DJ CLUE? THE PROFESSIONAL 2
Various Artists (Roc-A-Fella)
DJ Clue's latest release includes a virtual who's who of the hip-hop game, including Mary J. Blige, DMX, Eminem, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Method Man, Redman, and Rah Digga. In fact, DJ Clue, the DJ and producer on many of the Roc-A-Fella family's hit tracks, has so many guest performances featuring different styles, that there is truly something for every hip-hop lover to like.
DJ Clue creates individualized tracks that re-create the feel and ambiance the artists are known for. On "What the Beat," the track is ominous, sparse, and constant. This provides a layer for Method Man, Eminem, and Royce the 5-9 to flow to with minimum distraction. The listeners' focus is put on the lyrics.
If there is a fault, it's that the disc sounds over-produced. It's as if each track is encased in a smooth gloss, causing a muted effect. Such smooth reproduction is appropriate for R&B, but in hip-hop, it lessens the impact.
That said, DJ Clue's disc has to be considered a benchmark release, and one for other DJs to emulate.
- STEWART WALKER
Mirwais worked with Madonna on her "Music" CD, and she is quoted as calling him "the future of sound." Let's hope not. His full-length debut is a mix of dreary disco, pale imitations of Daft Punk, boring big beat, and a track featuring Madonna that is totally forgettable. It's a relief when the disc grinds to a halt after another piece of meandering electronic doodling, "Involution."
- RICHARD PATON
Guided by Voices (TVT)
On "Isolation Drills," Guided by Voices tosses aside once and for all the "indie band" and "Lo-Fi" labels that has been affixed to it for the last 14 years. Now the Dayton-based group is a rock band, and a really good one at that. The group churns out a bracing, hard-rocking set that has enough hooks and catchy melodies for two bands. Veering from power pop to oddball ditties, "Isolation Drills" is as close to rock perfection as you'll find.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Big Bill Morganfield (Blind Pig)
JUMP FOR JOY
Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s (Blind Pig)
Label-mates Morganfield and Woods are both blues belters, but their styles and musical bases couldn't be farther apart. Morganfield, the son of blues legend Muddy Waters, plays slide guitar while his smoky baritone growls low-down and emotional. Woods rocks on the piano and sings jump blues in the mold of Louis Jordan and Louis Prima. Morganfield picks up the pace on a couple of numbers, while Woods is high energy all the way. They're decidedly different and delightfully dynamic.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
Ennio Morricone (Virgin)
Four-time Academy Award nominee Ennio Morricone is part of an elite group of can't-miss soundtrack composers and this disc shows why. Passionate, tender, graceful, and intriguing describe this original instrumental score. With its classical-like quality, yet wonderfully fresh tone, it seems a perfect fit for a critically acclaimed film of a young widow who inspires a boy's independence and courage during war. Morricone has more than 350 films to his credit, including A Fistful of Dollars and The Untouchables. If only more soundtracks were this good.
- TOM HENRY
Scott Hamilton (Concord)
Hamilton is back with exuberant and silky smooth recordings of music that saw its heyday in the swing era of the 1940s. Each selection is played to highlight melodies, with ballads pulling every bit of warmth possible from the bell of the saxophone and the up-tempo pieces zipping along at top speed. Hamilton, after nearly 25 years and four dozen records, obviously knows what he wants to say with his solos. He does so with a certainty that seems to say, "I know this music and I know just how to bring it home."
- LARRY ROBERTS