While dance music has long blended soulful vocals with pumping beats, rarely have electronic and R&B influences been brought together to such positive effect as they are by the United Kingdom's Andy Cato, musician/producer with Groove Armada, and singer Rachel Foster - the Weekend Players.
Cato's arrangements are warm with rich textures, offering the perfect accompaniment to Foster's smooth and expressive vocal style, reminiscent of Sade.
The songs are strongly melodic and encompass house music and lush ambient moods. And that stylistic range is part of the disc's undeniable appeal.
To take one example, “Best Days of Our Lives” matches crisp drums and a rolling bassline, a retro guitar sound, and mellow feel with Foster's vocals cool over the top. It's followed by the uptempo house of “21st Century,” and then by the chilled and moody track, “Jericho,” with deep bass and warm strings. Foster's voice once again fits just right with the smooth arrangement.
Weekend Players seem to revel in that diverse musical palette, segueing from slow, beautifully melodic, and sweetly soulful (“Angel”) to rousing house (“Into The Sun”) with consummate ease.
The disc also includes two bonus tracks, deep house remixes of “I'll Be There” and “Into The Sun,” that give the songs both an added musical dimension and serious appeal to clubbers.
- RICHARD PATON
There's nothing fancy about this Detroit band's debut release, a low-tech rocker that boasts a Stones-like kick and pays a debt to classic rock and power pop. None of the songs clocks in at longer than 4 minutes, and the audio quality is average at best, but Sevenout has the appeal of a garage band - albeit a really good garage band - bashing out a set in the local bar. And for all its sounds of the '70s, the band manages to sound new, thanks to Shane McGregor's writing and the timeless nature of its influences.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Queen Latifah, who wowed critics with her role in Chicago and had a spotlight to perform in during last Sunday's Academy Awards telecast, co-produced this soundtrack and does a pair of lively numbers on it. The disc runs the gamut of dance to hip-hop to classic Barry White soul, with most of the songs being newly recorded. There's a slickness to it that suggests it's marketable to mainstream audiences, without necessarily pandering to them.
- TOM HENRY
To these young musicians, the Wild West is the cowboy life in Alberta. Their music is roots country, Canada-style with honky-tonk influences, full of graphic lyrics about bronc riding, cattle ranching, card playing, and other cowboy pursuits. “Five Dollar Bill” sounds even better with each playing. While Lund's voice isn't like the typical, smooth country crooner's, his readings are heartfelt and the end result is a treat.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
This jazz trio doesn't follow any of the traditional forms of improvisational music. Instead, bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King perform deconstructed versions of pop classics such as Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and a collection of their own imaginative originals. Their method of attack is to explore melodies individually, creating sounds that are very close to new age harmonic experimentation. It is strongly voiced stuff, rife with explosive piano chords and crashing cymbals.
- LARRY ROBERTS