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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five noteworthy new reissues reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Conquer the World

Style: From the record company best known for breaking the O'Jays: 16 "45s [circa 1971-1975] that failed to chart but stand out as worthy, cool musical moments: funky stuff and total soul that deserves to be resurrected and heard" (the notes).

Worldview: That there was more good music in Philadelphia International Records than was dreamt of in AM radio's philosophy.

Overall quality: Like an R&B jukebox from an alternative universe.

This Year's Model (Deluxe Edition)

Style: The cusp-of-New-Wave moment at which pub-rock and punk met atop a stripped-down beat and a Farfisa organ.

Cautions: Sexual innuendo; one onstage profanity on Disc Two.

Worldview: "Oh, the thrill is here but it won't last long. / You better have your fun before it moves along / and you're already looking for another / fool like me."

Overall quality: Costello's 1978 angry-young-man classic, replete with a previously unreleased contemporaneous concert.

Once Upon a Time

Style: The Trio's 1969 funny, rousing live double album (recorded in 1966) on one CD.

Worldview: "We think the effects of LSD are really over-dramatized. We had a friend who took an overdose, and he's now living quietly, happily married to an electric beer sign."

Overall quality: A fitting memorial to the late John Stewart, whose inter-song deadpan comedy created a context without which these songs would seem merely sentimental.

Jesus of Cool

Style: Witty send-ups of various socio-political matters set to engaging pub-rock, power-pop, and various permutations thereof.

Worldview: "And so it goes, and so it goes, / and so it goes, and so it goes. / But where it's goin' no one knows."

Overall quality: Lowe's 1978 debut, with all its U.S. and U.K. material (plus bonus tracks); if the Bay City Rollers song sounds dated, the Castro and UN songs remain fresh.

Beer Cans on the Moon

Style: Counter-cultural satire circa 1972 (set to equally satirical country-rock) from the underground anarchist poet and overground author of the Charles Manson study, The Family.

Worldview: "All the men with little to say . . . thought you were crazy, William Blake."

Overall quality: Less useful as enduring folk art than as an example of how lively the left-wing protest of yesteryear sounds when compared with the predictable left-wing protest of today.

Spotlight

Initially released in the United States as Pure Pop for Now People, the eclectic 1978 solo debut of the British pub-rocker Nick Lowe created little stir; it would not be until the next year and his next album that Lowe would score with the perennially popular "Cruel to Be Kind." The 30th anniversary of Lowe's first album, however, besides including bonus tracks, restores its more attention-getting U.K. title: Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc).

The messianic allusion was actually a red herring: Lowe's various personae were either comically anti-heroic servants of Mammon (specifically, the record industry) or cynically clever observers of both the powerful (the UN in "So It Goes," Fidel Castro in "Nutted by Reality") and the down-trodden, specifically the subject of "Marie Provost." A catchy, detailed, and generally accurate recounting of the rise and fall of the early-Hollywood starlet Marie Prevost, the song endures as an inadvertent pop-song counterpart to Robert Frost's similarly themed (and equally cynical) poem "Provide, Provide."

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