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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Ranking Roger's Old Stuff Put in a New Package

July 01, 1988|DUNCAN STRAUSS

Maybe the title of Ranking Roger's new album--"Radical Departure"--is meant to be ironic.

If you were told that the LP was the latest from his previous band, General Public, or even that it included some unreleased stuff by his band before that, the English Beat, you wouldn't have much trouble believing it.

The same applies to the live side, but lack of innovation aside, things went pretty well Monday at Bogart's in Long Beach, where the lean, animated Englishman kicked off his "Radical Departure" tour (hey, if you come up with a good misnomer, stick with it). If Roger and his band were having opening-night jitters, they were probably quickly calmed by the audience's immediate and enthusiastic response.

Although most of the audience probably hadn't heard the solo songs before--Roger's LP was released that day--the dance-floor crowd was bopping feverishly to the opening "Your Problems" and other new tunes as if they were familiar faves.

The show also included a fistful of General Public songs--more varied than the old English Beat's ska and reggae but still sporting that Caribbean rock flavor.

Roger's quartet is a versatile, so-hot-they're-cool dance band, with lots of racing riddims propelled by the busy bass lines of ex-General Public ace Horace Panter. And Roger is still inclined to embed some serious issues in these rhythmic romps, such as heroin addiction--"One Minute Closer (to Death)"--and unemployment--"Time to Mek a Dime," a guitar-driven version of the Beat's "Get-a-Job."

One hopes that Ranking Roger will eventually carve a more distinctive path. Meanwhile, he's doing a pretty good job of maintaining the musical status quo.

Ranking Roger will play Saturday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Show time: 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $16.50. Information: (714) 496-4927.

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