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Published: Sunday, 2/13/2005

CD reviews: The Game is on as debut release shows off a singular rap talent

There are times when an artist makes a debut that shakes the hip-hop recording industry to its core. The Game's debut release "The Documentary" is one such instance. It simply is one of the best rap CDs ever made.

When you combine such talents as Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Timbaland, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, and others to produce a disc, it's easy to predict its success. But even with this star-studded lineup to assist him, The Game stands out as a rapper who transcends the genre.

Because much has been made of the fact that The Game is going to revive West Coast rap, it was surprising to hear the musical composition of the disc. West Coast rap is associated with funk, and one might expect a disc full of gansta-funk. And there are some g-funk tracks on the disc, such as his duet with 50 Cent, "Westside Story," and "Where I'm From" with Nate Dogg.

But there are many other musical stylings such as the bluesy "Dreams," or the percussion oriented "Higher," which sounds as if it were inspired by a Native-American drum circle. In fact, there are so many different styles on the disc that The Game won't be defined by his music. He is adept at flowing to any kind of beat.

His slightly gruff, masculine voice, direct flow, and masterful wordplay take him to the top of the list as far as rappers go. He is one of the few who can flow with Eminem on an Eminem-produced track, "We Ain't," and hold his own. The Game has mad mic skills.

But it's less certain whether he can revive West Coast rap. The Game is not a gangsta rapper, but a rapper who is a former gang-banger. He raps about life as a banger, but his lyrics have so much more depth and emotion than that. He raps about life in a way, and has a reverence for the past, that anyone can relate to.

By baring himself on pen and paper, and showing his own vulnerability, he also shows that he is first a man - and a singular talent in the rap game today.

- STEWART WALKER

The Hermit - Hamish Thomson - emerges with a disc of rich melodies, a smooth blending of rock and electronica influences and instrumentation. Using several guest vocalists, The Hermit nevertheless retains an overall musical focus. Tracks like "Journey of the Dot," an instrumental with a light funk/rock rhythm and insistent, repeated melody line, and bluesy "Won't Fall Apart," are contrasts in musical styles yet don't clash. "Wonderment" is due for release March 1.

- RICHARD PATON

Remember this name: Shane Piasecki. He's an 18-year-old Toledo guy whose first disc belies his age with its first-rate collection of songs, top-notch production values, and consistent sense of purpose. Hints of Tracy Chapman slip into the rhythmic vibe Piasecki brings to the spare arrangements and confessional songwriting style, but he's not an imitator. Over the course of 11 songs, there's a sameness to the tempos that robs them of some of their urgency. Piasecki's a good writer, though, and he tosses something like the sly reference to Michael Jackson in "All I Need" to stir things up. "All for Coffee" is available at www.shanepiasecki.com.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

This warm , feel-good CD has former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne offering his worldly vision about ordinary life on "Glass, Concrete & Stone," Aretha Franklin belting out "Chain of Fools," and Steely Dan's "Reelin' In the Years", plus Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill." But what raises this soundtrack beyond a smartly packaged compilation of hits is the musical symmetry between indie folk rockers Iron & Wine and film score composer Stephen Trask, as well as rockers Soundtrack of Our Lives. It's a soundtrack with substance and an aura of light sophistication.

- TOM HENRY

This is the 54th album by Osmond, who is still in his mid-40s, although it seems like he's been around the music scene forever. These songs show why he has had a fan base all those years. Lovers of light, breezy pop, heavy on the romanticism, get a disc-full here with nearly 50 minutes of strong melodies. Osmond is in fine, mostly laid-back mode throughout, backed by a host of good musicians. He wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 tunes, dealing primarily with personal experiences with the emphasis on romance and relationships.

- KEN ROSENBAUM



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