Laundry Service – Shakira Epic/Sony B00005R2M3
Alright, let’s tango...!
This is an album of Latina angst. Relationships that aren’t quite right. The problems with the men in her life or just men in general. The lack of understanding about her needs. But it’s not a droll album, in fact a lot of it is quite peppy and musically edgy.
Most of the album is sung in English, but those parts that are in Spanish are done so well they need no translation. In fact, you quickly notice how naturally the Spanish language lilts and the origins of her singing style become self-evident. It also becomes clear how naturally expressive Spanish is for emotional lyrics, as while I didn’t understand a word of Que Me Quedes Tu (a tune that is played very much in the musical motif of Chris Issak’s Wicked Game) she made me believe every word of it!
Shakira, who wrote, helped arrange and produced all the tracks (with some assistance from Lester Mendez and Emilio Estefan, Jr.) gives us a fair variety of musical concepts that embrace 1960’s rock n roll, the lighter side of hard rock with occasional dashes of Latin rhythms or even a distinct Middle Eastern flavor in a song such as Eyes Like Yours.
Her singing style even sometimes reminds me of other, most notably Jewel and Alanis Moresette. Indeed, like Jewel it is easy to tell that Shakira’s voice is well trained – you can hear her willfully control and alter her vibratto and dynamics, something few singers outside of the world of opera are capable of doing (in fact aside from Jewel only Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion do things like this in pop music). This aspect brings to mind Natalie Imbruglia’s last album on which she also gave use a diverse selection of approach styles. It makes me wonder or both or either of them are doing this subliminally, if it’s a direct influence, ode or they are simplying doing a Bette Midler. In any event, it’s refreshing and like the musical variety it keeps these albums from sounding the same from cut to cut!
There’s a lot more to Shakira and this album than just the mega hit single Whenever, Whereever which, if my feeble undestanding of Spanish is correct, seems a little deeper when sung in her native language (Suerte) then the obviously more superficial English rendition, which seemed like it was aimed at doing what it did so well, getting her deep international radio airplay. While there is no new ground broken here, it is still a delightful album that plays well from start to finish. Mr. Macho Man, will, however, dismiss it is being simply “girl” music, which is exactly what I said it was: Latina angst. In this tango it is the woman who is leading us across the dance floor, not the man, as is evident by songs like Underneath Your Clothes, Rules and Fool.
Girls looking for sugar coated dreams and chauvanist he-males should pass by this one, but it you’re out looking for some good music with a little meat on the bones this might just fit your tastes!
Sentir – Omar Sosa Ota Records
In Sentir, Sosa has eliminated virtually all musical elements or instruments that are not tribal in orign. The piano, which is his instrument, of course, may have roots in the melodic claves drums of Africa, South American and the islands. The marimba, temple blocks and steel drums as examples of tuned percussion and the piano is considered a percussion instrument.
This CD, therefore, is a totally percussive album done mostly to traditional native (South American, African and Middle Eastern) instruments. No string or electric bass. No horns or brass instruments. No full drum kit. All hand drums, finger cymbals, string instruments that don’t oriignate from the Fender instrument plant! Voices, a lot of voices, doing chants. Percussive chants. Tribal chants. African chants, Middle Eastern chants, South American Chants, sometimes they even sound a little like those of the American Indian tribes. On a few songs Sub-Z does a modern Rap.
Sosa’s musical roots and love is Latin jazz and the more modern jazz that comes from the likes of Thelonious Monk in attack and style, but Sosa's content is decidedly different! Sosa is not into blues nor ragtime, which are other creations of black, tribal Americans. Therefore none of these other elements are present in his music. He comes form Cuba, so there is his Latin roots. He loves this form of jazz, hence those stacattio chords and moving left hand lines. Sometimes some of Sosa’s movements on this CD and his earier Bembon album remind me of what Keith Emerson was doing in his ELP days with selections off their Carnevil 9 album, so those with a taste of way out rock may find something they like in Sosa's music as well!
Sosa’s theme is “to feel” – everything from life, to pain, music, love... but no hate, please.
Manto Blanco makes use of a stringed instrument that sounds a little like a violin, except I saw no such instrumented listed in the program notes so I must conclude that I either mis-read things or this is some type of native instrument from South America or the African contient that simply sounds like a violin.
