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December 07, 1999 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-12-07

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 10, 1998 - 9



Nas works hard in his
second disc of the year

Armed with a band of super-talented musicians,
Dave Matthews stands out as one of the most popu-
lar artists of the decade. With a cult-like following of
post gen-X listeners, Matthews has repeatedly toured
the country, selling out venues with his band as well
as friend and fellow guitarist, Tim Reynolds.
Performances have ranged from dynamic sets of
energy with Dave shuffling his feet across stage to
lethargic nights filled with forced emotion. Either
way, one thing remains clear: Dave Matthews Band is
a modern musical success story.
It is a shame that the latest two-disc set, "Listener
Supported," is a standard example of the band's live
show with relatively few high-
lights aside from superb musi-
**9 cianship. Dave fans will no
Dave Matthews doubt find this CD enjoyable,
Band while non-fans will likely skip
Listener over it.
Supported Recorded during the band's
RCA Records televised performance on
Reviewed by PBS's "In the Spotlight" show-
Daily Arts Writer case in New Jersey this past
Gautam Baksi September, the dual CD set is
little more than a chance for
Dave and his friends to pick up some more cash from
their legion of devoted, khaki wearing, preppie fans.
Musicianship, as always, is brilliant, but this doesn't
compensate for the lack-luster tracks on this album.
The first track opens with a warm instrumental
selection. A semblance of smooth jazz-rock fills the
arena as the band plays a mellow accompaniment
under the light drumming of the always-amazing
Carter Beauford. The multi-instrumental Leroi
Moore provides a brilliant woodwind foundation to
the band's blues-rock sound as Dave rolls out open-

appreciate such treats.
For example, Boyd Tinsley once again strokes
the strings of his electric violin with crafty ele-
gance, but missing is the energy released from his
flying dreadlocks on stage. It's no fault of the band,
but transposing stage presence onto a recording is a
formidable task that few artists ever master.
On the flipside of this weakness is the over-
whelming abundance of time devoted to tracks
such as the fifteen-minute "Two Step." There's no
doubt many fans cheered at the conclusion of this
drawn out song simply because it finally ended. In
addition, Dave's nasally voice and over-produced
six-string takes a toll on the listener's ears. For a
live recording, Dave's voice is markedly prominent
over the rest of the band's harmony. A welcome
break is during the very moving performance of
"Long Black Veil" in which back-up vocalists take
turns singing. As expected, the concert finishes
with yet another variation of Dave's favorite Dylan
song, "All Along the Watchtower."
After a recent release of the two disc "Live at
Luther College" set with Tim Reynolds, it seems
too soon for Dave Matthews to release another non-
studio album. With over two hours of music on two
discs, the band does an adequate job of entertaining
the audience for a complete show. But with little to
differentiate this album from a conglomeration of
earlier tracks, it's little more than an addition to yet
another earlier live release at Red Rocks.
While fans anxiously await additions to Dave's
greatest hits repertoire, this album merely repeats
his earlier releases. A live show captures the spirit
and heart of a band. Attempting to contain that
energy onto a recording is rarely successful, and in
this case, futile.

A serious bid to succeed James Brown
as the "Hardest Working Man in Show
Business" is emerging from the man with
the shortest stage name in show business:
Nas, it turns out, has a brand new bag
himself. Yet another album from the
Astoria, Queens rapper, called
"Nastradamus," further crowds a typical-
ly rambunctious holiday record season.
That adds up to four albums in three
years and change since Nas burst on the
scene with "Illmatic' an uncharacteristi-
cally productive pace which defies the
devoutly deliberate album juicer that is
the modern music business. Nas didn't
have an album last year, so he made
amends by cranking out two this year. He
waited barely six months since his last
effort, "I Am,"not nearly enough time for
MTV and record stores to bleed it dry.
Understandably, the new album had to

ing tracks from his last studio release, "Before
These Crowded Streets." Crystal clear sound quali-
ty is evident on these tracks, causing the listener to
nearly forget this is a live recording. Eventually, the
crowd erupts as the first notes of "Crash Into Me"
fill the speakers. It would be refreshing to hear a
new version of an established classic from the
"Under the Table.. ." or "Crash" days.
The soundboard feel of this CD is almost over-
whelming. Audience noise is absent from most
tracks, save for a few moments when Dave
alludes to his green friend, ganja. Some tracks are
meticulously similar-sounding to their studio
counterparts, perhaps due in part to overdubbing.
Dave and his troupe have outstanding musical tal-
ent; more on-stage musical excursions would be a
welcome addition, even for listeners who rarely

