sounds too old-fangled for its own good, yet it’s imbued with a sense of music-making fun — of clanking around on instruments and making a joyful racket — that’s rarely heard on records anymore. A-

There are two likely reasons why Sister Double Happiness’ Heart and Mind didn’t top the charts: The San Francisco band’s greasy biker-rock can’t be called metal or alternative rock, and their hulking, buzz-cut-topped lead singer, Gary Floyd, looks as if he’s prepared to slay your family. At its best, the album lives up to that image: Floyd sounds like a grizzly caught in a trap, and ”You Don’t Know Me,” a turbo-charged anthem, deserves to be a new ”Born to Be Wild.” Too bad the production is lackluster. Maybe next time — if, given the cutbacks and layoffs in the record business, there is a next time. B+

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