"#1 Tonite!"



"Tunnel Vision"


Now that roughly 40 percent of CDs sold are "catalogue product" -- that is, older stuff -- bands that play well-established styles are in competition not only with other contemporary acts, but also with the musicians that established the styles originally. Such 1970s-redux hard-rock outfits as Bad Wizard and the Witnesses have one advantage over their models: youthful vitality. That should serve them well on stage, but on CD -- well, why not just pick up a copy of AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."

Heavy but not quite metal, Bad Wizard's "#1 Tonite!" is a showcase for retro rock and retro attitude. Although one of the quintet's two guitarists is a woman, growly singer Curtis Brown's principal subjects are lust and disdain for potential mates. Either he needs female companionship "So Bad/So Bad," or -- in the disc's catchiest number -- he just "Can't Talk to You."

The title song addresses another perennial topic, rocking the crowd, which Bad Wizard does indeed have the brawn and swagger to do. But this album's chugging shouters could only rock the listener into yesteryear.

While tour- and label-mates the Witnesses loot the same musical attic, their range is a little wider, thanks to keyboardist and second vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden. On such engaging "Tunnel Vision" songs as "Time for You" and "Drop by Drop," her keyboards and vocal interplay with singer-guitarist Oakley Munson give the group's sound a little bit of soul. Yet Bloomgarden's presence hasn't tempered the antique gender politics of the album, which opens with "Mannequin," yet another hard-rock ode to an inanimate girlfriend. Musically, the Witnesses sound a shade more up-to-date than Bad Wizard, but the lyrics still have a few decades to go.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Monday at the Black Cat. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Bad Wizard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8127; to hear the Witnesses, press 8128. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)