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By the end, it's all too clear that Crow is the one in charge on The Globe Sessions, and in more ways than one. "Things should start getting interesting," Crow tosses off with carefree abandon in the bouncy Bob Dylan-penned "Mississippi," "right about now." Indeed.

-- Melissa Blazek

Groove Collective
Dance of the Drunken Master
Shanachie

If you're one of the many who've yet to fall under the graceful spell of Groove Collective, no sweat. There's still plenty of time to hop their kaleidoscopic fusion train. Since 1990, this amorphous New York City concept/band has existed within its own multi-stylistic, pan-cultural pod -- lovingly urban, playfully hip, a jazz ensemble splayed wildly out of sorts. Though seemingly impervious to prevailing trends, Groove Collective and its leader-by-default, flutist Richard Worth, leave the door wide open to whatever sounds might drift on in; the many influences that seep into GC's hyper-porous shell serve to nourish the whole.

And that's what Groove Collective has always been about: the good of the whole. Coming together almost by accident as the house band of sorts at Giant Step, a Manhattan jazz/dance club (yes, there is such a thing), Groove Collective is about as democratic as bands come, and Dance of the Drunken Master is but another constructive reflection of that loving democracy. GC's third full-length CD and the first since the demise of its own Giant Step label, Dance may well be the band's most accessible outing to date -- if anything by these career eclectics can be considered accessible. Befitting its title, the 14-track effort is immersed in a giddy, rhythm-driven party atmosphere. A bubbly, largely instrumental meringue of funk, soul, hip-hop, Latin influences (salsa, in particular) and, of course, jazz, -- though with less of an emphasis on the freeform implications of the latter than in the past -- it also boasts the seamlessly organic transitions of the most skilled turntablist. Dance holds together surprisingly well, given all that's going on, something that can't always be said for the group's more ambitious -- and, as such, sonically scattered -- earlier releases.

As usual, no egos run amuck on Dance of the Drunken Master, only enthusiasm -- and the best of global intentions. That's amazing in itself, considering the talent and the numbers involved: The band's beefy roster includes trumpet player Fabio Morgera, sax players Dave Jensen and Jay Rodriguez, conga player/percussionist Chris Theberge, vibraphonist Bill Ware III, drummer Genji Siraisi, keyboardist Jonathan Crayford, bassist Jonathan Maron and emcee/percussionist Gordon "Nappy G" Clay. Listing names has always been policy when it comes to getting a quality read on Groove Collective, as every member is as important as the other. Sounds like a perfect world to me.

-- Hobart Rowland

Marilyn Manson
Mechanical Animals
Nothing/Interscope

Consider this a fashion alert to all ebony-clad Marilyn Manson fans: It's time for an image overhaul. Out with the ripped fishnet stockings, headless dolls and copies of the Satanic Bible; in with red hair dye, frilly blouses and, perhaps, a computer software upgrade to accommodate your anti-idol's new world order. But there's good news for non-fans who might have dismissed Manson's storefront shock-rock in the past: Mechanical Animals is a surprisingly solid collection of rambunctious, intriguing glam-metal from the PMRC's Public Enemy Number One.

Animals harks back to the glittery '70s heyday of Bowie and T. Rex; its spacey influences (all songs are credited to "Omega and the Mechanical Animals") and bleak visions of the future would make a perfect soundtrack to a David Lynchian remake of Logan's Run. The best tracks -- "The Dope Show," "User Friendly" and the none-too-subtle "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)" -- rely equally on the guitar work of old pal Twiggy Ramirez and special guest Dave Navarro and Manson's half-sung/half-moaned (but wholly appropriate) vocal delivery to move them menacingly along. The lyrics, while predictable in their criticisms of current moral conventions, lash out at dope fiends almost as much as they do at prudish authority figures. On the futuristic side, Manson paints a soulless, black-and-white society with "Great Big White World," "Disassociative" and the eerily beautiful "The Speed of Pain." And though the drug imagery is everywhere (we get it, Marilyn, you like to get high), drugs are used as an opiate presumably to dull the senses in an increasingly remote society -- the philosophy of Timothy Leary taken to a more frightening extreme.

Partial credit for Mechanical Animals' overall listenability goes to Manson's co-producer Michael Beinhorn, who worked similar magic on Soundgarden's Superunknown and Hole's Celebrity Skin. Still, there's never any doubt who the real illusionist is. "I'm the new model / I've got nothing inside," Manson spouts on "New Model No. 15." Hold onto those receipts, kids; something tells me another evolution is on the way.

-- Bob Ruggiero

Gomez
Bring It On
Virgin

The members of Gomez are a little like a bunch of foreigners whose understanding of American culture comes from what they've seen on television. Only, in the young British quintet's case, that knowledge was gleaned from listening to old, obscure country and blues vinyl -- supplemented, no doubt, by heavy doses of Grateful Dead, Tom Waits and Little Feat.

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