The four originals are excellent, with the outstanding "This Time" and "Highway Bound" borrowing the love-'em-and-leave-'em ethos of the best blues cats ("I'm a rambling woman," she tells her clinging lover on the latter tune, "I'll prob'ly never act right"). The confidence Foley exhibits is not just in her singing; it's also in her choice of material (Bob Dylan and Willie Dixon) and her tasteful restraint on guitar, supplying roiling riffs, closing-time chords, and solos that burn brightly but not extravagantly. A fine direction for the future of the blues.

By Bob Weinberg

Jazzmatazz Volume II: The New Reality

By the time Gang Starr's rapper Guru released 1993's Jazzmatazz Volume I -- "the experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz," as the disc cover proclaimed -- the idea of blending the two African-American styles already had been fairly well explored. But as the first wholly self-conscious mixing of the genres, Volume I at least came off as a decent novelty. In the two years since that CD's release, however, jazz-rap -- from Digable Planets to Buckshot Lefonque to the Roots -- has grown into the dominant strain of alternative hip-hop, so you could conclude there's no need for Guru to continue with his suspect musical pioneering.

The good news is that Jazzmatazz Volume II addresses the changing times. Guru ups the ante by collecting artists from R&B (Chaka Khan, Mica Paris) and reggae (Ini Kamoze, Patra), in addition to jazz (Ramsey Lewis, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard) and rap (Kool Keith, Big Shug), thereby broadening the concept to bring together makers of all black music. At best the songs reflect this more robust brew: "Watch What You Say," for instance, blends Khan's dynamic blue improvisational singing and Branford Marsalis's subdued saxophone phrases with Guru's rap and DJ Premier's unorthodox track of video-game sound effects.

The bad news is that Volume II fails in precisely the same places as its predecessor. First, Guru still raps with fine tone but with little gift for either rhythm or rhyme. In a mono-tone, he self-righteously calls himself "The Lifesaver," but offers only vague solutions, such as "deal with reality and try to keep focus," to inner-city turmoil. Second, except for Khan's vocals and, perhaps, Lewis's piano solo on "Respect the Architect," the meshes of musical styles never rise out of an established hip-hop form. Enjoy Jazzmatazz for what it's worth, but as before, don't believe the hype.

By Roni Sarig

Big Audio Dynamite

Former Clash guitarist Mick Jones has reinvented his Big Audio Dynamite shtick yet again with the release of F-Punk, a mishmash of uninspired grooves and lyrical tedium that does not live up to its cognominal proclamation (unless the F in the title stands for former). As evidence that these veterans have nothing on Green Day, the album opens with Jones barking "One, two, three, four!" before a Korg drum machine blurts out the synthetic whimpers of the first single, "I Turned Out a Punk." Well, Jones may have turned out a punk, but he sings like an old fart reminiscing about it, and I doubt that's the point.

Other cuts do little to re-establish B.A.D.'s innovative work with sampling or dance beats, elements that made them so popular in the Eighties. Instead they sputter out songs such as "Vitamin C," which features a fatuous Jones chanting "Gimme 'nother hit of Vitamin C" about 30 times in the course of 5 minutes. (He did suffer a bad bout with pneumonia a few years back, which likely explains the song's genesis.) And just when it would seem things couldn't get much worse, the band slides into a prosaic cover of David Bowie's "Suffragate City," hidden as the album's last track; cheeky monkey that he is, Jones sounds like Lou Reed with a speech impediment, with the band failing to bring anything new to the song. Which begs the question: Why bother doing it in the first place? Don't waste your time trying to figure it out. Go buy a Clash record.

By George Pelletier

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