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Published: Sunday, 8/17/2003

CD reviews: A feel-good look back at hip-hop

People Under The Stairs wants to take the listener back to the early days of hip-hop, when the music consisted of looped funk and jazz tracks, with the DJ cutting, scratching, and breaking the beat. Toward this goal, the due has re-created the vibe and the positive energy that was a part of this early scene.

Thes One and Double K have gone out their way to disassociate themselves from current hip-hop trends, going instead for a sound that would described as late '80s to early '90s hip-hop. They bring to mind groups such as De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

Tracks such as “Yield” and “Plunken 'Em,” are party rockers where the group just raps about being tight on the mic and having a good time. “Fly Love Song” is just that, a love song where ultimately their “love” turns out to be for rhyming and making beats. Further, tracks like “OST Remix” feature not only cutting and scratching, but also have human beat-boxing in them as well.

People Under The Stairs love the energy and carefree nature of early hip-hop, before the harsh reality and graphic violence of the street became more prevalent in the art. Their project, scheduled for release on Tuesday, will remind old-heads of why they fell in love with hip-hop in the first place, and give younger listeners a glimpse of the past.

This is a disc that leaves the listener feeling good vibes.

- STEWART WALKER

If you like traditional country music, then these east Tennessee sisters will fill the bill with their debut album. The outstanding singing and picking make the mostly traditional sounds come across as something fresh and exciting. The overall sound is much like Alison Krauss, yet while bluegrass is much in evidence, especially with the banjo, fiddle, and dobro, the more contemporary melodies make it all seem brand new.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

A breath of fresh air on the alt-rock scene, Revis, led by the Eddie Vedder-sounding Justin Holman, kicks off a great-sounding first album with the Daredevil soundtrack hit “Caught in the Rain.” The remaining tracks successfully form a distinctive vocally driven rock sound without being overly repetitive - except for the “soft-to-loud” chorus dynamics, utilized on almost every song. One of the most polished debuts of the current rock offerings.

- JAKE JONES

Shakatura - DJ and producer Galen Butler - weaves an entrancing sound that has a distinct personality, drawing on elements of trip-hop, dub, downtempo beats, and world influences. His pieces are quite restful and use interesting instrumental combinations, and it's that quality of being chilled without being monotonous, while retaining a rhythmic vitality, that distinguishes “Galactivation,” which is scheduled for release Aug. 26.

- RICHARD PATON

Seattle songwriter Robb Benson finds the common ground among such disparate rock acts as The Beatles, REM, and early '90s alternative bands on his group's first national release. In the process the four-piece group delivers a quirky, catchy disc that echoes the best of its influences. With a voice that stretches the limits of harmony, and a knack for truly weird lyrics, Benson gives Dear John Letters an instantly recognizable stamp.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

Chestnut chooses to work in a traditional piano-drums-bass trio format as he hearkens back to performing as a 6-year-old in an East Coast Baptist church for this foray into blues/gospel jazz. The disc not only touches on praise music, such as “God Has Smiled on Me,” but also includes a few works from the standard songbooks, such as the folksy title track. But although many of the 13 tracks are drawn from church songbooks, their handling is anything but straight gospel.

- LARRY ROBERTS

This solid, moving, classical composition is the latest to be scored by Gregson-Williams, known for writing the music of animated hits such as Antz and Shrek, as well as nonanimated films such as Phone Booth. There's not a hint of cutesy kid stuff to Sinbad: It strikes a playful, yet powerful middle-of-the-road chord, performed by an 80-piece orchestra and choir.

- TOM HENRY



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