Shot Of Rhythm

[ Thursday, December 14, 2006 ]



Back to my original are three tracks bridging the country-soul divide that have had my attention lately.

The Commodores - "Sail On"

Charlie Rich - "Rollin' With The Flow"

Dennis Linde - "Burning Love"

That last cut is the demo version of "Burning Love," performed by its writer, Dennis Linde. I'm a definite fan of this fascinating track, particularly since it sounds like John Fogerty backed by Booker T. and the MGs. As great as Elvis' is (and it is transcendent, if you ask me), this version possesses something far different from the King's take, and - to me - it makes this demo a worthy complement to the famous Presley release.

On the box right now: Fantasia, FANTASIA.


Dove With Claws [8:22 PM]

[ Tuesday, December 12, 2006 ]



Today marks the release of two albums by previous winners of AMERICAN IDOL, Fantasia Barrino and current champ Taylor Hicks, and each of these records demonstrates a few things very clearly. First and foremost: the quality of the performances (like those of Kelly Clarkson) blows away - for my money - any remaining doubts about whether or not the Idols are a talented bunch deserving of recording success. Second, both Hicks and Barrino are, in different ways, demonstrating the way that the vanguard of commercialized pop music is, at the moment, looking back to an earlier, more soulful time.

Barrino's album is a near-triumph, with superior tracks comprising a solid half of it. Alternately funky and church-based, Fantasia's voice is in fine, supple form, and the arrangements around which she shouts from the mountaintop are perfectly-suited to her expanding vocal talent. I've already posted "Hood Boy" on the site, although I'll be happy to post it before, since the released version is different (and, for my money, less intense) than the one that leaked. I have picked two cuts that are very much in the "Hood Boy" vein, though, righteously funky R&B tracks that each oughta walk the terrain currently being carved out by "Hood Boy's" rise up the charts. With this album, Barrino rises to the level of Kelly Clarkson's last record, both in terms of assertive quality, and in the clear gesture towards the independent artistic voice that both women have used their Idol success to more fully expose. Right on.

"Baby Makin' Hips"

"Bore Me (Yawn)"

Then there's Taylor Hicks, the "country-soul"/"yacht rock" stylist whose victory in January surprised the hell out of me, and in a good way. It was nice to see the crown go to a professional musician (he played in clubs for nearly a decade before his TV triumph) who looked kinda ragged and dumpy (a.k.a. like a normal person) but could sing his ass off, and seemed clearly knowledgeable about, and in love with, the American R&B tradition. I agree that occasionally his influences were so deeply imprinted on his sleeve that it was hard to tell whether or not his performances were more intepretation or impression, but that's hardly a sin unique to Taylor Hicks. Now that the album's out, I can say that I'm relatively pleased. I wish there were a bit less A/C sheen, although I defy anyone to find an R&B album of the past twenty years that couldn't use a bit of grease in the wheels. I also hope that he one day overcomes his aversion to country music, since I see him as an obvious heir to Charlie Rich or Percy Sledge. Still, especially for the heavily-controlled debut of an American Idol, I can't argue with the song selection (which features covers of Marvin Gaye and Paul Pena), or the overall level of performance. Nice mix of sounds, and a definite indication that - in the next release or those to come - Hicks might achieve the artistic breakthrough that his predecessors Barrino and Clarkson have most definitely achieved. It's a soul thing...

"Wherever I Lay My Hat"

"The Right Place"

On the box right now: Nas, HIP-HOP IS DEAD.


Dove With Claws [10:05 AM]