THE ARTFUL DODGER PRESENTS 'RE-REWIND' BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND
Various Artists (London)
Artful Dodger are among the top practitioners of UK Garage - also known as 2-step - which is a sensational blending of heavy bass and skittering rhythms with soulful vocals. The duo's own superb "It's All About the Stragglers" is due out in this country in the summer. But for now, this mix disc is the right place to discover the get-down, get-dancing, get-happy pleasures of 2-step.
It opens with the Dodger's own "Woman Trouble," featuring the mellifluous vocals of Craig David on a sinuously rhythmic track, the bass and drums vibrant, the keyboards Stevie Wonder-ish.
The tracks are fused one into the next, the various artists blended into an extended 2-step party, from the pop-inflection of a remix of All Saints' "I Know Where It's At" to the Wideboys' wonderful "Heartache," all soul and rumbling bass and skipping drum beat. The title cut features silky vocals, a fabulously funky backbeat, and a crowd-pleasing call and response.
"Re-Rewind" succeeds as a sampling of the wonders of UK Garage - and as a taste of what's to come as 2-step stars begin promoting their sound in this country.
- RICHARD PATON
George Strait (MCA)
After almost 20 years, 25 platinum albums, and 36 No. 1 singles on the Billboard charts, Strait has come out with his first self-titled disc. With no surprises, it features his silken, smooth baritone voice on 10 pleasing, traditional country tunes. A couple of melodies are memorable but, for the most part, the songs are merely enjoyable and ultimately forgettable. Musicianship and production are slick while restrained.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
Various Artists (TVT)
The original score for this movie was written by Cliff Martinez, who has composed music for eight other films directed by Steven Soderbergh. Yet even with occasional electronic keyboards from jazz-fusion artist Herbie Hancock, this disc doesn't come close to meeting expectations. Moving at a zombie-like pace, it is a bleak and broken composition that has trouble even establishing itself as a mood-setter. On the few occasions when it starts to offer a little intrigue, it quickly fizzles apart.
- TOM HENRY
BadMonkey's debut doesn't sound like a first recording. From the opening cut's pining to be on the "Radio" to the tale of a fractured life on "Coming Down," this is a highly polished release. The group, made up of veterans of Toledo's bar band scene, covers the gamut of musical styles, moving easily from pop to reggae to rock. Propelled by songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Rick Nease's smart, concise lyrics and the band's affinity for hitting just the right groove for the tune, BadMonkey deserves more than just regional attention.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
THE MAN WHO INVENTED SOUL
Sam Cooke (RCA)
The late Sam Cooke was the consummate vocalist - the one who made it all seem so easy. Gospel, blues, R&B, or pop, Cooke took the music and made it his own. Unofficially, he was regarded as the man who invented soul - hence, the title of this album of selections from a four-CD box set. Cooke's breakthrough occurred in 1957 when he scored with the No. 1 hit "You Send Me." Cooke recorded the No. 2 hit "Chain Gang" in 1960. Subsequent hits included "Cupid," "Twistin' The Night Away," and "Another Saturday Night."
- JOHN HARRIS
WORKS FOR ME
John Scofield (Verve)
Guitarist Scofield, who impressed with his gritty 1999 CD, "Bump," spins 180 degrees with this new disc. He lays down enough excellent straight-ahead and post-bop jazz to prove he has skillfully mastered the form. Billy Higgings (drums), Christian McBride (bass), Kenny Garrett (alto sax), and Brad Mehldau (piano) are an ensemble wonderfully suited to the acoustic jazz that Scofield composed especially for this disc. The tracks are well-balanced between the energetic and the more laid-back.
- LARRY ROBERTS
IF I COULD TELL YOU
However you pronounce his name, clearly it is not "Yawn-ee." The lush tapestries he creates will not put you to sleep, rather they will conjure interesting images of faraway worlds and cultures. This album, his first studio project in seven years, is laced with intricate melodies woven by unusual instruments and soothing voices. At times powerful or dream-like, the 11 songs are never boring.
- KEN ROSENBAUM