Various Artists

Mama Kangaroos: Philly Women Sing Captain Beefheart

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Released during a time when there is an overabundance of ideas and talent, Genus Records somehow finds a truly innovative vehicle to expose new artists -- the use of the tribute album with material from one of rock's true genius madmen. Mama Kangaroos: Philly Women Sing Captain Beefheart could have probably given Don Van Vliet a much larger platform had it been released in the '70s. Global Transmission take "The Witch Doctor Life" and turn it into highly listenable pop. In fact, producer Mike Villers, who treated the world to the music of Jim Carroll on the adventurous Put Your Tongue to the Rail double-disc, does an amazing job of bringing together a diverse group of women who add to the Captain Beefheart legacy with such passion and polish that Frank Zappa probably would've went out of his way to sign them all to Straight Records. Noura with Interplay for Two Trumpets & Two Tenors turn "Well" into a cosmic dirge -- the complete opposite of Nancy Falkow's folky "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains" -- perfect for AAA radio -- resplendent in dobro, lap steel, violin, mandolin, and traditional instruments. There are guys on this disc, backing up the Philadelphia women, but it is the female vocals interpreting Beefheart's many visions that make this intriguing. The a cappella "Apes Ma" by Radio Eris is a good break, as is Janet Bressler's wonderfully soulful rendition of "I'm Glad." There's so much depth to this compilation -- truly a great introduction to composer Van Vliet's life's work. The production levels are very high and the performances are all extraordinary. Genus Records gets a gold star for putting a great spin on an ambitious project that can't be an easy sell. Though it should be -- as every track does justice to the source.

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