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Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

AUGUST 2, 1999: 

The Muffs Alert Today Alive Tomorrow, (Honest Don's M-M-Good Recordings)

You can take all your Alanises and Fionas and the rest of the angry gynecocracy of female rock performers who were catapulted to fame in the '90s and stuff 'em in the nearest trash container. My pick for Queen Bee is none other than the rampaging Kim Shattuck, reigning Big Muff of the California-based band the Muffs.

As purveyors of the perfect hybrid blend of pop and punk, the Muffs have averaged a knockout album every two years for the past six years (with Blonder And Blonder from 1995 and Happy Birthday To Me from 1997 being bona fide thrill-a-minute rock classics). After being unceremoniously dumped from the roster of major-label Reprise as a backhanded reward for a job well done, the Muffs refused to roll over and play dead.

Their fourth album, Alert Today Alive Tomorrow (the title taken from an old Civil Defense motto), appears on the upstart indie label Honest Don's, home to other misfits such as Chixdiggit, Dogpiss, Limp, and Hagfish. This liberation from the confines of the limited corporate mentality has resulted in another great Muffs album, but this time cut far closer to the bone and therefore truer to the band's no-frills intent.

With strong support from drummer Roy McDonald and bassist Ronnie Barnett, Kim Shattuck propels the Muffs headlong through 13 of her original songs that compose the entirety of Alert Today Alive Tomorrow. The overall tone is one of rocking like there's no tomorrow to be alert or alive for, but there's a softer side on view here as well ("Prettier Than Me" and "Your Kiss").

Shattuck never minces her carefully chosen words, as displayed in such jaunty face-slappers as "I Wish That I Could Be You," "Silly People," "Another Ugly Face," "Clown," "Blow Your Mind," and "Room With No View." This record puts a tingle in my loincloth, and that's entirely due to the tough and tawdry charm of kickin' Kim Shattuck, who makes no apologies and has no need to offer any.

Get online to your CD vendor and order this one immediately, or bug the piss out of your record retailer until they carry the Muffs' Alert Today Alive Tomorrow. This is 34 minutes of pure rock-and-roll bliss, unmatched in the current marketplace. -- David D. Duncan

Lew Soloff With A Song In My Heart (Milestone)

Lew Soloff is one of the most respected studio and session trumpeters in the business, toting a resume that includes a recent stint as lead trumpeter in the highly rated Mingus Big Band. He's a versatile cat, too. You'll remember his soaring trumpet with Blood, Sweat & Tears, and his credentials include playing with arranger Gil Evans' band, as well as with Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra. This consummate musician brings his formidable gifts to the fore on this unassuming yet extraordinary new disc.

With A Song In My Heart is unassuming because of its quiet feel -- Soloff plays exclusively with the Harmon mute, which casts a soft, refined veneer on the entire recording. The selections seem mild-mannered, with a songlist of American popular tunes -- the Rodgers/Hart title track, Arlen/Mercer's "Come Rain Or Come Shine," Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight," and Sinatra's "I'm A Fool To Want You" -- as well as Soloff originals and a jazz arrangement of a Tchaikovsky symphony andantino.

Essentially, the muted ambience and popular song selections might lead you to think that this could serve as soft dinner music. While a quiet tone pervades, the graceful nuances don't hide the extraordinary restrained brilliance of Soloff and his peers. He and the band -- top-notch vets bassist George Mraz, drummer Victor Lewis, and pianist Mulgrew Miller -- play with a passion and underlying energy that always threatens to explode. Mraz and Miller both offer several gentle improvisations, with each melodic line brimming with contained fire. Soloff's mastery of the mute's possibilities evokes the groundbreaking work of Miles Davis, who essentially defined the role of the muted trumpet as an instrument of great beauty and passion. Like Davis, Soloff plays simple lines, only he plays them with a precision and beauty few can match. The result is this beautiful, extremely satisfying recording. -- Gene Hyde

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