Various Artists

University of Michigan: Dearborn Diversity

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Diversity is celebrated from a mostly pop and rock standpoint on this recording, comprising student, faculty, and staff bands based at the University of Michigan/Dearborn branch. Though there are some interesting asides, it's mostly a garage band mentality collection of fairly well-produced music by a variety of amateurs and some seasoned pros. The best and most diverse cut of the 20 comes from 47 Uma with the great singer Gail Baker (ex-Cat's Meow and Skanking Voodoo Dolls) and fine drummer Michael Friedman. "African Dream" is a bright juju Afro-pop tune à la King Sunny Ade, as Baker's perfect voice climbs skyward. Val Ventro and V-8 Ford do a decent funky-good time shuffle tune "Headin' to New Orleans," while the pure-voiced "Deadly Mistress" Donna Lacey offers a very good tough-love power pop anthem with neat synth strings on "Were We Just Dancing." There's an Irish folk waltz, "Stones of Fair Lane," by Sweetwater Journey, acoustic singer/songwriter Mike Gillespie in slight Neil Young mode on "Everyone," and Michael Bryce à la James Taylor for his God-loving folk song "I Need to Spend Time." Several tracks present local rock bands as English posers. "First Happy Love Song" by Bedford Drive and "Patiently Waiting" from Landstrider are directly copped from the Police, while "Visionaries" (sic) performed acoustically by Mark Christopher is so David Bowie. Memories of Hawkwind are revived by space cadet group Sharkus on the phase shifted, not-half-bad "Nobody in My Bed," while starting out promisingly like a "Bare Trees" Fleetwood Mac, Pure Suspension degenerates into fake Brit on "I've Heard It Before." There is really bad gargoyle rock from Flesh Gallery on "Land of Dishonor," a plodding synth-laden tale of warning of impending doom is offered by N2 Submission on "Piper of Duntrune," and rock WWF-style is played by the snarly grunge band Lo Life for "Fear." Probably the worst of the lot is the corny, calypso, "Tequila" tinged, strained vocal from Tres Jazz on "What a Difference a Day Makes," while Charlotte Bailey Kristie's innocuous singing of the lyric "A Foggy Day" is swamped by a tasteless, phony synth-horn arrangement. If this is an American's view of diversity, it is limited, stilted, and wearing blinders. Only 47 Uma (who deserve four stars on their own) really got it right. Clearly this laudable idea is only scratching the surface on this disappointing compilation.