Pat Dinizio
with the Pat Dinizio Foursome
Songs and Sounds

Last month I wrote in a review of Smashing Pumpkin James Iha's CD that truly effective solo albums should take the soloist in a direction distinctly different from that of his or her "normal" band. A solo album should be a disc of songs that is 180 degrees away from the "sound" of the artist's regular gig. Otherwise...what's the point of going solo besides ego-pumping?

Well... For the past decade Pat Dinizio has served as the lead vocalist and songwriter for The Smithereens, one of the most underappreciated pop rock acts of the modern scene. This album is put together to look as if Dinizio has stepped out of The Smithereens to broaden his horizons into the land of hepcat jazz (he's shown on the cover with fat plastic glasses and a hat in a distinctly early '60s album cover look and he credits his new backup players as the "Pat Dinizio Foursome"). And there are two innocuous, late night smoky jazz club numbers bookending the CD.

The honest truth however, is that 95 percent of this album sounds exactly like The Smithereens are playing it.That's a good thing for Smithereens fans, and the rootsy touch of producer Don Dixon — who also produced The Smithereen's last CD — probably helps to keep the "sound" of this recording in familiar climes for longtime Dinizio fans. "Nobody But Me" has the same crashing guitar abrasiveness of a dozen Smithereens tracks ("War For My Mind," "Top Of The Pops" "Yesterday Girl" and "Blood and Roses" all come to mind). The peppy "124 MPH" sounds like an outtake from The Smithereens' Blow Up album; in fact a lot of these tracks do. The "Foursome" brings a couple of new musical touches to DiNizio's charmingly heavy-handed riffs with the occasional touch of saxophone ("No Love Lost" has an especially nice sax solo) or flute.

But basically, this is the same-old, same-old sing-song three-chord pop rock from the Smithereens' leader. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's also not a big new step for the singer-songwriter. Which leaves one asking the question: why'd he do a solo album? Either the Smithereens were tired of playing the same thing, or Pat was tired of playing it with them. Either way, what you've got here is a Smithereens album with a couple mild jazz touches that don't hold much weight.

And a lonely Smithereen.



Ben Folds Five offers fans some musical postcards from the road (and history) in Naked Baby Photos, a collection released through Caroline, their original label (they're now part of the Sony conglomerate). The album includes the original single of "Jackson Cannery" which got them a record deal, nine live tracks, including a couple impromptu jams which make for fun listening (like the bizarre funk rap macho fest of "For Those of Ya'll Who Wear Fannie Packs" and the quickly aborted heavy metal sendup "Satan is My Master"). There's an instrumental that shows the band's early prowess at making a big sound with only bass, piano and drums and there are a couple of early studio recordings which would have fit well (and were intended to) on the band's debut album. It's a mixed bag (a couple of the live tracks sound more like muffled bootleg recordings than "live album" material), but one that fans shouldn't miss...

Sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover. Or a CD, anyway. I took one look at the pretty boy poses and design of the cover of NSYNC's self titled debut on RCA and said...hmmm, looks like a new NKOTB (New Kids on the Block) record. And guess what? Inside this disc are a host of mindless, soupy, faux funky odes to teenage love and heartache. These boys sing a bit more soulfully than the New Kids did (heck they even glide through Chris Cross's "Sailing"), but everything's so smooth and glossy on the disc that they're also easier to forget then that other paint-by-numbers pop teen idol outfit. Oh, and instead of singing "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" as their calling card, NSYNC have "nah-nah-nah-nah-nah." I guess there needs to be a New Kids every five years or so...

Rhino Records has released a couple new discs perfect for playing at parties. Some parties, anyway. RuPaul's Go-Go-Box Classics includes 18 disco and synth dance hits from the Pointer Sisters, Paula Abdul, Kool & The Gang, Eurythmics, Cameo, and, of course, RuPaul. '70s Party Classics, on the other hand, mines some of the most maudlin hits from Rhino's Have A Nice Day series of '70s hit discs. Included are Tony Orlando & Dawn's "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died," Bo Donaldson &" The Heywoods' "Billy, Don't Be A Hero," Morris Albert's "Feelings," Mary MacGregor's "Torn Between Two Lovers" and more.