Shot Of Rhythm

[ Thursday, March 22, 2007 ]


New release round-up

The last two weeks have seen a flurry of new picks-to-click, records that (for the moment) have made me feel much better about 2007's musical output. Even as the commercial side of the business continues to tank, the level of artistry on these newest arrivals to the Tower Of Song are more than reassuring.

-Even though her album came out last fall in Britain, Amy Winehouse's BACK TO BLACK has just exploded onto American shores. Now, I don't use words like "exploded" in this context too often, since they imply a promo-copy buzzword meant to convince people to buy something. Yet and still, judging by her artistic freshness, and the multiple people who have made "have you heard Amy Winehouse?" a standard point of conversation since the record dropped two weeks ago, I can't help but believe that Winehouse, with her bubbling girl-group/Motown/Philly/hip-hop productions and unflinchingly raw songwriting, that the term isn't appropriate. This lady is headed for a long-time presence in our mix. Plus, the first single - "Rehab" - is as intoxicating as anything she may have (over-)indulged in...

Amy Winehouse - "Rehab," from BACK TO BLACK

-Devin The Dude has spent the last decade putting out great records periodically, then falling back for just long enough to lull us into complacency. Once again, Houston's ambassador of weed, women and righteous funkiness as returned with WAITIN' TO INHALE, a jokey title that (although it reflects the self-deprecating hedonism that center most of the lyrics) doesn't do justice to the depth and textures of the sounds within: guitar riffs for days, beats that recall P-Funk, the Isleys, UGK and early OutKast, and satisfyingly catchy hooks. Indeed, even some of his lyrics transcend the jus'-playin' vibe, like "What A Job," where Devin - in tandem with the still-great Snoop and Andre 300 (who really oughta rap more) - describes the life of a professional musician with great honesty and empathy. (Andre's verse even makes me - and hopefully you - think twice about illegal downloading.) Beautifully rich stuff; the Dirty South at its finest.

Devin The Dude (feat. Snoop Dogg and Andre 3000) - "What A Job," from WAITIN' TO INHALE

-Rich Boy, the Alabama-based MC who currently knocks the club around with "Throw Some Ds," has produced an album that greatly exceeds my expectations. Although I knew that he'd provide a couple good club tracks in the style of "D's," I was not at all expecting the layered song-suite he puts together as the album's second half, exploring reggae, blues and gospel sounds and combining them with passionate, intelligent lyrics about humanity, struggle and survival which remind me a lot of Juvenile's most engaged songwriting. While not every track on Rich Boy's debut is great, the best stuff (particularly on that second half) is good enough to land it near the top of my current best-of-2007 list. "Ghetto Rich," with the always game-raising John Legend, is the main reason why.

Rich Boy (feat. John Legend) - "Ghetto Rich," from RICH BOY

-The Stooges came back with the wonderfully-titled THE WEIRDNESS, which - unfortunately - is pretty bad. I'm sorry - I love Iggy, and I didn't even mind the idea of reforming his greatest (and oldest) band, but the songs are uniformly underwhelming, and Iggy sounds uniformly tired...except on "My Idea Of Fun," the one track where Iggy's pissed-off polemic and the band's crunchy anarchy works perfectly in tandem. I'm not hopeless about future Stooges collaborations, but this one isn't even close to being as good as Iggy's last three or four solo albums. And that, my friends, is not the standard to fail in measuring up to.

The Stooges - "My Idea Of Fun," from THE WEIRDNESS

-Eightball and MJG have quietly (or maybe loudly) become staples of the hip-hop world, veterans who are about to either grow old gracefully (like Scarface, who's settled in to a comfortable groove of good records) or flame out embarrasingly (like, among a thousand others, Melle Mel, whose recent "comeback" sounds more like your uncle improvising over "Get Low" at a wedding). While their new album doesn't hit on all cylinders, I'm very intrigued by the invention - and sense of history - in "Memphis," which we can add to the long list of songs about their fair hometown that capture its funky-fresh vibe both lyrically and musically.

Eightball and MJG (feat. Al Kapone) - "Memphis," from LIVING LEGENDS

On the box right now: Devin The Dude, WAITIN' TO INHALE.


Dove With Claws [12:34 PM]