Reviewed by
Weekend, etc. Editor
Jeff Oruchniak

be released post-
haste - the title
would sure sound
silly after the mil-
lennium. Nas
adopts it as his new
alter ego, half-
shrouding his
familiar face in a
monk's cowl for
the cover. Nas also
comes correct as a

Sheryl Crow and friends throw wild party in Central Park

Now here's a surprise: a live CD that
does a skillful job of capturing the energy
and talent of a performer without guitar
feedback, whiny background vocals or
"unique" interpre-
tations of your
favorite songs. If
Sheryl Crow you own one of the
more than 20 mil-
and Friends lion Sheryl Crow
Live from Central Park CD's out there, add
A&M Records this one to your
Reviewed by collection. If not,
Daily Arts Writer here's a great
Gautam Baksi opportunity to join
the crowd.
*Concert in Central Park" sounds far
more like Crow playing in a small club
than outside in New York City to a mass
of screaming fans. The live sound is effec-

tively mixed, and Crow spares the audi-
ence too much ostentatious language
between songs. After years of back-up
vocals, shelved CD's and attacks from the
media, Sheryl Crow proudly joins the list
of celebrated artists to play in New York's
Central Park. Wisely, she invites her very
talented friends for a set of songs.
Crow puts a surprising amount of life
back into "All I Wanna Do, proving she
is indeed having fun on stage, and it
comes through on the CD. With congas
banging on the opening track, she even
shouts out, "One, Two ... Shake your
Butt!" Included on the strong set list filled
with all of her hits is a new roadhouse
blues track, "It Don't Hurt."
If there is a downfall to this CD, it is
that Crow's motif is the same as it's always
been. The sorrowful theme of break-ups,

hasn't been there before?" And she could
still learn a thing or two from Sarah
McLachlan's perfectly pitched voice on
"The Difficult Kind" after touring with
her on Lilith Fair. But following these
tracks is Cream's explosive "White
Room," in which Clapton sings the verse
and Crow comes in for the chorus. The
two complement each other perfectly.
An unnecessary addition is the Dixie
Chicks' accompaniment on the far too
countrified "Strong Enough."
Other guest artists include please-play-
guitar-only Keith Richards and Crow's
idol, the eminent Stevie Nicks who sings
Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" in
its entirety. With so much talent joining
her on stage, Crow dutifully gives credit
where it's due, titling the CD "Sheryl
Crow and Friends"

prophet of doom throughout the album,
more so than on any previous outing.
"Nastradamus" features the introspec-
tive yet combative, punch-in-the-solar-
plexus-honest raps that have become
Nas's trademark. Nas doesn't mess
around much with cliches, considering
matters such as the emotional shallow-
ness of relationships in the music busi-
ness ("Life We Chose") and the tempta-
tions of a street lifestyle to his religious
convictions ("Some of Us Have Angels").
Thankfully, Nas preserves his reputation
as the rare MC who doesn't need to waste
time convincing others (and himself) how
genuine he is. He simply speaks what's on
his mind and lets his hardcore side slip
through the cracks, evident by implication
to anyone who's paying any attention.
Neither does he scrimp on rolling out his
formidable mic skills: His vocabulary and
sense of detail are a cut above as always,
and while it's unclear whether he got an A
from Moe Dee for sticking to themes, he
damn well should have.

Nas's producing skills show a few
high points here, demonstrating his
assurance with tracks both brutally
sparse ("Come Get Me") and jiggy
("Nastradamus"). In comparison to "I
Am," however, the rushed aspect of the
project is sometimes apparent in the
sonic sameness of several cuts. At least
there's nothing unpleasantly goofy here
like the Carmina Burana sample on
which Nas built "Hate Me Now."
The roster of guests is also a little thin,
with only Mobb Deep on "Family" dis-
tinguishing himself Nas does make use
ofthe second-rate caliber of Nashawn and
Milennium Thug, a couple members of
his crew who appear on "Last Words." He
sets the trap by letting them babble on
about nothing for a verse, then enters with
his cruelly funny chorus ("These are the
last words of a heinous slave / How can I
forgive him?").
The bizarrely poetic, one-step-ahead
sensibility of a line like that makes you
thankful Nas is so prolific. He's smart
enough to convince record buyers he
respects his talents, and his best work
might still be ahead of him.
"Nastradamus" is a worthy listen, but let's
hope it's only a roadside attraction on a
long and varied career.
grade y
UoM p essors

heartaches and moving on can be
Crow is put to shame by guest Chrissie
Hynde's (of Pretenders fame) passionate
and resonate voice as she sings: "Listen to
Coltrane / Derail your own plane / Who

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