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Pow Wow

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Album Review

A self-described "companion" to R. Stevie Moore's first album after moving to New Jersey from Nashville, The North, Pow Wow sounds a little more like leftovers from the same sessions. The material is uniformly pretty good — and there's a stretch in the center of disc one that's superb — and unlike the covers-heavy The North, it consists almost entirely of original material, barring a terrific version of the Elvis chestnut "Marie's the Name (His Latest Flame)" and a playful run-through of the early Mothers of Invention nugget "Let's Make the Water Turn Black." Still, the album doesn't quite have the conceptual unity of The North, and there is a bit of filler here. For example, the minimal, falsetto-sung "Blasted" would be a charming diversion if it was under two minutes long, rather like those little link tracks and interludes on many of Paul McCartney's '70s albums. At nine minutes and 13 seconds, it's just kind of annoying. Similarly, nearly a third of the second disc consists of the 14-minute "SMGoodies," an audio-verite collection of tape fragments and found-sound instructional records that recalls the similarly disjointed and rambling Grease. (Fans of the seriously obscure outsider music genre should know that there's a segment featuring the late Chris Palestis, aka Wizzo, toward the end of this.) On the upside, however, there's yet another treasure trove of prime Moore, ranging from good (the working-stiff blues "Misplacement," which prefigures the cult comedy film Office Space by a full two decades; the quirky and hilarious love song "Debbie") to great ("The Residents," a love letter to Moore's like-minded heroes that just happens to mention the supposedly anonymous group's two masterminds by name; the two-part suite "I Feel So Bad I Feel Good"/"Sand in My Eyes," which shifts from a weirdly echoing piece of anguished psychedelia into Moore's own white-boy-from-Nashville take on '70s love-man soul in the Al Green/Barry White tradition; the a cappella "No Talking," which invents the sound They Might Be Giants would eventually turn into a career) to brilliant (the punky "Jesus Rocks," positing listening to rock & roll on a lazy Sunday morning as a more viable spiritual activity than going to church; the beautifully melodic "Copy Me"; the utterly sublime "Hearing Aid," which marries a cheap rhythm box, overdubbed circa-1967 Kinks harmonies, and a melody that recalls, no kidding, Rubber Soul-era Beatles). Though it's not one of Moore's best albums from this era, Pow Wow still beats a lot of his contemporaries' highest achievements.

Biography

Born: 18 January 1952 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most difficult to categorize musicians in rock, R. Stevie Moore is a true original. Bypassing the traditional recording industry more thoroughly than just about any internationally known singer/songwriter ever has, Moore has self-released literally thousands of songs through the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club (online at www.rsteviemoore.com), an ongoing mail-order operation that has hundreds of individually dubbed cassettes and CD-Rs in its catalog. The handful of traditional LPs and CDs...
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Pow Wow, R. Stevie Moore
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