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Music Reviews

Popular Music - Part 28 - February, 2000

Graham Vine

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"Music Inspired by the Motion Picture - Life"

Various Artists

Rockland Records; 490 314 2

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
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The title "Music Inspired By The Motion Picture 'Life' " neatly side-steps the issue posed by many 'Original Soundtrack' albums, that of merely including songs which play for only a matter of seconds in the movie itself. So we, too, are free to judge the songs on their own merit rather than having to place them in the context of a film that carries its own baggage.

Despite the variety of performers on the album, the link between many of the songs is made by the majority of them having been written by the extraordinarily successful R. Kelly. Fans of the latter should not feel they are all his songs though (tracks 1, 5, 11, 12 and 15 are the exceptions), but completists will go for the rest anyway. The album opens with a few rap tracks, but at least they are performed on a bed of freshly-written music. There is a sprinkling of rap throughout the rest of the album but not enough to spoil the enjoyment to be had from the likes of The Isley Brothers and Tricia Yearwood. Her track, "Follow The Wind" has to be the highlight of the album for me. Her beautifully-controlled voice manages to combine a soulful delivery without breaking-down into the excessive tremelo that many of today's 'divas' seem unable to avoid. She even includes a little country-music chirp into her voice to accentuate certain phrases. Well done Tricia. 

So with that brief run-down of this offering, with its associated warnings, I leave any purchasing decision with the buyer. If the above indicates some promising potential, then the variety on the album must surely require a personal audition. It's a free market out there.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Xzibit et al - 25 To Life

2. D J Quik feat R Kelly - It's Like Everyday

3. Destiny's Child with Mocha - Stimulate Me

4. Maxwell - Fortunate

5. Sparkle - Lovin' You

6. Talent feat Vegas Cats - Every Which Way

7. Kelly Price - It's Gonna Rain

8. Brian McKnight - Discovery

9. Trisha Yearwood - Follow The Wind

10. MYA - Why Should I Believe You

11. City High - What Would You Do

12. Khadejia feat Marie Antoinette - What Goes Around

13. The Isley Bros feat Ronald Isley - Speechless

14. K-Ci & Jo Jo - Life

15. Wyclef Jean - New Day

- GV -

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"Anthology"

A Tribe Called Quest

Jive; 0523842

Performance: Star (605 bytes)
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Having 'dissed' rap-records in the past, I felt the least I could do after hearing that "A Tribe Called Quest" represented the best of that genre was to sample the cream of their output. How right I was! Not about selecting "Anthology" to review but about the 'dissing'! At the risk of using seemingly incompatible statements, the record is a combination of extremely hard work and utter laziness. Hard work: To collect together so many samples which (just about) fit together and to then mix them skillfully so that they fill up the time allocation of an album track shows much dedication on the part of the group.

Presumably there was much effort expended in (hopefully) obtaining copyright clearance for those samples too. The sheer volume of written words must be far greater than for the average song-lyric. And to produce over 74 minutes on the "Anthology" CD shows that 'just enough' is not part of the philosophy.

But laziness?: Had a reasonable amount of effort been put into learning to play instruments, then the creative juices wasted here could have been used to make some music. Poets have, for centuries, proven that there are plenty of rhyming word-pairs available. Many on "Anthology" are not even close. Without the constraints of a melody to follow, failing to find a proper rhyme is just slack.

No doubt die-hard enthusiasts for rap may find "A Tribe Called Quest" meets their entertainment needs. May they all be content together. Those of us who have steered away from rap in the past will not be lured by "Anthology". The only track I found at all entertaining was "Can I Kick It?" and guess what? It is based on a sample of "Walk On The Wild Side" by Lou Reed. Now there's a lead to follow . . . . 

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Check The Rhime

2. Bonita Applebum

3. Award Tour

4. Can I Kick It?

5. Scenario

6. Buggin' Out

7. If The Papes Come

8. Electric Relaxation

9. Jazz (We've Got)

10. I Left My Wallet In E! Segundo

11. Hot Sex

12. Oh My God

13. Stressed Out

14. Luck Of Lucien

15. Description Of A Fool

16. Keeping It Moving

17. Find A Way

18. Sucka N***a

19. Vivrant Thing

- GV -

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"Summerteeth"

Wilco

Reprise; 9362-47282-2

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Just once in a while, we make a significant discovery, and this is one of them. Wilco shows what they can do in no uncertain manner on "Summerteeth" with as many as 16 tracks as their showcase. The lead singer, Jeff Tweedy, has a most attractive voice - communicative, sensitive, slightly husky, and always in tune. And the rest of the band are up there with him with their instrumental backdrops. Varied and always interesting.

I can hear echoes of some of popular music's major landmarks in some of these tracks; who wouldn't want to include passages with some of the sounds of "Reflections Of My Life" and "Lay Lady Lay" when they fit and add to the  creation? And capturing an element of Buffalo Springfield, Velvet Underground and even America is surely an act of homage to some of the most influential acts of the past 40 years.

The band is clearly prepared to include their own ideas - I loved the Mellotron sounds on a few of the tracks, and using tympanis was a masterstroke I haven't heard since the magnificent "You Got It" from Roy Orbison. As a great contrast to many of today's acts who build a solid wall of sound using fuzz-guitars, Wilco is prepared to use pauses and silence to heighten the effect of the music which surrounds them.

A little explanation is in order regarding the tracks after number 14. By not listing them on the album sleeve, one has to assume that they are intended to be 'hidden'. If you pass them over, you'll miss a wonderful sound I can only describe as Sir Douglas Quintet meets The Beach Boys! And that track "ELT" actually stands for "Every Little Thing" - now there's a great title for a great song.

From the comments above and the parallels drawn with other bands, it may seem as if Wilco is totally derivative. Nothing could be further from the truth; the album is like no other. The references are just to try to describe some sounds and get them down on (virtual) paper. For Wilco's sake, I hope I have succeeded.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Can't Stand It

2. She's A Jar

3. A Shot In The Arm

4. We're Just Friends

5. I'm Always In Love

6. Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (again)

7. Pieholden Suite

8. How To Fight Loneliness

9. Via Chicago

10. ELT

11. My Darling

12. When You Wake Up Feeling Old

13. Summer Teeth

14. In A Future Age

 - GV -



Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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