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Hit and mess

Come And Get It -- A Tribute To Badfinger
Various Artists
Copper Records

Do Me Baby! Austin Does Prince
Various Artists
Fume Records

Forget, for a moment, that artist-based compilation albums are very much a disease foisted upon the listening public for a variety of generally greedy reasons by a rogue's gallery of record-biz folk--and that there is no Surgeon General of Bad Taste to moderate such things. It's not that the musicians honored in such compilations don't frequently deserve such homage. Rather, the problem is that participation by the cover artists is a prestige deal--not unlike being invited to River Phoenix's funeral--which rarely has anything to do with said participant's reverence for the artist of tribute. In any event, two Texas labels have leaped into the fray: Houston's Copper Records (Come And Get It--A Tribute To Badfinger), and Austin's Fume Records (Do Me Baby! Austin Does Prince).

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The songs on the Badfinger appreciation are winningly performed by a staggering variety of power popsters--known and not-so-known--who are touchingly aware of Badfinger's under-appreciated legacy. Global stars Adrian Belew, Aimee Mann, Dwight Twilley, The Knack, and Al Kooper line up next to regional artists like Cockeyed Ghost, Circle Sky, Lon and Derrek Van Eaton, Cherry Twister, Chris Von Sneidern, and (Austin's) Cotton Mather in a zealous mix-and-match.

Two overwhelming impressions stand out: the reverence of the participants for Badfinger, and the sheer volume of great songs Badfinger wrote. Belew's "Come and Get It," the Knack's "No Matter What," 20/20's "Day After Day," and Aimee Mann's "Baby Blue" are all distinctive while celebrating the joys of the big hits. But shimmering renditions on more obscure material are breathtaking (particularly Von Sneidern's "Midnight Caller," Paranoid Lovesick's "Icicles," Cockeyed Ghost's "Name of the Game"). The whole thing works.

On the other hand, maybe Austin shouldn't have done Prince--at least not that percentage of Austin musicians possessed of the innate smugness which permeates much of that scene. True: The Adults' "Sexy M.F.," Michele Solberg's "Sometimes it Snows in April," Dah-veed's "Girls and Boys," and Seela & Darwin's "The Question of U" indicate creative empathy for Prince's touch.

But much of the remainder of the CD is a ghoulish desecration not seen since the big, corpse-eating finale in Re-Animator. Renditions by El Flaco, Missile Command, Guy Forsyth, and Fuckemos all project an attitude that Prince should be grateful they were allowed to rape his catalogue.

--Rick Koster

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