8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 10, 1998
MADONNA OPENS HEART AND SOUL ON 'LIGHT'
Guitar rules Satriani's
"Do I know you from somewhere?" asks a lush,
seductive voice of a woman over the swirling beats
of an electronic orchestra. The trippy dance break-
beat that kicks in shortly after this full-voiced open-
ing leads one to believe that the singer is any num-
ber of well-trained electronica chanteuses.
But once the chorus of "Kiss me I'm dying/Put
your hands on my skin" is unleashed, the vocal cul-
prit becomes unmistakable - only Madonna would
have the bravado to sing such shamelessly poppy
lyrics and make them credible, even likeable.
And likeable Madonna is on that track, "Skin,"
and on all 13 tracks of "Ray of Light," her eighth
studio pop album, as she lays bare her soul on
catchy dance numbers and beautiful ballads. This all
sounds like familiar territory to our fair Material
Girl, but on this record, Madonna changes her tune.
Enlisting famed electronic-oriented producer
William Orbit, Madonna culls emotions and experi-
ences from her 16-year, largely superficial career -
"I traded fame for love, without a second thought,"
she laments on the soulful, album-opening
"Drowned World/Substitute for Love" - to create a
brilliant, ecstatic pop catharsis that all but eclipses
Ray of Light
Daily Arts Editor
every mistake she's ever
made, including the virginal
writhing, gold-tooth sporting
and naked hitchhiking of her
Here, she doesn't just live
to tell the tale -- she tells it in
"Shanti/Ashtangi," like a
prayer, only with a shuffling
Middle Eastern back beat,
hook-laden, the song's wailing style challenges
Madonna's once thin voice to a steady build upward,
with the clever, cryptic lyrics extending Madonna's
range further than ever with its exuberant, near-
Though Madonna the lyricist would hardly be
called Dylan-esque, the album shows off Madonna's
knack for writing classic pop songs. She even
reteams with Patrick Leonard her collaborator on
such classics as "Live To Tell,""La Isla Bonita" and
"Like A Prayer."
This collaboration yields pure pop heaven on
such songs as the gorgeous, haunting first single
"Frozen;" the millennial "Express Yourself" mas-
querading as a disco mantra in "Nothing Really
Matters;" and the dark, aggressive sensuality of the
The impressive Leonard tracks also include "Sky
Fits Heaven," the epic electronic capsulization of
the two main focuses of Madonna's life right now:
Her spiritual studies and her daughter Lourdes.
"Sky fits heaven so fly it, that's what the prophet
said to me/Child fits mother so hold your baby tight,
that's what my future can see," sings the newly
Ethereal Girl. With pursuits as spiritually and musi-
cally fulfilling as these, Madonna has room to
experiment with that future.
Experimentation, both musically and lyrically,
marks the entire album, but most strikingly on the
satiric "Candy Perfume Girl," which employs a very
grunge intro and then continues to pair post-modern
beeps and beats with old-fashioned electric guitar
That track apart, "Ray of Light" is about as far
from an axefest as an album can be: the synths far
outweigh the six-strings - not that there's anything
wrong with that.
In fact, "Ray of Light" is perhaps the first pop
album, or any album for that matter, to successfully
marry the cold synthesizer-driven electronica with
the intimacy and sentimentality of pop music.
"To Have and Not To Hold" and "Little Star"
stand as the two most sentiment-filled songs on the
record. The former bemoans a distant lover and the
latter celebrates little Lola, with both teetering on
the edge of processed cheese but prevailing with its
subtle, restrained arrangements.
Madonna, restrained? Well take comfort nostal-
gia buffs, not all has changed with Ms. Ciccone. She
is still advocating the need to open your heart -
"Your frozen when your heart's not open" and "Your
heart is not open, so I must go:' she sings in
"Frozen" and "The Power of Goodbye,' a mid-
album one-two punch that serve as the album's best
two tracks -- as well as proving that she still likes
to get into the groove, explaining why this is a tech-
no album and not part of the "Moods" series.
Madonna's "Ray of Light" is everything '90s pop
should be: moody, funky. uplifting, sensual, catchi-
er than Third Eye Blind. But why is Madonna flee-
ing her masterpiece?
