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Beef-A-Roo whips up a Tricky omelet

The Beef-A-Roo Experience's seven-track disc, "John Denver Omelet," is out now, according to main man Ron Faiola -- drummer, singer and guitarist -- who was a member of Couch Flambeau back in the day.

The disc features six Cheap Trick covers and a version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "Bite It," which, unsurprisingly, also has a C.T. pedigree.

Also in the ad hoc rock outfit are veterans like Jay Tiller (Couch Flambeau), Dale Kaminski (Liquid Pink), Lisa Jebson and Germany's Kai Fritzschen. Milwaukee musical trainspotters may note that this is the first time former bandmates Tiller and Faiola have recorded together in 18 years.

Faiola has long been a Cheap Trick fan and produced two volumes of the multi-disc "AMCT" Cheap Trick tribute series.

"In March 2001 Kai was here in the U.S. to see Cheap Trick play in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Rockford," Faiola says. "Since Kai knew I had been in a Cheap Trick cover band -- Chick Treat with Tiller, (Die Kreuzen and Decapitado's) Dan Kubinski and Rockhaus Guitars' Greg Kurschewski -- he asked if he and I could record a Cheap Trick cover for the "AMCT Volume 4" CD.

"To round out the band, I asked Dale Kaminski to play bass and our friend Lisa Jebsen from Texas was coming in for the same shows and I asked her to do the vocals."

Jebsen was a good choice; she sounds alarmingly like Cheap Trick lead singer Robin Zander on some tunes.

"The hardest part of a CT song is the vocals and since Lisa is an actress, doing musicals and such, I thought she'd be able to handle Robin Zander's vocal range," says Faiola. "Boy did she ever!"

To their credit, the Beef-A-Roos don't do the covers you'd expect on "John Denver Omelet," which was recorded when everyone got together in Milwaukee in February to witness Cheap Trick's two-night stand at Potawatomi Casino. In fact, they've mined much of the material from lesser-appreciated Cheap Trick discs. And the Hawkins song is a tune that CT often performed onstage.

"(CT drummer) Bun E. (Carlos) w…

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"We Jam Econo" rekindles The Minutemen's fire

In the early 1980s, there was no American band that could touch The Minutemen. Like fellow Californians The Circle Jerks, the trio said what it had to say with lightning-fast speed, if not usually with musical precision. But unlike most other bands, The Minutemen actually had something to say.

Commenting on politics, society and most everything else, guitarist D. Boon, bassist Mike Watt (later of firehose) and George Hurley (with THAT hair) were ramshackle, loud-mouthed and beloved by American punks.

"We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen" is a two-DVD set with a feature-length documentary about the short-lived band that died with the 1985 death of Boon in an auto accident in Arizona. Disc two is a marathon of live footage of more than 60 songs from three gigs.

There are also interviews, deleted scenes from the documentary and original music videos for three songs (it was the '80s after all).

The result is a comprehensive retrospective of one of the most important bands in American indie rock history. Even 20 years later it's hard not to love the sheer determination and the passion and the compulsion to question everything.

If you can't find it at Atomic and such places, the Flexifilm Web site is plexifilm.com and The Minutemen Web site is theminutemen.com.

Phoenix sets the scene for summer

Noticing that "It's Never Been Like That," the new disc from France's Phoenix -- on the almost always batting 1.000 Astralwerks Records -- has a song called "Consolation Prizes" makes me think wistfully of the Orange Juice song of a similar name and I figure that's a good sign.

I liked the band's previous discs and was sorry to have missed their Onopa gig a while back, but nothing prepared me for how much I'd like this one, their third.

The aforementioned "Consolation Prizes" sounds EXACTLY like Josh Rouse and that can only be a good thing. Thomas Mars sings just like Rouse on this one and it has the same, wind in your hair summery sound.

The same is true of "Long Distance Call." In fact, the entire 10-disc is upbeat, breezy, poppy and melodic and there's nary a low point, making this that rare CD that you can just pop in and let it repeat again and again. (I'll save my rant on the loss of focus during the CD era for another time.)

Fresh, unadorned, straightforward and striking ... And how often can you say that?

Note: Galli-phobes don't have to worry, either. Sung entirely in English and with musical influences that are more American and British than French, there's nothing here to even clue one in that the band is from France. (And anyway, we shouldn't hate the French; without their help at the beginning we might not even have a country.)

Kahn chronicles Impulse!

Now that his third book, "The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records," has been published, I'm sure of one thing about Ashley Kahn. He, along with food writer Korby Kummer, would certainly be on my dinner party invite list if I had their addresses.

Kahn, who is often heard on NPR, is the author of books about the making of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" LP and Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." His new volume is an eclectic portrait of one of the most eclectic labels in jazz history, Creed Taylor's Impulse!.

Eclectic is the best word to describe a label that released, side by side, the absolutely free form (Coltrane's "Ascension," for example), alongside accessible soul jazz (think organist Shirley Scott), straight ahead hard bop (Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers), the orchestral jazz hybrids of Oliver Nelson and the retro-tastic mid-'60s work of the great Earl Hines. Somehow, even Hines' work feels cutting edge 40 years on.

In fact, it's almost hard to imagine that the label that issued some of the most challenging and engaging jazz records ever was launched by a top 10 pop hit by Ray Charles.

With such a subject, the savvy Kahn was smart enough to avoid straight narrative. Instead, with that narrative, he intersperses album profiles, mini-features on sessions that serve to illustrate key trends and moments in Impulse's history.

Kahn explains how Impulse was a rarity in that it was born fully mature. He says that while labels like Blue Note had to grow into their greatness, Impulse was there from the start and quickly found its "standard-bearer" in John Coltrane, whose works for the label are the culmination of all of his previous experience and his experimental spirit fueled the label.

There are tons of great photos and a complete discography means that this great read is also a great reference for jazz fans. The fact that the spine of the book mimics the inimitable orange and black spine of the original gatefold LPs only serves to bring further …

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