Friday, November 17, 2000

Sade - Lovers Rock

After an 8 year absence from the music scene, Sade returns with Lovers Rock. Sade had always been a culmination of Sade Adu's sultry and expressive vocals with a skilled trio of jazz-inspired musicians behind her. This album takes that to a new level.

Starting off the Lovers Rock album with the beautiful first single "By Your Side" is a mixed blessing. It's like starting the Indy 500 with your fastest lap and winding down throughout the race. My personal favorite, "Somebody Already Broke My Heart," is just one of those songs that grab you by mood and lyrical content. "By Your Side," "King Of Sorrow" and the title track also stand out as really strong moments. The whole album has it's own groove and takes a bit for you to get into but once you are there you wonder why the disc is over.

Although it says rock in the title, don't expect to be banging your head. This is more like light reggae/jazz. The production is beautiful and takes you to another place. If this is the true return of Sade, it's well welcomed.

Friday, November 03, 2000

U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind

If you were one of those people that gave up on U2 after the release of Pop and it's subsequent lackluster sales, it's time to beg for forgiveness. For what their last album had in overproduction, All That You Can't Leave Behind has in slimmed down substance. A lot of people said the new album would be a return to War or Rattle & Hum... but do rock pioneers go back to safe ground when tremors occur? No! And that's why U2 is still around.

This album could be a singles collection for any other band. If these were the good ones, I wonder what gems didn't make the cut. Every song is so different from each other in message, sentiment and energy but still stay cohesive throughout. You could start with "Walk On" (my favorite track on the album) which is an inspirational love song that screams in defiance to the fragility, pain and frustrations found in a relationship. "New York" catches you off guard (kind of like the city) going from gentle to a full-blown rocker without losing you. "When I Look At The World," "Peace On Earth" and the first single "Beautiful Day" are best explained as gorgeous moments that escape true definition. "Wild Honey" is a playful romp. The band also finds soul and blues for the songs "In A Little While" and "Grace." "Elevation" is purely energetic. "Kite" and "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" round out the disc by really expressing messages wrapped in a groove.

I firmly believe that this album is U2's finest moment. The production is lush and beautiful which matches the musicianship perfectly. So when asked what CDs I would want with me if I was stranded on a island, this wouldn't be left behind.

Friday, August 11, 2000

De La Soul - Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump

De La Soul have been rap innovators since their 1988 debut single "Plug Tunin'". Their intelligent lyrics mixed with original beats and a fun peaceful message during a time of gangsta rap. They evolved into darker areas on the next few albums but kept an overriding theme to each work. Plugs 1, 2 and 3 return in 2000 with Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (their first in a planned trilogy) four years after releasing Stakes Is High.

You can tell that they had a lot of fun working on this album. 9 of 17 tracks are with guests like Chaka Khan, Redman, also Mike D and AD Rock of the Beastie Boys. The first single "OOOH." is a straight forward dance track that could easily get a crowd on the floor. "With Me" and "U Can Do (Life)" sound like classic De La Soul and probably my favorite songs on the album. Never afraid to sample a little, they use a little of The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City" for the chorus to "Thru Ya City." But amidst all this fun there is room for a serious track like "Foolin'" which deals with the music industry.

The only trouble I have with this album is that this is definitely for a more mature audience. References to marijuana and some profanity by guest rappers make this an album that I cant recommend to everyone. When part of the first track has a child repeating the alphabet and judging from previous De La material, you expect better judgment and consistency. Then again, pot smoking had previously been mentioned on their work but only subtly. Otherwise, the album is great and the collaborations alone make this worth picking up.

Friday, June 23, 2000

Duran Duran - Pop Trash

When you have a career with peaks and valleys you'll have your detractors. Yet, overtime an epitaph has been written for Duran Duran they make a comeback. Pop Trash is their first album recorded entirely as the trio Rhodes, LeBon and Cuccurullo.

The follow-up to 1997's Medazzaland is a more cohesive work but instead of pushing towards electronica they've intermingled psychedelic, acoustic, hip-hop and dance. It must have been extremely difficult to choose their first single. "Somebody Else Not Me" is a terrific tune but took about 3 listenings to grow on me. Radio stations rarely give a song that much time to decide if it deserves repeat plays. But there are a lot of great songs to choose from here. Pop Trash's "Starting To Remember" and "The Sun Doesn't Shine Forever" are two of the most beautiful Duran Duran tracks I've ever heard. The album is far from a ballad collection. A strong psychedelic influence is evident on "Lava Lamp" (must be the sitar playing through it) which evolves with an injection of hip-hop on "Hallucinating Elvis" (note Simon rapping in the bridge). "Playing With Uranium" and the guitar-rock agression of "Last Day On Earth" stand out on the album.

My only negative here is that they could have done without the song "Pop Trash Movie" which TV Mania (Warren and Nick) initially wrote for Blondie to record. I'd actually love to hear what she'd do with it. Otherwise, Duran Duran are taking bold new steps here instead of becoming redundant possibly due to TV Mania taking over production duties. My recommendation is to give it more than a few spins before passing judgement.

Monday, June 19, 2000

Bon Jovi - Crush

I have to confess that I'm not a big Bon Jovi fan. There was a time that I thought they were the enemy in a world that was pushing dance music into obscurity to make room for metal. Which is pretty unusual because I saw them open for Ratt during my first concert experience. But that animosity faded over time as songs like "Runaway" and "I'll Be There For You" found permanent residence in my brain.

Their first album in 5 years, Crush, knocked some sense into me. The album is a mix of rockers and ballads that reminds you that they didn't have hits just because of their hair -- they just wrote great material and performed it like no one else. The catchy first single "It's My Life" is the wake-up call and songs like "Next 100 Years," "Mystery Train," "Thank You For Loving Me" and "She's A Mystery" are hook-laden masterpieces. They remind you of where the band came from but give glimpses of where they are going. "Save The World" is a great song with moments that Jon proves he can hit those high notes.

With such a strong album, I can't help but wonder why they would include the song "Captain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Mars." It's chorus ('You and me were's invincible...') sounds a little too close to the chorus of Oasis' "Stay Young ('Hey, stay young and invincible...') for me. Aside from that, this is a moment of greatness for a band that isn't ready to retire on their royalties. They have taken their sound to a new level for the next 100 years and I heavily recommend this album.