In Sentir there is what sounds like a low native reed (like a bamboo pipe, as opposed to a modern oboe, which would be the close orchestra instrument to this sound) or a hollowed reed that has a string tightened, then played with a type of bow. The sound reminds me of the background drone of the sympathetic strings of the East Indian sitar, the choral sound of those Ligetti pieces during the Lunar excursion in Kubrick’s 2001 or the low pipe organ bass in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (the opening theme from 2001).
The album is errie, moody, brash, peppy with an occsional pure Latin feel (such as in Toridanzan), but the more traditional African tribal feel is the predominat undercurrent which sometimes moves up front, such as in Azul Yemaya and especially Rojo Y Negro where the piano becomes more in the background!
U.S. tour dates for the Omar Sosa Septet this spring include:
April 11 Unity Church, San Luis Obispo, CA
April 12 Paradigm Jazz Club, San Diego, CA
April 13 Earshot Jazz at "On The Boards", Seatte, WA
April 14 Richard's on Richards, Vancouver, BC
April 16 - 21 Jazz Bakery, Los Angeles, CA
April 26 OneWorld Theatre, Austin, TX
April 27 Houston International Festival, Houston, TX
April 29 Outpost, Albuquerque, NM
May 4 SF JAZZ at Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
May 5 Big Sur Jazz Festival, Big Sur, CA
8701 - Usher Arista B00005LKGT
At first this sounded reminscent of Craig David’s album, with beautiful, melodic love songs (such as How Do I say) and ballads like the pianao based Can U Help Me, but, Usher shows more American street life, moving us into far more agressive hip-hop and rap than Craig David’s offering.
Usher is just as easy to listen to from start to finsh and anyone who liked what Craig David did on his album will not be disapoined with a lot of what Usher does on this CD, although some songs like Good Ol’ Ghetto or Twork It Out are denfinatley in a different direction!
There are a lot of really good tunes including I Don’t Know (which feeatures P. Diddy), U Got It Bad, If I Want To and I Can’t Let You Go. Some of these tracks are fast, some are really slow, but all worked for me!
Word of Mouf - Ludacris Universal; ASIN: B00005R8EL
What the fluck is going on here? All right, some people say they're not really a rap band -- yeah, like I know from rap -- but they sure are entertaining!
Especially on cuts like Coming 2 America, Rollout, Area Codes, Howhere and Move B***h. Growing Pains verges on satirical! I guess I'm guilty of smokin' too much brocolli! To coin a phrase, if it can't take a joke, *u*k 'em!
And they're doing a lot of promotion too -- their record company sends us all sorts of word on what these guys are doing in TV, personal appearances and what not. Since this issue centers around the business and what to do, they're a good example of a group out hawking their wares and with good reason! Like this one....
See Ludacris in TEEN PEOPLE's "25 Under 25" on stands APRIL! Also be
the look out for the Teen People MTV Special airing in MAY.
The Ludacris Tour rolls on! Turn up your radio to hear Luda!
2/28: Universal Amphitheatre - Los Angeles, CA
(Radio interviews on KBBT @ 3:00pm, KPWR @ 4:00pm)
3/1: Filmore - San Francisco, CA
3/27: Bohangers - Baltimore, MD
3/28: Nation - Washington, DC
3/29: Radford University - Radford, VA
Check his site for complete dates.
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Smash Mouth – Smash Mouth Interscope Records: B00005QHS9
Largely a clone of their great, last album, Astro Lounge, with no real mega hit single and nothing new, unqiue or original. It is nonetheless an album you can listen to from start to finish, so if you like the band you will probably like this CD. If you are looking for a good Smash Mouth, get Astro Lounge, it’s much better album!
Under Rug Swept – Alanis Morissette Maverick/Warner B00005TPKC
While a far cry from her debut album for Maverick a few year back, this one sounds like it will might have a few more radio cuts on it than just Hands Cleaned, possibly So Unsexy, Surrendering or 21 Things I Want In A Lover.
White Lillies Island – Natalie Imbruglia RCA: B00005YX34
The second release from the Australian pop singer with the Itlaian name who comes to us via the UK While it’s been available outside the US since last year, it will not be formally released in the US until after this issue goes to press!
I liked her last album a lot, as mentioned above in the Shakira review. There were a lot of different singing styles and music ventures. The buzz on this one from her fans seems quite positive and I like the single that’s already in release.
Blood Sport - Sneaker Pimps Tommy Boy(?)
I really liked the song 9 Underground, so I'm looking forward to seeing what's in store for us on this release when it finally hits the store. No preview copy, but the buzz on the streets indicate is may have something to offer!