"Ray of L ight" is all about confronting the past,
deciding that "Nothing Really Matters" and mov-
ing onward. But on the contemplative final track,
"Mer Girl,' which has Madonna trying to escape
her mother's death and her past as Boy Toy and
Material Girl. Madonna declares "I'm still running
Regardless of where Madonna's running, if she
keeps shining as she does on "Ray of Light," she's
headed in the right direction.
Although he doesn't sport lovely,
curly bangs, make videos for MTV, or
wear way cool Adidas jumpsuits, gui-
tarist Joe Satriani possesses the one
aspect that so many new music acts
lack - a love of music. With his 14-
year career span and two G3 tours,
Satriani might be the world's premiere
electric guitarist. The passion Satriani
evokes for playing guitar shines with
his out-of-this-world excursion,
Toying with various techniques of
jazz, blues and guitar shred, his new
album feels at times raw and rugged -
a pure explosion. By experimenting
with different chords and styles,
Daily Arts Writer
Much of the
album is a pre-
in a paradox of
high energy and
Escaping from his standard raw
pounding energy, Satriani adds a touch
of heart with "Love Thing" and induces
haziness with the murky "A Piece of
Liquid." "A Train of Angels" explores
Satriani at his best, contrasting his fiery
passion and his low-key melody.
Listening to "Crystal Planet" con-
jures up visions of Bastien riding atop
Falcor, the white flying dragon dog, in
the 1984 film, "The Neverending
Story." The soaring music is uplifting
but somewhat distant, constantly
searching for an answer. Satriani closes
without providing a definite answer in
the quiet solitude of "Z.Z.'s Song."
Is there a question concerning the
future of guitars? Will the new craze of
sampling overtake the guitarist ? As
long as Satriani is around, no way.
"Planet" opens unabashedly with the
high-flying "Up in the Sky" and moves
on to the intense title track. The rough
"Ceremony" is a fast assault coming in
a brutish tour de force of guitar riffs.
acts as the thematic centerpiece for the album,
reflecting Madonna's newfound awareness of
Eastern spirituality and fondness for cutting-edge
dance music. Apparently, studying Buddhism and
the Kabbalah, an ancient mystical branch of
Judaism, really makes one want to rave up.
Raving is the first order of business on the
album's stellar title track, the first Madonna song in
a long time to sound truly joyful. Fast-paced and
Who's your Daddy?
Big Bad CD is mony
Jazz surfaces with big 'Smalls'
An old adage once declared that there "ain't noth-
ing like the real thing," and when it comes to live
Jazz, well, generally, there ain't ... baby.
A surprising new release, "Jazz Underground:
Live at Smalls
Daily Arts Writer
Live at Smalls," however, cap-
tures nearly all of the atmos-
phere and allure of a dark
night club, right down to the
smoke-filled air and watery
Smalls, a new jazz club in
the greater New York scheme
of things, is one of the con-
temporary hotbeds of young
jazz talent. And talent is what
comes out wailing on this
"Everything Happens to Me," performed by the
Zaid Nassar Quartet, opens with a playful alto solo
by the band leader and smoothly noves into a sweet,
This tune puts the listener, and his or her sweet-
heart, in a front-row seat of the basement club. A
sweet piano solo by Sascha Perry slows down the
tune and gives the audience - both live and syn-
thetic - fodder for sweet lovin'.
"Prince Albert," performed here by the Frank
Hewitt Sextet, rolls along quickly and smoothly. This
classy tune gives pianist Hewitt a chance to share the
spotlight with three horns - and it works out royal-
One last notable track is the Jason Linder Big
Band playing a Linder original, "Phat." With the
leader on piano and no fewer than eight horns to
back him up, this tune creates a full, rich big-bop-
band sound. It's nothing short of its name.
A major plus for this album is the real-crowd
feel it conveys. The large Smalls audience is pre-
Psst. Over here, I've got a secret to
tell you. A band exists that is both pop-
ular and (gasp) talented.
I know this is hard to believe in the
MTV-age of pre-packaged, less-than-
gifted super-stars, but Big Bad Voodoo
Daddy defies the odds by having both
fans and finesse.
