"Live at the Wax Museum"


For a 35-year-old band that's never received anything approaching the airplay its deserves, NRBQ still has a remarkably soft spot in its heart for radio -- or at least the idea of radio.

"The program director is a real nice guy," sings keyboardist Terry Adams on "Dummy," Q's latest self-produced release. "He loves music and he really tries / Try, try, tries / . . . Big label, small label, they don't care / They know it's good if the spirit's there / They're so fair." At once charmingly nostalgic and sadly ironic, "Imaginary Radio" easily ranks among the assorted pleasures found on "Dummy." A few notches below you'll find the closing track "Misguided Missiles," a topical broadside that sounds as if it were written for when the credits roll on "Fahrenheit 9/11." The chorus pretty much says it all: "Misguided missiles and misguided hands / Of the misinformed people in this appropriated land / Misinformed patriots, their flags unfurled / While their misplaced leaders destroy the world."

Adams wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the 13-track album, including the far more typical bar-band rants and chants "One Big Parking Lot" and "Do the Primal Thing," and the endearingly loopy novelty "Hey Punkin Head." As usual, the lyrics don't always add up to much apart from a lot of fun. But a cleverly arranged cover of the ballad "All That's Left to Say Is Goodbye" introduces a hip, mood-altering excursion, and elsewhere there's no tamping down the gleeful rhythms generated by bassist Joey Spampinato, guitarist Johnny Spampinato and drummer Tom Ardolino.

"Live at the Wax Museum" borders on the must-have, not just for early Q fans fond of singer and guitarist Al Anderson but also for devotees of the Lovin' Spoonful. Recorded in Washington in December 1982, the concert is brimming with silly and seasonal cheer, thanks to reprises of "Wacky Tobacky" and "The Christmas Song," plus a Whole Wheat Horns-powered version of "That's Neat That's Nice." Midway through the disc, Q is joined by John Sebastian, who sounds perfectly at home in this setting while faithfully reprising "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?," "Lovin' You," "Do You Believe in Magic" and other Spoonful specialties.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday at the Birchmere. * To hear a free Sound Bite from NRBQ's "Dummy," call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8128; to hear "Live at the Wax Museum," press 8131. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)