The latest in reissues - See what we thought of Devo, Mathhew Shipp, Iceberg Slim, Tom Verlaine, James White, Gang of Four, and Alan Vega

By Michael Flaherty
Updated February 03, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Rap/metal impresario Rick Rubin and hardcore king Henry Rollins use their new label to release, for the first time on CD, some favorite ”lost” albums-late-’70s/ early-’80s discs embodying the ethos of punk if not necessarily its sound. Not surprisingly, the results are as uneven as they are eclectic. The oldest unearthing here may also be the most interesting: Iceberg Slim’s 1976 Reflections, a set of Beat- inspired rhymes that presciently foreshadows gangsta rap. Another winner is James White’s 1979 chaotic jazz-funk noise staple, Buy the Contortions, the popularity of which forged common ground between the aesthetes and the safety-pin-and-leather crowd. But the masterwork of this first batch of reissues is the strangely enduring 1979 Marxist polemic Entertainment! by Gang of Four, a band whose informed dogma transcended fashion statement and socialist chic. There are some disappointments: Tom Verlaine’s predictable if sturdy Dreamtime; Devo’s 1979 Duty Now for the Future, a truly awful mess; Matthew Shipp’s deadly boring Circular Temple; and Alan Vega’s New Raceion, which pushes repetitiveness past groove styling into mere drone. Infinite Zero will release a second bunch of reissues on May 16; luckily, then as now, each will be available individually. Duty Now: C- Circular Temple: C Reflections: B+ Dreamtime: B Buy the Contortions: B+ Entertainment!: A+ New Raceion: C