If you're already a fanatic for the
sounds of BBVD, you probably saw
"Swingers" and during the climax of the
film, paid less attention to the star-
crossed lovers and more to the musi-
cians playing "Go Daddy-O" and "You,
Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight" in
the background. If you have really bad
taste, you also probably bought the
soundtrack to Fox's "Party of Five" and
The Charles Owens Quartet starts off with a fast-
paced hard-bop tune, "Scenic Roots:' Clever puns
are not the extent of Owens' talent, as his tenor sax
work keeps the groove strong. This piece has a great
feel that is backed up by strong percussion and nice
sent on all of the cuts, clapping and screaming and
getting everyone involved and excited. All of the
tunes flow well into one another, regardless of the
fact that the different artists recorded on different
This is a true testament to the good new-blood on
the jazz scene today. Regardless of old adages, this
disk is a great thing.
Daily Arts Writer
Stephanie Jo Klein
the only song
Spell." That said,
you may have fig-
ured out by now
that Big Bad
has a sound that's
Drone rockers Yo La Tengo ride catchy 'Little Honda'
Distortion is an untamed force that
dares guitarists to let it loose from ampli-
fiers in studios and on stages, only to ruin
Yo La Tengo tamed distortion early in
its members' career. In each release since
its debut album, "Ride the Tiger,"Yo La
Tengo has perfected the once uninhibited
art of distortion. "Little Honda," Yo La
Tengo's latest effort, is no exception.
"Little Honda," an EP of covers,
begins and ends with the title track, orig-
inally recorded by the Beach Boys. On
this and every song on "Little Honda,'Yo
La Tengo lives up to its drone rock title.
The last track, which is hidden, is a live
version of "Little Honda,' showing Yo La
Tengo at its best. Maintaining the Beach
Boys' poppy style, the band roughs the
Yo La Tengo
Daily Arts Writer
track up with a
faster beat and
Two of the five
songs on "Little
Honda" are sub-
dued and feature
a version of "No
Return" by The
Kinks and "Black
Hole" by The Urinals. These songs dis-
play quality musicianship, but are not for
listeners with short attention spans.
Yo La Tengo does not end the album on
a disappointing note. On Sandy Denny's,
"By the Time it Gets Dark," vocalists Ira
Kaplan and Georgia Hubley claw out of
the man hole of monotony they were
stuck in during the two previous songs.
New and old Yo La Tengo fans will
recognize and appreciate the depth of this
EP If a couple of songs on the EP don't
cause instant boredom and excessive
yawning, drone rock might just be the
next big thing.
and just plain swingin'.
On BBVD's self-titled major label
debut album, the eight-man band from
Los Angeles brings class and style to its
original compositions, something so
often lacking these days. From their pin-
stripe suits and their fedoras to their
brassy instrumentation and thrilling
keyboards, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
exemplifies the reason that "bad" means
Though all the songs on the album
use the same beautiful Big Band sound,
a few are true standouts. "The Boogie
Bumper" starts off the album with a
wild up-tempo sound with piano and
dueling brass to match. The album's
third song, "King of Swing" is also
dance inspiring. Despite the fact that
lead singer Scotty Morris's vocals aren't
so hot, sounding more like Bryan
Adams with a cold, the song's driving
beat still manages to do what every
good song should do - it makes you*
forget the time and place and believe a
fun fantasy forjust a moment. The same
goes for "Maddest Kind of Love:" Even
though the lyrics are mildly cliche, the
sexy slide of the trombone evokes men-
tal images of loves lost better than any
video ever could.
The songs with ensemble singing are
even stronger, adding a bit of a fun, flip
tone to songs like the raucous "Go
Daddy-O," which along with "You, Me
& the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight" were re*
recorded after "Swingers.
For all its creative energy and cool
swing spirit, the only major flaw on the
album is the cover of Cab Calloway's
"Minnie the Moocher."
There's nothing wrong with the neat
and clean instrumentation, but it offers
nothing new or noteworthy. Covering a
classic should be reserved for-urgent
But whatever tune they play, Big Bad
Voodoo Daddy constantly reminds the
viewer what music is. Ya dig? It's money.
Steven Bizub, Music Director
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