Sound Check

Karma chameleons: The Honeydogs (from left to right) Trent Norton, Jeff Victor, Adam Levy, Noah Levy, and Brian Halverson

The Long and Winding Record

DESPITE PREDICTIONS FROM those who heard it (including this writer) that the Honeydogs' long-shelved fourth album would be a "career-maker," its release was beginning to look like a remote possibility until last month. On May 19 the rootsy garage band inked a deal with Palm Pictures, the young label owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Now the aptly titled Here's Luck is slated for a September 27 release, though, given the thing's star-crossed history, I wouldn't make vacation plans around it.

The followup to the groups' 1997 Mercury Records debut/swan song, Seen a Ghost was recorded in the wake of the 'Dogs' June 1998 split with longtime guitarist Tommy Borscheid. Plans for remaining members Trent Norton (bass), Adam Levy (guitar/vocals), and Noah Levy (drums) to hit the studio in August of that year were further threatened when a near fatal asthma attack left Norton in a coma just prior to the session's start. Surprising doctors, the bassist recovered quickly and completely. By the end of the month, recording had begun. Completed by late September, the record was accepted by Mercury for a 1999 release, and things seemed back on track until January of last year, when the majority of the company's staff was laid off as part of the alt-rock-busting Polygram-Universal merger. Though the group was never dropped by its new label, Island/Def Jam, the imprint showed them the waiting room while the tapes gathered dust.

"It looked like it was never going to be released," says Honeydogs manager Ryan Dolan. By last September, the band had waited long enough. Dolan began the arduous process of extricating the Honeydogs from their major label, making a series of calls to Island/Def Jam's business-affairs department to request the termination of their contract. After phoning twice a week for eight months, he won the band its walking papers in May, allowing the group to take the new album with them in exchange for what Dolan calls a "reasonable" percentage of the royalties.

Now band and manager figure they've banked enough luck to make the new label arrangement work. "They believe in developing artists over multiple records," Dolan says. "Chris used that philosophy at Island with Bob Marley, Tom Waits, Nick Drake, and U2. It seems pretty successful." (Bill Snyder)

The Long and Winding Maze

ON THURSDAY, MAY 18, longtime local hip-hop poet Truth Maze checked into Fairview Hospital with failing kidneys. By the following day, doctors speculated that a transplant might be necessary. But after a weekend of encouragement and prayers from visitors, his body staged a comeback. A week after he checked in, Maze left the hospital on the mend, but with a hefty bill. Now, to help out, friends and peers led by Sistah Mimi have assembled the musical spoken-word showcase Initiation 11: The Extravagant Gathering, A Benefit for the High Priest of Hip Hop, on Wednesday, June 28, at the 7th Street Entry; (612) 338-8388.

"I didn't make that up," Truth Maze says of the benefit's subtitle, perhaps a little embarrassed. "I've been doing this a long time, though, so if they want to call me the High Priest of Hip Hop, I'll let them."

Truth be told, Maze has been a vital figure in hip-hop culture since before most locals knew the city had one, beatbox battling at the park in the Eighties and rapping in that decade's most influential local group, the IRM Crew (Immortal Rap Masters). He was a onetime core member of the Micranots, those dithyrambic prophets of slinky beats and conscious lyrics who helped bring rap to clubs in the early Nineties. A prolific poet, Maze is now probably at his best lending his presence to a freestyle jam or working behind the scenes, often playing MC in the broadest sense--as true master of ceremonies, a spiritual coach to a show.

Maze's team for Initiation 11 features a fine local lineup. The tour-tautened Raw Villa return to headline the venue. Locals Jimmy Dollaz, the Sure Shot Brothers, Contac (a.k.a. Smoky the Bandit), DJ Stage One, DJ Isosceles, and many more will pay similar tribute. (Mark Hansen)

The Long and Freaky Checklist

IT'S AN UNUSUALLY rich Friday night for local rock, with Bellwether celebrating its CD distillation of their live glory at a 400 Bar gig, City Pages "Best Old Band" winner the Phones playing new wave at the nearby Cabooze, and La Belle Epoque's festival of rawk and deviance with the Short Fuses and All the Pretty Horses at Ryan's in St. Paul. But rockers don't know from decadent: "Freak Nik 2000," a dancehall/hip-hop/house/R&B party that organizer DJ Boogie warns me is "strictly ghetto," will feature Atlanta-style cash prizes for the shortest skirt and best Daisy Dukes. Performers include Boogie himself, Contac, House Squad and more. The party takes place at 1302 Second St. NE, Minneapolis; (612) 539-1725. (Peter S. Scholtes)

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