Various Artists

Later, Vol. 2: Slow Beats

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Pulled from the best of ex-Squeeze Jools Holland's Later..., British TV's premier live music show, Later, Vol. 2: Slow Beats features the best downtempo performances said show had on offer during the mid-'90s. A fine companion volume to the Later, Vol. 1: Brit Beat compilation, Vol. 2 turns down the lights, heats up the vibes, and delivers 17 tracks of hits and surprisingly few misses. With the focus, of course, on all the trip-hop bands making the scene at that time, the disc is resplendent across Massive Attack's "Karmacoma," Morcheeba's "Tape Loop," and Portishead's "Glory Box." These three bands certainly were the triumvirate of the genre, and that finesse is reflected across these cuts, which are flawless. And, while there are some moments (Ben Harper's "Whipping Boy") that feel decidedly out of place among the electronic crush groove, there are others (Ice-T's "I Must Stand") that should be, but aren't. But as good as the heavy hitters are, don't miss Tricky's acoustic "Suffocated Love" and Björk's "Possibly Maybe," while there are also a couple of lesser knowns that steal their own slice of the show. Shara Nelson's "Inside Out" is superbly sexy, leaving Ruby's quick hit, "Paraffin," to gut the set, a flayed, frayed big beat nervous breakdown. Far better live than in the studio, this version of the song remains among the decade's best -- ever. It's a yummy set, across an endless gyration of sex and smiles, slick intent and menaced posturing. Truly capturing the spirit that infuses Holland's show in the round, Later, Vol 2: Slow Beats is a must-have -- best of the decade -- compilation. It's a who's who of the upper echelon.

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