POP RAUL MALO Today
(BMG/ GraVity) O
So this Will be the Raul Malo whose curiously characterless voice fronted that implausibly Successful rehash of Latin percussion. in- your-face brass. backing singers and Caribbean flutes known as the Mavericks (a band which was individualistic and untamed to much the same degree as Billy Fury was actually really angryi.
Stand by for fireworks and endless surprises. then. as Malo ditches the well worn formula of SOs-style Latino dancehall fodder and ‘senoi'itas who can sway' for a startling mix of trip hop beats. electronica. free form jazz and medieval plainsong.
Not. lNinian Dunnett)
PHIL ROBSON lmpish
iBabel Label) 0000
Chances are that Phil Robson will be most familiar from his work with his partner. singer Christine Tobin, but he steps out into the spotlight on this excellent album ‘Nlttl his own trio. augmented on four tracks by a special guest. the great John Taylor on piano.
Robson has established his credentials as a highly inventive guitarist. and is in top form here. His compositions are nicely varied. including a couple of tunes with overt African and Indian influences alongside the jax/ and funk grooves. Versions of Wayne Shorter's ms and Tobin's ballad 'You Draw The Line' complete a fine set.
E D4 6Twenty ilnfectiousi O...
The first three song titles here tell you Just about all you need to know
abOuI the Dal. As ‘Rock'n'RolI Motherlucker'. Party and 'Come On!‘ clatter past in a drunken blur of Jet-fuelled Mini and sweaty shouting. it's obwous that we have yet another bunch of greasy garage kids dead set on kicking guitar music up the pants once more. Hailing from New Zealand. the 01 are less choreographed than the Hives. less hairy than Jon Spencer. less self- conscious than the Strokes and less shit than the White Stripes. More power to their southern hemispheric. rockin' asses. iDoug Johnstonm
SIERRA MAESTRA Rumbero Soy «World Music Networki 00.0
With Rumbero Soy. Sierra Maestra. who started out 2:3 years ago bent on reiu\.ienatiiig,) classic Cuban 'son'. score again with a sublime set of high energy dance songs full of romance. passion. love and Cubania pride. This time around they ring changes on a couple of pieces with New York's Marc Ribot and producer Chris Birkett weaving their guitars like veteran Cubans into a classic mix where sparkling trumpet responds to lead vocals and close harmony choruses soaring over layers of guitars. bass. percussion. With Omara Portuondo and Ibrahim Ferrer as guest vocalists for a song each. every tracks a winner. lJan Fairleyi
()(JUNIRY ROCK FREELOADER Lovesick 'SOPi 00
You've all done it . . .
stood posing in the mirror like your favourite Stroke and hoping that one click of those sneakers will transport you to a headline spot at CGBG's downtown New York. Freeloader are similiarly soaked in wannabe. but of the Stetson sporting. yee— haa yankophilia kind. ‘Lovesick' is sloshed in the saloon singalong territory.
‘Fickle Friend' is catchy electrified country in Status Quo stratosphere and acoustic, soul-baring ballad. ‘Only the Lonely Cry' is a substandard take on Neil Young. Instead of leading the pack to put Scottish music on the map. Freeloader have produced a carbon cepy of countless American country albums that comes nowhere near the originals. What a waste. (Camilla Rial
Italian Platinum (I2XU) Veteran US alt.rockers' eighth LR produced by Steve Albini.
Various Artists Garage Rap Vol I lEastsirlei The MCs take centre stage on this. the first solely vocal-led Ul< garage compilation.
Details (Universal) Singer songwriter Imogen Heap and Madonna. Bjork collab- orator Guy Sigsworth get together for some sensual electronic machine music. James Grant
Shot the Albatross lVert/ca/i Monica Queen and Charles Bukowski are among the collaborators on this poetry set to music collection.
lio/iiantica (Beggars Banquet) Dean Warehaiii's soft (as- puppies guitar pop guartet release their sixth long player.
PS2 FINAL FANTASY X (Sony) £39.99 000
More like TV than real role play
With two hours on the gaming clock yet only fifteen minutes of game actually played, Final Fantasy X was in real danger of being passed onto the DVD reviewers. Lengthy FMV scenes explain an admittedly complicated story, while moving your character Tidus from one side of the screen to the other to initiate another of these mini-movies is all you have to do. Thankfully, after the initial couple of hours the game opens up a bit, but only in spurts and with limited freedom. Tidus must help his new-found friends travel the world on a pilgrimage to defeat the evil Sin that menaces the populace. But because each character has a history, a personality and a tonne of ambition, telling each of their tales means less time for exploring. There is never any deviation in FFX. The road ahead is always obvious while going back is impossible. You have no control over the pace or direction of the story and it soon becomes fight- fight-fight-ten minutes of story-fight-fight and on and on. There are minor diversions in the shape of an interesting development scheme where you choose abilities and attributes, as well as a mini-game called Blitzball. This is like an underwater version of RPG Speedball and can
be a lot of fun.
As usual the graphics are beautiful and the voice acting is above average, while the characters are interesting and well fleshed out. But the pedestrian pace of the story combined with the famous FF random battles make the tenth instalment a rather ponderous affair that bears more resemblance to a television series than a true role playing game like Baldur’s Gate. Not for the easily distracted. (lain Davidson)
[’82 XIRTUA FIGHTER
(Sega) £39.99 000
Even though the Virtua Fighter series kicked off the 30 beat—em-up genre. it has fallen behind. Soul Caliber and the Dead or Alive andlekken series have pushed what is possible and expected while VF has remained true to its
original. Virtua Fighter 4 does little to redress this balance. relying as it does on some great characters and twitch fighting.
Graphically it is solid. if uninspired. while the arenas are now looking a little old and dull.
To keep your interest. there is an intriguing new feature that allows the development of an Al
fighter that you train through combat then unleash on the computer opponents. This is great entertainment. if a little pointless. and will be a big selling point. Otherwise VF 4 is a sound and rather unspectacular beat- 'em-up.
PC DUNGEON SIEGE (Microsoft) £34.99
This may come as a shock. Role playing games are for geeks. The anal tweaking of statistics. the calculation of hit bonuses and damage modifiers. the deSire for logical fantasy. all this is mana from heaven to the geek. Unfortunately. someone at Microsoft has decided that this must change. producing Dungeon Siege an RPG for the simpleton.
Graphically it's great. with the third person adventuring simple to control and untaxing. Lose a life and Just hit the Quick load key. However. this simple approach is deeply flawed. The story is Simple. the combat is simple and the character development is simple. leading to a very dull experience. Without depth. an RPG is nothing. and Dungeon Siege is as shallow as a puddle. Hardcore role players Will feel cheated and casual gamers WI” not find enough here to persuade them to take up more serious. and better. RPG games.
(3 2t) .Jun 9001) THE LIST 107