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Songs in the Key of Z

The Curious Universe of Outsider Music

Which?

This is the audio component of a book/CD combo, and neither is quite complete without the other. Detailing twenty "outsider" artists, Songs in the Key of Z delivers the goods on those inspired souls who seem to draw their musical influences from the depths of outer space.

Nothing could illustrate this better than the Shaggs, a trio of New England girls whose "Phillosophy of the World" sounds like the result of giving three fresh-of-the-steppes Mongolians drums, guitar and bass. Daniel Johnston, Wesley Willis, Tiny Tim and Captain Beefheart are outsiders who have gained some acceptance in insider circles, but Songs scores big with some out-there names, like Shooby Taylor the Human Horn, and Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker.

The liner notes are adequate; while they give you a bit of background on each artist, it's just enough to whet your appetite. Stranger truths lie beneath, and the companion book is a must-have. Songs in the Key of Z is a collection that is simultaneously brilliant and uncomfortable. It will shut down your party but fast -- and if it doesn't, please remember to invite me to your next soiree.

Which? Records, P.O. Box 659, Village Station, New York, NY 10014; http://www.whichsight.com