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Wooden Circus' new CD includes a couple of first-rate ballads.

October 29, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Here are capsule reviews of CDs by groups that frequently play in the area.

*

Wooden Circus, "Lemon Drop," (Mercury Records)

This Simi Valley quartet strikes a note for perseverance--they've been around forever (well, four years), and now they have a big label deal. They deserve it too. There's all sorts of original rock and college radio-friendly tunes on this one, but a couple of the ballads, "Gardens of Despair" and "Umbrella," are first-rate. Paul Kenny has a cool voice, too, and that never hurts.

GRADE: A-

*

Las 15 Letras, "Golosinas"

En ingles or en espanol, punk is all about youthful angst and energy. This L.A.-based band is no exception. It's punk, funk and some south of the border rhythms all cranked up and screamed in Spanish. Named for a bar where Pancho Villa had a bad day, Las 15 Letras is fairly primitive, but they rock.

GRADE: B

*

Benjie Porecki "Servin' It Up" (Severn Records)

Porecki is a veteran keyboard player with a vast repertoire, but on this one, it's instrumentals. Unfortunately, Porecki's stylings sound like something the Edison Co. would play when they leave you on hold. Competent but uninvolving.

GRADE: C-

*

Michael Veitch, "NY Journal" (Silverwolf)

Anyone who has seen "Midnight Cowboy" or "Barney Miller" or sat near Mets' fans at Dodger Stadium would have any notion of ever going to New York forever crushed, but Vermont folkie Veitch actually moved to the Big Apple on purpose. This album is the result, and nothing too obnoxious has rubbed off on him--yet. "Rottentown," however, is self-explanatory. Most of these are introspective love songs with "Tru-Luv" the best, and Veitch has a pleasing voice. The ultimate Vermonter's take on New York can be found in the first 10 minutes of the 1937 classic "Nothing Sacred."

GRADE: B+

*

L.A. Jones & the Blues Messengers, "Jumpin' At Shadows" (Barking Blues Music)

Here's another of those Texas blues guys that plays his 200 gigs a year and still is able to dress like a rich dude. Texas and Chicago blues meld smoothly as this left-handed guitarist goes through his licks. "I Am a Loner" is the opening rocker and "Jumpin' At Shadows" is the slow and sweaty one. Solid all around.

GRADE: A-

*

Various, "Full Tank" (Jackass Records)

This is a compilation album of roots rock and traditional country rock from around the country. Those L.A. favorites with the great name, the Trailer Park Casanovas, contribute "Where You Belong." Also memorable is Blazing Haley out of Santa Barbara doing "Back For No Good Reason." And the mere thought of "Redneck Riot," a song by the Countrypolitans, could scare Wall Street. Best is a wild roots rocker by Gregory Joe Spradlin, "Preacherman." This is good country music for people who hate country music.

GRADE: A-

*

Judy Kreuger, "After All" (OffWorld Records)

This folkie mother of two sons does the low-budget girl and a guitar thing on songs of interest to the distaff thirtysomethings--love, love lost, love lousy and like that. The first tune, "Giving It Up For Love," is perhaps autobiographical and makes a good case for love not conquering all.

GRADE: B

*

Eleanor Academia, "Oracle of the Black Swan" (Black Swan Records)

Academia has the rock star look and the rock star voice, but she has no rock star songs. Her tunes barely rise above the mundane, the lyrics are predictable, and it's like a bunch of classic cliche poser rock 20 years later. Imagine rehashed Heart.

GRADE: C-

*

Denny Freeman, "A Tone For My Sins" (Dallas Blues Society Records)

Does anyone still live in Austin or are they all here now? Yet another transplant doing those blues, Freeman has impeccable credentials, including eight years in the house band at Antone's in Austin, plus stints with Jimmie Vaughan and Taj Mahal. This one is all instrumentals as Freeman shows off all over the place.

GRADE: B+

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