Friday, May 25, 2018
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CD reviews: Slick, yes, but shallow as well

David is, no doubt about it, a sensational singer. His voice has a mellifluous tone, smooth and expressive, soulful yet adept at segueing into passages of rap without missing a beat. He gained wide recognition for his work with Artful Dodger, including the massive “Re-Rewind,” and rode a mix of R&B and UK Garage, or 2-step, to celebrity status.

His first solo disc, “Born To Do It,” was an instant classic mixing sounds of the UK club scene with R&B and sultry ballads. This 12-track follow-up takes a different tack. The 2-step and club music are replaced by mainstream R&B, lyrics that often cop an attitude.

David opens with the title track, its rhythm repetitive and uninspiring, followed by the first single, “What's Your Flava?” These, and too many of the following songs, lack the musical freshness and stylish presentation of David's earlier work.

All is not lost, though. There are tracks that show his unique way with a melody and his suave delivery, including the mid-tempo “Hidden Agenda” and sultry ballad “Personal.” Ironically the disc's best song is “2 Steps Back,” perhaps a reference to the musical genre. It certainly has more of a 2-step rhythm, along with a sweet melody line and lush production.

“Slicker Than Your Average” could use more of that vitality and musical creativity.


Stream-of-conscience minimalism with trace elements of folk, jazz, and New Age makes up O'Neil's latest experiment, her dreamy voice subservient to guitar, bass, keyboard, percussion, and sampling. She also tosses in gurglings, bells, whooshes, industrial buzz, and a peppering of disco beat. The most melodic track is “With Yours,” reminiscent of later John Lennon, followed by a cool fragment called “Bye Bye.” And though it's hard to make out some of her words, there's an inexplicable appeal to this disc.


The arrangements are charted and honed to sound like the massed brass of the Basie band, but move sluggishly and without the crackling edge of the original. Keely Smith, too, seems to be a trifle more elegant than swinging, but she has lost not one iota of her style and audience appeal. Who else would trot out the lyrics to “Cherokee,” and turn it into a salute to her Native American ancestors? Smith is smooth and polished as she tackles jazz standards from Ellington's “Take the A Train” to pop hits such as “Can't Take My Eyes Off You.”


Composer Philip Glass and cellist Yo-Yo Ma team up for the first time with a dark, rich score for the third movie in filmmaker Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi triology. Ma's work here with Glass is subtle, sophisticated, and dramatic — an example of how a master musician can bring star quality instead of star ego to a piece and help craft an intense, moving collaboration capable of standing the test of time.


The master of hillbilly twang receives the deluxe, remastered treatment with this four-disc set due in stores this week. His rootsy, distinctive music, blended with the Bakersfield sound backed by a walking bass, adds elements of rock, British pop, and even big band. It takes three discs to cover the first two decades of Yoakam's career. A fourth disc has 21 unreleased songs, some done live, all absolute dynamite.


Rising from the ashes of several northwest Ohio and Michigan bands, Koufax makes a bracing, edgy brand of music that effectively subverts the usual pop cliches. Featuring lead singer Robert Suchan's distinctive voice, it combines elements of new wave with its piano and guitar-driven approach, crafting tightly wound tunes about escaping suburban ennui, cocaine overdoses, and what a drag it can be to spend Saturday night alone.


  • ELECTRO BURN; ELECTRO CHILL, Various Artists (Surge) The two discs feature an eclectic mix of top electronic acts, and inventive track selection. Quality compilations with appeal for fans of electronic and alternative sounds. R.P.

  • WHISKEY STORE, Jimmy Thackery and Tab Benoit (Telarc) The two gritty blues guitarists get in their licks with harpist Charles Musselwhite on some fiery instrumental blends. K.R.

    The vocal work is nothing special, and the guitar playing almost, but not quite, makes up for it. K.R.

  • GOLDEN SLUMBERS ( A FATHER'S LULLABY), Dave Koz /Various Artists (Warner Bros. Jazz) From “Blackbird” to “Isn't She Lovely” to “Brahms' Lullaby” soft-jazz wizard saxophonist Dave Koz has assembled a list of wonderful songs guaranteed to help bed squalling infants. L.R.

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