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Money Mark

Change Is Coming (Emperor Norton Records)

Fans of the sprawling ethereal song-scapes Money Mark crafted for the Beastie Boys won't be disappointed with Change Is Coming, a heavy yet lighthearted romp through 12 avant-garde instrumentals.

Many listeners may not recognize this keyboard mercenary, but a quick gander at his résumé will reveal that this former L.A. Lakers ball boy has had a hand in a host of well-known productions. Check his vitae: helped transform the Beastie Boys from party band into semi-serious musicians; lent his textured keyboards to Carlos Santana's gazillion-times platinum smash, Supernatural; helped create the bitchin' '60s vibe on the late Ted Demme's cult hit Blow; and collaborated with just-left-of-convention artists such as Femi Kuti, Beck and Prince Paul.

Mark releases his brand of instrumental mayhem straight out of the gate with "Information Contraband," a rebellious morsel meant to make the listener drunk with funk. This track has Beastie Boys written all over it. "Caught Without a Race" plays on Mark's half-Japanese, half-Mexican heritage with a horn fandango reminiscent of Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis. It's loungey without being retro. "Soul Drive Sixth Avenue," on the other hand, is a little retro; it sounds as if it were grafted from a '70s porn flick. The baritone sax bumps and grinds better than John Holmes in his heyday.

Money Mark provides musical greens for malnourished pop fans.
Money Mark provides musical greens for malnourished pop fans.

Change Is Coming is a cinematic set that paints a wild and inspirational tapestry of instrumentation that runs the gamut from Mark's patented jazz-funk to traditional Mexican sounds. The devil-may-care grace of tracks like "Doo Doo Doo" and "Use Your Head" play up Mark's penchant for balancing on the music beam like a Russian gymnast in the Olympics.

"People's Party (Red Alert)," which blasts into life with the subtlety of a whirling dervish, is the secret weapon that catapults this set into the gold medal bracket. Money Mark manages a double somersault, sticks the landing and then swaggers away like a seasoned vet.

But on every gym team, there's a weak link that nearly fucks up the big routine. Here it's "Love Undisputed," an uninspired track that mixes an organ and trap set. It's about as practical as a soup sandwich.

Barring that, Change delivers a plate of easily digestible compositions to nourish all the hungry little music purists out there who've gotten scurvy on a steady diet of cheesy pop acts like Britney Spears, Korn and 'N Sync.

 
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