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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.

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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