Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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CD reviews: Jewel tries a new direction

Jewel has sold 25 million albums worldwide, and in the process has explored many musical genres, from folk to rock, blues, and jazz. She has also spoken of her interest in hip-hop and rap. But it wasn't until her song “Serve The Ego” was worked on by dance music re-mixers and went to the top of Billboard's Hot Dance Music Club Play chart that she was driven to explore the dance music idiom.

The single, “Intuition,” exemplifies this new direction with its street beats, dense arrangement, and memorable chorus. And her new CD opens with “Stand,” a slower song with a pop-dance flavor and socially conscious lyrics. On “Run 2 U,” Jewel - who co-produced “0304” - picks up the pace with a blend of acoustic and electric guitars, and more of a techno-based sound to the rhythm section.

But while Jewel has partially embraced dance music, she hasn't entirely converted to the sounds of clubland. There's no house, trance, or drum & bass here, for example. And several tracks are pure and gorgeously melodic pop, like “2 Find U” and “Fragile Heart,” or given an indie-rock ambience.

But that mix of musical styles, with her often compelling songwriting, and the inclusion of beat-heavy arrangements on some cuts, gives this disc interest and appeal.


The music and rhythms on these 12 cuts from the roots-rock reggae duo offer nothing surprising, but rather a solid combination of socially conscious lyrics and a loping beat. ”Soldiers” enlisted some of Jamaica's top reggae artists, such as Sly Dunbar and Junior Marvis of the Wailers, to provide support on the hard rhythms. Typical of the reggae message throughout is universal togetherness and compassion.


On the lead single for the soundtrack to this film, due out in theaters this week, Skye Sweetnam sings about how she doesn't want to go to school and read about “Billy Shakespeare.” It's one of the highlights of a fairly clever and ambitious disc that leaves cute behind in its quest for something a little more cutting-edge. Featured are five new songs, plus old work from Cat Stevens offset by the likes of The Donnas and The Flaming Lips.


The sounds, melodies, and rhythms on “View From Afar” may be unfamiliar to most jazz aficionados, being culled from music more common to countries of the Middle East, Balkans, and Africa. But Larry Steen and his crew find themes with which to improvise and express American jazz genres such as soul, blues, and funk with instruments like the oud (fretless lute), dumbek (drum), and duduk(a double reed wind instrument). The music is exhilarating, and the melodies can be haunting.


First issued in 1969, this is the blues anthology to end all blues anthologies. Updated with 13 songs not on the original two-LP release, the collection takes listeners from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago, introducing such seminal artists as Lead Belly, Blind Willie McTell, and of course, Robert Johnson. The 45 original songs are supplemented by bonus tracks from the likes of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Bob Dylan, making it a completist's dream.



  • TEXAS OUTLAWS, Various Artists (Compadre) Eighteen tracks of “outlaw” country songs are done with a tip of the hat to Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. Veterans and rookies mix covers and some new tunes with heavy guitars and tough lyrics. K.R.

  • THE ELECTROCLASH MIX BY LARRY TEE (Moonshine) A well-chosen and mixed two-disc set of electro with echoes of '80s synth pop and rhythms of contemporary house music. R.P.

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