Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Recordings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Recordings

Article excerpt

"BORN TO QUIT" Smoking Popes (Capitol)

TV execs laboring long and hard over Gen X-aimed sitcoms, take note: The Smoking Popes have what it takes to sing your theme song. Their poppy relationship songs have that combination of catchiness and meaninglessness that screams, "Put me on prime-time TV!" Their sound fills in all the blanks for alternative-rock Top 40 hitmaker. Is it guitar-driven? Does it have a slightly punkish edge, but nothing too hard? Is it a lot like the Gin Blossoms or Soul Asylum? Yes, yes, yes.

Listening to their new album, "Born to Quit," one gets the impression that they left out the instrumental bridges between verses. But a quick check of the CD cover reveals that they did, in fact, attempt to write 10 different songs. They just didn't have much luck keeping them different.

"Gotta Know Right Now" begins:

If I told you that I really really liked you a lot (I wanted to for a long long time but I never had the guts) I wonder what you would say.

"Mrs. You and Me," the song directly after "Gotta," includes these lines:

I'm thinking about asking you today I'm trying to find out if there's any doubt.

Although the first song is about asking a girl out and the second is about asking a girl to get married, they are almost identical in tone, organization and lyrics. In fact, whether the Smoking Popes are happy, sad or indifferent to the mysterious girl(s) that all of their songs are about, they basically sound the same.

Even when they are singing about a break-up, their tone is so relentlessly, cluelessly upbeat that it almost seems ironic. But like the entertainment-industry executives who will sooner or later be salivating at their feet, the Smoking Popes don't delve into high concepts like that. Samantha M. Shapiro

***** "ANGEL BAND: The Classic Mercury Recordings"Stanley Brothers (Mercury)

The Stanley Brothers were big stars when bluegrass was in the country mainstream, but their monumental legacy has been ill-served on the domestic reissue front. "Angel Band" helps to rectify that, collecting 18 of the brothers' best Mercury recordings from 1953 to 1957.

(Carter Stanley died in 1966. Ralph still performs).

"Angel Band" is no quaint document of a bygone era. The simple beauty of the music and the brothers' high lonesome harmonies still deliver thrills and chills. These songs about death and faith and heartbreak sound startlingly vital.

Essential stuff. Nick Cristiano, Knight-Ridder

***** "URBAN KNIGHTS" Grover Washington Jr., Ramsey Lewis (GRP)

For sheer night-driving music, it's hard to outdo these Urban Knights. …

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