Notable music for the week of July 6, 1990 -- Short reviews on recently released titles

By EW Staff
Updated July 06, 1990 at 04:00 AM EDT

Notable music for the week of July 6, 1990

* Alabama Pass It on Down (RCA; CD, T) New diversity and sophistication from country music’s most overrated band. C+ (Alanna Nash) * The Beach Boys Surfin’ Safari & Surfin’ USA; Surfer Girl & Shut Down Volume 2; Pet Sounds (Capitol; CD) Reissues of four early albums, combined two to a disc. Plus the long-awaited CD debut of the Boys’ masterpiece. B; B+; A+ (Greg Sandow)

* Billy Bragg The Internationale (Elektra; EP; CD, T) While fans wait for a new full-length album, this highly political British folk-rocker has released an EP on which he gives classic and modern socialist anthems an intriguing, idiosyncratic spin. A- (GS)

* James Brown James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962 (Polydor; CD, T) Reissue of a scorching live performance, unavailable for years. A+ (GS)

* Cameo Real Men Wear Black (Atlanta Artists/PolyGram; all formats) Smart and witty R& B from a veteran band. B+ (GS)

* Miles Davis Birth of the Cool (Capitol; CD) The album that put cool jazz on the map. A+ (Gary Giddins)

* Deicide Deicide (RC; all formats) Speed metal is supposed to be scary; this band is one of the few in the genre that really is. The singer’s voice starts at a roar and ends at a scream. A (GS)

* Barbara Dennerlein Straight Ahead! (Enja; CD, T, bonus tracks on CD) Most promising record yet by a young German organist with a penchant for the blues. B (GG)

* Steve Earle and the Dukes The Hard Way (MCA; all formats) A country boy with a battered voice sings epic rock & roll. A (GS)

* 808 State Utd. State 90 (Tommy Boy; all formats, bonus tracks on CD) Britain’s most exhilarating new dance music. A (GS)

* Eric B. & Rakim Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em (MCA; all formats) Darkly poetic rappers spin their wheels in disappointing third album. B- (GS)

* Gene Loves Jezebel Kiss of Life (Geffen; all formats) British rock with large college-radio following and an uneasy, hard erotic edge. B+ (GS)

* Green on Red This Time Around (China/Polydor; CD, T) Wiry roots rock about the underside of American life. B+ (GS)

* A Guy Named Gerald Automanikk (Columbia; all formats, bonus track on CD, T) Another innovative new dance act from Britain, with a warmer sound. B+ (GS)

* John Hiatt Stolen Moments (A&M; all formats) Battered cult figure sings too many songs about failure and redemption. B- (GS)

* His Name Is Alive Livonia (4 AD; all formats) The murmuring of gentle voices in this alternative band’s music often sounds more classical than pop. B (GS)

* Bruce Hornsby & the Range A Night on the Town (RCA; all formats) Smooth rocker returns with harder sound, same lack of variety. B- (GS)

* Hothouse Flowers Home (PolyGram/London; CD, T, bonus tracks on CD) An Irish band that plays earthier roots rock than many Americans. Its slow bluesy songs are especially touching. B (GS)

* Colin James Sudden Stop (Virgin; CD, T) Second album from a guy with a hoarse voice who sings determined blues-based rock. B+ (GS)

* John Kay & Steppenwolf Rise & Shine (I.R.S.; CD, T) The classic late-’60s band Steppenwolf broke up long ago, but its leader, John Kay — the man who sang ”Born to Be Wild” — rocks firmly on. He’s backed by his longtime touring band, which now bears the old name. B- (GS)

* A’me Lorain & the Family Affair Starring in. . .Standing in a Monkey Sea (RCA; all formats) This debut album is a big surprise. It’s perky pop but improbably dark and complex, far more sophisticated than Lorain’s tiny-voiced dance hit ”Whole Wide World.” B+ (GS)

* Jeff Lynne Armchair Theatre (Reprise; all formats) Solo debut from star producer and least-famous member of the Traveling Wilburys. Instruments sparkle, singing is routine. B- (GS)

* Madonna I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy (Sire/Warner; all formats) Brilliant re-creation of ’30s and ’40s musical styles, spiced with coy sexiness. A (GS)

* New Kids on the Block Step by Step (Columbia; all formats) Teen mega-stars reach for new musical styles, all as synthetic as their usual pop. C+ (GS)

* Nitty Gritty Dirt Band The Rest of the Dream (MCA; all formats) Exemplary lyric- and rhythm-oriented music. A+ (AN)

* Shinehead The Real Rock (Elektra; all formats) He raps, he sings, his music has an irresistible reggae beat — though sometimes his squeaky clean-cut approach to life can get a little bland. B (GS)

* Soul II Soul Vol. II-1990-A New Decade (Virgin; all formats) Deeply satisfying second album by last year’s British dance sensation. A (GS)

* Jane Wiedlin Tangled (EMI, CD, T) Pop tunes sung by the former guitarist of the Go-Go’s in a little piping voice. C+ (GS)

* Yo La Tengo Fakebook (Bar/None; all formats) Fave New York underground band sings an album largely composed of other bands’ obscure, cheesy pop songs — and does it with love, irony, and lots of skill. A- (GS)

REISSUES * Van Morrison The Best of Van Morrison (Mercury; all formats, bonus track on CD) Twenty-some albums into his unique career, the genius of sophisticated Irish soul is poorly served by this incomplete, nonchronological package. Despite loads of great music, the attempt to touch on every era — from Morrison’s punky mid-‘ 60s youth through 1989 — in 20 songs (on the CD) has left gaping omissions (”Tupelo Honey,” ”Saint Dominic’s Preview,” ”Wavelength”), with recent minor items displacing some time-tested standards. B-

* Paul Revere & the Raiders (Featuring Mark Lindsay) The Legend of Paul Revere (Columbia; CD, T) Like the Monkees, Paul Revere & the Raiders were typecast as a costumed television comedy group, but this monumental 55-track set — hits, misses, and rarities — contains more than enough substantial music to establish their credibility. With roof-raising piano instrumentals, early sax-driven R&B, ’60s pop-rock classics (”Kicks,” ”Hungry,” ”Good Thing,” etc.), and colorful stylistic detours, the collection’s quality stays solid until the early ’70s, when going with the flow cost the Raiders their edge. A-

* Del Shannon Greatest Hits (Bug/Rhino; CD, T, bonus tracks on CD) In the first half of the ’60s, Del Shannon’s impassioned voice delivered some of the era’s most unforgettable rock songs of hurt and sadness. Released just months after Shannon’s suicide, this intelligent package of mono single sides reflects his varied artistic impulses (doo-wop, Anglo-pop, suburban soul, country) in hits from ”Runaway” (1961) to ”Stranger in Town” (1965). B+ (Ira Robbins)