Prairie Oyster

This gifted country-rock group from Canada wowed Nashville in 1990 with their first U.S. release, Different Kind of Fire. This follow-up is every bit as full of luster and grit.

Led by Russell deCarle's tony, twangy vocals, the six-member band simmers swing, rock, country, Tex-Mex and rockabilly into a down-home stew with a decidedly sophisticated flavor. Nowhere is this more evident than on the classically country-styled "Will I Do (Till the Real Thing Comes Along)," penned by pianist and backup vocalist Joan Besen.

"Can't Say Goodbye," written by DeCarle, is rowdy rockabilly with shoot-the-moon energy—as much a trademark of the band as is their tender handling of the Carl Belew and W.S. Stevenson heartbreaker "Am I That Easy to Forget?" Lead guitarist and vocalist Keith Glass pitches in with the title track, a straight-ahead country rocker, the kind that is giving Glass a solid reputation as a songwriter in Nashville, independent of this Toronto-based band.

Whether doing a honky-tonk vamp on Jack DeKeyser's "I Think That We Did Something" or a quietly acoustic ballad like Besen's "Did You Fall in Love with Me," Prairie Oyster is as bracing a tonic as its raw-egg-and-Worcestershire namesake. (RCA)

Various Artists

Faced with waning creativity and aging record-buyers, the music business has increasingly turned to strip-mining its past. After the obvious candidates have been celebrated, we're finally getting around to rediscovering that woefully underappreciated pop genius—ta-dum!—Sonny Bono.

This twisted but inventive tribute to the music of the Palm Springs Mayor and would-be Senator (he wrote or co-wrote all the songs) is performed by alternative and underground bands from around the country. Their pro-Bono work has its moments. North Carolina's Flat Duo Jets buck and weave through that timeless classic "Needles and Pins." New Jersey's Ben Vaughn renders "Koko Joe" as a rockabilly rave-up. Pittsburgh's Frampton Brothers transform "Bang Bang" into a ravishingly melodramatic gypsy lament. The Cynics, also from Steel Town, turn "I Got You Babe" into a smash-and-grab guitar raid.

The most affecting track and the least ironic is a deeply felt, acoustic cover of "I Look for You" by Peter Holsapple, formerly of the dBs. The weirdest has to be the 10-minute psychedelic reading that Seattle's Young Fresh Fellows give "I Just Sit There."

The record is a powerful reminder of how much a radical reinterpretation can change perceptions. BY the time groups like Otis Ball or the Spuds are through, the pop pooh-bah sounds positively punky. Eat your heart out, Cher. (Bogus)

Del Tha Funkeé Homosapien

Here's the deal: two cousins. They seem completely different but actually are close friends with much in common. A Patty Duke revival? Not. This is the '90s. It's the story of Ice Cube and his first cousin Del.

Musically these rapping relatives do seem polar opposites. While Cube, 22 (real name: O'Shea Jackson), specializes in angry diatribes, Del, 19 (real name: Teren Jones), takes the title of his debut album from a line in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and includes playful raps about the annoying people who ride city buses, pushy pals who outstay their welcome at the parental homestead, and the illicit fun of smoking an occasional joint. The one song about gangs takes the side of the victim, not the aggressor, relating how a kid dresses down in order to avoid losing his coat and sneakers at gunpoint. He finds it appalling that "your life is worth a pair of Jordans?/ Now I wear [canvas] Vans and my fans think I'm poor."

True to his moniker, Del molds his music into a deeply funky groove that imitates and expands upon the work of zany groovemaster George Clinton. Calling his style D-Funk (after Clinton's hot '70s band, Parliament/Funkadelic, or P-Funk), Del employs Clinton's backup singers, the Brides of Funkenstein, to sing choruses. Del raps over lively bits of sampled sound—including a cash register and a piano from a Chinese Communist indoctrination record for children—in a sarcastic, laid-back style that captures the tone of many hip suburban teens with none of the fury of Cube's trademark rants. About as rough as Del gets is this swipe at Vanilla Ice: "Sliding on the floor like a fat ignoramus/ You sold 8 million but you still don't entertain us/ 'Cause you're fraudulent/ I have no time for a jester/ So take your place beside Uncle Fester."

Still, Del shares quite a lot with his cuz. Both come from middle-class California homes: Cube from a comparatively upscale section of South-Central Los Angeles, and Del from the Oakland Hills. Cube not only helped Del get a record deal (much as Donnie Wahlberg of the New Kids helped his brother Marky Mark), but he also co-produced the album, performs on it and wrote some of the music. Del returned the favor by collaborating on some lyrics for Cube and their mutual friend Yo-Yo. It's interesting to see how well the cousins understand the differences in their images and shift so easily between attitudes, depending on whose face is on the cover.

Cube and Del clearly enjoy each other. At the album's start, Del kids Cube about not knowing what a homosapien is. Later, Cube jokes about Del: "Don't pay no attention to him, Man. He's kinda weird." Hmmm. Maybe there is a sitcom in this after all. (Elektra)

  • Contributors:
  • Lisa Shea,
  • David Hiltbrand,
  • Michael Small.