Tiny Tim and Brave Combo

This collaboration should have happened long ago; Brave Combo and Tiny Tim belong together. The cuts here range from wry pre-World War II ballads such as "Sly Cigarette" to Beatles covers, and each sparkles with a giddy style that combines wit and a reverence for musical history. Though often dismissed as novelty acts, the polka band from Denton and Tiny Tim have been, in their own idiosyncratic ways, educational as well as entertaining. Brave Combo's frisky dance tunes are more than just music to bounce along to, at least for those who are interested in song structure and form. And from "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" right on up to Girl's version of "New York, New York," Tim's career has effectively and lovingly cataloged American popular music. Girl may just be the pool-party music of the summer. -- Edith Sorenson

Massive Attack v. Mad Professor
No Protection

For a proper sample of what constitutes great dub music, try this little experiment at home on your multi-CD player. Put Protection, Massive Attack's 1994 trip-hop classic, into the first CD slot (if you don't have the disc, get it) and the new No Protection into the second. Now, play them in spiral mode (first track from both, then second from both, and so on).

You'll start with Protection's title track, a gorgeously languid acid-funk groove with siren vocals by Everything but the Girl's Tracey Thorn, then move on to No Protection's "Radiation Ruling the Nation," a mix that retains "Protection"'s basic beat and underlying keyboard wash but reconfigures just about everything else. This is the studio work of London's prodigious dub godfather, Mad Professor, who applies his own treatments of Protection's material throughout No Protection. Bits are added, dropped out, accentuated, effected, drenched in reverb and turned inside out until the song disappears and in its place comes a reborn textural soundscape. And so it goes as the originals and reworkings alternate on your CD player.

Educational purposes aside, this listening technique is a pretty good way to hear both CDs. There's a symbiosis: where Protection offers the songs, No Protection gives a sort of discursive aural commentary on them. The latter points out all the obscured details -- the minute percussive rings and beeps, the most mesmerizing bass loops -- and the former provides a context in which to appreciate Mad Professor's tinkerings. Neither is fully realized -- or as good -- without the other.

-- Roni Sarig

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