MISS E -- SO ADDICTIVE
Missy Elliot (Elektra)
The multitalented Missy Elliot has garnered a reputation as one of hip-hop's most innovative artists, and her latest release does nothing to tarnish her standing. Elliot raps, as well as sings, her way through 16 tracks that exhibit her dazzling array of talents.
Produced by Timbaland, who is noted for creative beats, it starts off with a funky Midwest feel on “Dog in Heat,” featuring Redman & Method Man. Elliot then quickly switches into a southern style of flow on “Lick Shots,” and then raps over the Jamaican Dancehall sound of the hit single “Get Ur Freak On.”
Elliot also displays surprisingly good vocals on many of the disc's tracks. Her light, airy tone on “Old School Joint” is reminiscent of Patrice Rushen, and she even has a track for the club heads on “4 My People.”
The disc can't be described as having a particular sound, other than being upbeat and danceable, as well as sophisticated and polished. Though Elliot uses some explicit language, she doesn't bludgeon you over the head with it. This is one of the rare discs that you can listen to without skipping tracks.
-- STEWART WALKER
FIRE IT UP
Bill Perry (Blind Pig)
Perry has the gritty voice that seems to suit the blues so well, and his guitar artistry is perfect, too. Yet “Fire It Up” is several degrees short of hot. All the elements for a sizzler are here, except for the right songs to take advantage of them. This package is decent enough, but will leave you a bit cold.
-- KEN ROSENBAUM
RICHLAND WOMAN BLUES
Maria Muldauer (Stony Plain)
Muldaur may still be best known for her classic “Midnight at the Oasis,” but she has long had an affinity for the blues. And on this 14-track disc she teams up with some top contemporary performers to pay musical tribute to the blues of the 1920s and '30s. Lending a hand are, among others, Bonnie Raitt, Roy Rogers, John Sebastian, Angela Strehli, and Taj Mahal. And in that prestigious company, Muldaur shines, her voice rich and expressive, devoid of the trills of the past. The all-acoustic disc pays tribute to the blues of an earlier time, while reiterating Muldaur's lasting quality as a performer.
-- RICHARD PATON
THE OTHER SESSIONS
Jim Lauderdale (DualTone)
Traditional country music in the capable hands of Lauderdale somehow sounds contemporary, perhaps because he passes up the heavy studio treatments found on so many modern albums. Here, in a clear return to the feelings of sawdust-on-the-floor honky-tonks, he creates a set of genuine classics. Nothing fancy, mind you, just solid country fare.
-- KEN ROSENBAUM
BABY PLAYS AROUND
Curtis Stigers (Concord)
Curtis Stigers singing jazz? Yes, and he does a bang-up job of it. Stigers racked up pop hits in the early 1990s, but here at times he swings with a Nat “King” Cole quality and at others is more Johnny Mathis, with a touch of Jimmy Scott, depending on the composer. And when the song indicates a shift to the blues, he shows he can slip into a raspy, jazz-influenced style. Stigers is also a competent saxophonist, and wields his tenor to great advantage on a couple of tracks. His band includes Adam Nussbaum and Bill Stewart on drums, pianist Larry Goldings, bassists Chris Minh Doky and Dennis Irwin, and Randy Brecker on trumpet.
-- LARRY ROBERTS
Judas Priest, those veteran practitioners of the dark art of heavy metal, are back with a thundering new release that emphatically stakes a claim for the old guys in a young man's business. The success of “Demolition” is all in the tightly arranged songs and the relentless guitar attack of original members Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Longtime lead singer Rob Halford's replacement, Ripper Owens, of Akron, has an impressive vocal range that helps carry the show. He's able to scream like a banshee when necessary or growl like a demon over a sonic assault that never ceases.
-- ROD LOCKWOOD