The big swing is from Hornsby's rootsy, jazz-inflected and keyboard-based pop/rock to a sometimes harder, more electronic sound. He retains a strong sense of melody on most of the 11 tracks, but his more muscular, tougher-rocking musical direction is evident from the opening, “Sticks & Stones.”
On the following “Cartoons & Candy” Hornsby veers close to the breakbeat style of dance music. Later, “This Too Shall Pass” begins as a moody ballad with intense vocals, then Hornsby kicks in the rhythm track and flavors the cut with drum `n' bass. “Try Anything Once” hovers between hip-hop and breakbeat, with an electronic ambience.
What's particularly impressive about this disc is how Hornsby blends these more groove-oriented cuts with the rich sound of “The Chill” or the jazzy, rhythmic title cut. Nor is his earlier sound entirely absent. There are echoes in such songs as “The Good Life” and “No Home Training,” the latter also recalling the southern-fried funk of Little Feat.
But overall, “Big Swing Face” is a bold move, embracing the contemporary sounds of electronica, while retaining a sure melodic touch.
- RICHARD PATON
While not flawless, “Scooby-Doo” is a tail-waggin' endeavor that runs circles around some of the bland musical efforts paired with past films based on animated TV classics. An updated sound comes courtesy of Uncle Kracker featuring Busta Rhymes, Kylie Minogue, and others. Obvious care has been taken assembling an unpretentious collection that has a sweet and rollicking tone, with the only hint of retro in Lil' Romeo's fun remake of the Commodores' “Brick House.”
- TOM HENRY
Coupling David Cantor's intelligent, quirky lyrics and Kelly Flint's expressive voice has created a sound that is not exactly jazz, nor folk, nor pop, but a mixture of all three. This re-release of the group's early 1990s debut includes two songs used in the movie, “Kissing Jessica Stein,” but left off the soundtrack CD, that carry a light, jazzy zing. Dropped in at the end are two standards, “Fever” and “Blue Moon,” which prove this duo could make it on a traditional jazz stage. But listeners will most appreciate “Dave's True Story” for Cantor and Flint's personal insights into the New York experience.
- LARRY ROBERTS
Jerry Cantrell knows what it's like to be at the top of the rock and roll heap. As one of the leaders of Alice in Chains, he was a seminal figure in developing the Seattle grunge sound. And he knows what it's like to struggle to be heard, which is reflected on his urgent, powerful, and intensely insular second solo release. Alice fans will find “Degradation Trip” irresistible because it strongly echoes the band's muddy rhythmic assault and features Cantrell's soul-searching lyrics and laconic vocals. But it also expands on grunge, effectively updating hard rock with a great guitar sound, and lyrics that unflinchingly explore the depths of one man's soul.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
These two reissues from 1993 and 1995 are a history lesson in the roots of dancehall reggae. The gravel-voiced artist is at his best in these socially conscious classics. Two bonus tracks are added to each, and a couple of well-known artists were involved. American rapper Busta Rhymes helps perform “Wicked Act” on “Voice Of Jamaica.” Ice Cube lends a hand with “Champion” from “'Til Shiloh.”
- KEN ROSENBAUM
Toledo's own Hell's Kitchen displays its hip-hop/rap/rock hybrid on a two CD compilation. The rap CD features rap lyrics over funk oriented, hip-hop tracks, while the rock CD features rap lyrics over rock guitar riffs and a mixture of rock and hip-hop drum tracks. To merge the two styles is difficult, and Hell's Kitchen does so with mixed results. The three-man crew primarily raps about life growing up on Toledo's East Side, and have some mic skills. Hell's Kitchen is still developing its signature sound, and reaching national prominence is in question. But their release indicates they have the potential.
- STEWART WALKER