Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Perfectionist, master of the recording studio, all-around control freak, Frank Sinatra has never authorized many live albums. So the official release of Live in Australia, 1959 (Blue Note) isn't one of those exhumations with which labels dishonor demigods past their prime. In fact, this hour with the Red Norvo Quintet is regarded by bootleg connoisseurs as one of Sinatra's finest club sets ever, far superior to the Paris performance Reprise put out in 1995. Its characteristic tempo a confident, medium-fast swing, it breathes mature, unforced optimism into such signature Sinatra standards as All of Me, Night and Day, and I've Got You Under My Skin. Those who thrill to every detail of the man's timbre may be slightly disappointed by an audio quality that is superb by any normal criterion. But especially for the jazz-inclined, and anyone else who finds Sinatra's studio arrangements too ornately pop, the easy, economical freedom of these renditions should prove the perfect setting for one of the most undeniable voices and masterful styles of the 20th century.

With a desperate biz suddenly hot for the genre now rechristened electro (techno to you), England's Chemical Brothers have moved into next-big-thing territory. Their new Dig Your Own Hole (Astralwerks) is unrelentingly uptempo in a humorous rather than punishing way, abjuring guitars but not guitar sounds, which they unite to hectic dance beats, and is capable of detached lyricism as well as high energy as the occasional laugh. Nonvocal musics rarely go pop. But give the Chemical Brothers credit for trying to do it right.

A once and future Mekon who doubles as "Cowboy Sally" on a Turner Network kiddie show, Sally Timms has just issued the best of her periodic EPs: five country songs of five different attitudes and origins, every one played for soul. The title? Cowboy Sally, natch. (Bloodshot.)

Playboy, Mar. 1997

Feb. 1997 Apr. 1997