Sugar Ray (Atlantic)
Just in time for the peak of summer: a new, hook-laden disc by Sugar Ray that is as breezy as it is sweaty.
The 9-year-old California band has the rap/reggae/rock mix nailed perfectly on its fourth release. At times, the band echoes itself a little too closely, pumping out what sounds like several different versions of the 1997 hit “Fly,” but Sugar Ray has the ability to mix things up enough to pull it off.
Instead of being formulaic, it's clear the band has a “sound” - hard-strummed acoustic guitars, lead singer Mark McGrath's supple vocals, and some hip-hop influences by rapper DJ Homicide - that works well.
“Sugar Ray” is a perfect summer release, the kind of music that sounds just right pumped out of a car stereo. You've got your nostalgia for, what else, summer in “Under the Sun.” You've got your catchy potential hit single, “When It's Over.” And you've got a batch of tunes, ranging from rockers to mid-tempo cuts, that sound perfect for the season.
From a band that titled its first release, “Lemonade & Brownies,” this shouldn't be a surprise. Pull up a beach blanket and enjoy the tunes.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
THIS IS BR5-49
BR5-49 (Lucky Dog/Sony)
(This is country at its hippest, cool best. These five guys mix country and rockabilly into a fun fest of irreverent rave-ups. There's biting humor and stinging sarcasm aplenty in a potpourri of sparkling instrumental work and workmanlike vocals.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
Dr. John (Label M.)
On this album, released in 1974 and being reissued in the United States for the first time, the bayou funkmeister who occasionally answers to the name of Mac Rebennack is in the glory of his Night Tripper days. Accompanied by two legendary acts from New Orleans, pianist Allen Toussaint and the Meters, the disc has some fascinating rhythms and style variations, even if its lyrics are elusive. But it's best suited for serious collectors and cult followers.
- TOM HENRY
JOHN MAYALL'S BLUES BREAKERS WITH ERIC CLAPTON
If one disc can be said to have both jump-started the British blues boom, and created the musical category of guitar hero, it was this groundbreaking release from 1966. The re-released classic has been digitally remastered, and there are two bonus cuts, “Lonely Years” and “Bernard Jenkins.” A couple of Mayall's original songs have not worn as well as some of the now-familiar blues standards. But he also penned the two centerpiece cuts, “Double Crossing Time” and the brilliant “Have You Heard,” which have lost none of their intensity. This disc is important as a historical record of a seminal moment in the growth of modern electric blues. Equally notable, however, is that it stands on its own merits, its overall quality little diminished after 35 years.
- RICHARD PATON
Steve Turre (Telarc Jazz)
Turre, a trombone player who can handle straight-ahead, Latin, gospel, and free jazz with great facility lays it all out on his latest release, “TNT,” which stands for Trombone N Tenor. The tenor saxophones are handled by three men representing different styles - James Carter, Dewey Redman, and David Sanchez. Turre also has created three different rhythm sections, all as tight as can be, that divide up the eight tracks. “Puente of Soul,” Turre's tribute to the late Tito Puente, carries a hypnotic Afro-Cuban beat spurred by excellent conga work by Giovanni Hidalgo. It is not to be missed. But then again, none of these tracks should be missed.
- LARRY ROBERTS
A KNIGHT'S TALE
Various Artists (Columbia)
This soundtrack is a perfectly fine blend of rock-and-roll oldies by the likes of Queen, War, Eric Clapton, and Heart, with bonus tracks from Dan Powell and Third Eye Blind. Solid and durable, yes, but what does this lineup have to do with Medieval times? Writer-producer-director Brian Helgeland says in his liner notes that rock and roll is synonymous with youth, identity, and freedom - traits that protagonists in the movie try to exemplify. OK, whatever. Perhaps the best thing is to do is sit back, enjoy the music, and stop trying to figure it out.
- TOM HENRY
THUNDER & ROSES
Pam Tillis (Arista Nashville)
Tillis, a multitalented artist with a half-dozen No. 1 hits and numerous awards to her credit, continues to wear her heart on her musical sleeve. Her vocal inflections, somewhere between a cry and a sigh, make her songs drip with emotions. The lyrics sound real, and the delivery makes it all very convincing. Her fine voice is applied to equally fine material, and the result here is another album of country-pop that should attract considerable airplay and even more fans.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
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