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March 17, 2003 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-17

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 17, 2003

ARTS

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMONDS'
INNOCENT CRIMINAL BEN HARPER RETURNS WITH NEW LP

By Alex Wolsky
Daily Arts Writer
'MusiC REVI EW
He comes from a musical family, which
explains why his sound is a unique mixture of
old and new. Yet, after a four-year lapse from stu-
dio recording, Ben Harper returns with his most
eclectic release to date with Diamonds on the
Inside. A heavy conglomeration of funk, soul,
and reggae fused together with Harper's own

By Joseph itman
Daily Arts Writer
MUSICREVIEW
"I'm like the sun, I'm tryin' to
shine on everybody," says R. Kelly
during the opening of "Heaven I
Need a Hug," his song of despair.
Did he mean "shine" or "urinate?"
Please pardon the cynicism, however,
his latest album, Chocolate Factory,
is difficult to regard as a serious
work given the legal problems and
material evidence that have haunted
Kelly since last year.
Precisely, it is not that he made the
album which seems disingenuous, but
rather, it's the record's content.

4

rock edge creates a stylish
and introspective perform-
ance spanning 14 tracks and
decades of influence.
On the album's best tracks,
he seems like rock's social
conscience and the heir
apparent to the fusion of reg-

Ben Harper
Diamonds on
the Inside
Virgin

Throughout most
sings about pris-
tine love, his
appreciation of
women and his
desire to beauti-
fully copulate.
The topics are
standard for Kelly

of the LP, Kelly
R. Kelly
Chocolate
Factory
Jive Records

gae, funk and rock championed by the likes of
Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. The gospel-laden
"When She Believes" and the reggae-powered
"With My Own Two Hands" show Harper as a
conscious reflector on the influences that have
shaped his music over the years. In fact, the l
entire album portrays itself as homage to the
ar-tists that Harper built his unique sound around.
However, the CD strays too far from the
unique sound that has defined Harper. The usual-
ly fragile and quaint vocal performance is over- simultaneously sink his own ship. He carries our
amplified on Diamonds and the musicianship expectations as a burden and lets it drag him
lacks any ingenuity that Harper brought to the around throughout Diamonds on the Inside.
table on his last records. It just seems that he has When we take a closer inspection, we find
set the bar too high and as a result my attention beneath the layer of influence and originality, an
span depletes along with the albums credibility. artist who has never been commercially accepted
Whether he was trying too hard to please a attempting to touch all bases. Altogether, there
commercial audience on one side, or music's seems to be something missing this time around, What kind of
elite on the other, the album is a grandiose which makes this album fall short of what Harp- pie do you
example of how an artist's expectation can er is capable of creating. have?

and most male R&B singers, however
he no longer sounds like a credible
source, his theoretically pure inten-
tions and loving desires tempered (if
not completely obliterated) by his
alleged real-life transgressions.
If one ignores those perhaps-real
misdeeds when listening to Robert's
message of love and passion, he or
she will hear music that is mostly
stale, for Chocolate Factory sounds a
great deal like his previous works,
notably TP-2. Com and R. Yet, what
redeems this record, in part, is that
Kelly remains unparalleled in his abil-
ity to spruce up standard R&B with
his genuinely soulful voice. Further-
more, there are a few more daring
tracks, like the remix of "Step in the

Name of Love." These help illustrate
that the musical mind that heard a
chorus and orchestra for "I Believe I
Can Fly" (in retrospect, it wasn't good
that he was hanging out with kids
while making that song) remains,
though it seems preoccupied.
Other notable tracks on the record
include the remix for "Ignition," a pop
hit, and the record's title track. The
latter is repetitive - Kelly now con-
sistently uses a mid-tempo, energetic
track to open his records - but the
formula remains successful, unlike
most of the other retread tracks. Also
worthy of note, though for the wrong
reasons, is the annoying "Been
Around the World," a duet with Ja
Rule that challenges listeners to dis-
cern who is regularly a singer while Ja
intones his signature raspy grunts for
much of the song.
R. Kelly has always been able to
say things like "I'm gonna take my
key and stick it in your ignition," -
as he does on this album - while
maintaining the veneer of a soulful
lover interested in some bumpin' and
grindin', yet mostly looking for true
love. He may have lost that ability and
this album's trite lyrics and unimagi-
native beats condemn it to mediocrity.

By Joseph Litman
Daily Arts Writer

By Devon Thomas
Daily Arts Writer

Producer 9th Wonder's Gods Stepson,
a remix album featuring his beats and
Nas' rhymes, is currently burning up the
underground, proving that successfully
rehashing material is possible if the proj-
ect is approached with enough originali-
ty. Lil' Kim seems to have missed that
memo on La Bella Mafia, a derivative
ittord of other people's ideas." *"
Kim should get credit for smartly
choosing those who she emulates, inter-

polates,, or alto-
gether pillages;
fans of the Beastie
Boys, Notorious
B.I.G., and R.
Kelly will all enjoy
hearing their

Li' Kim
La Bella Mafia
Atlantic Records

favorite artists invoked on Mafia. When
she isn't using a Beastie beat, a Biggie
verse, or an entire Kelly song, Kim
instead joins the contemporary-hip-hop
fray, exploiting obscure Indian music
and teaming up with 50 Cent.
So is La Bella Mafia any good? Is
there anything original on the whole LP?
The answer to both questions is "yes."
Even though, and actually because,
Kim's third LP sounds like other peo-
ple's music, it is an enjoyable record,
easy to put on and devoid of completely
discardable tracks. The songs that liber-
ally employ past efforts, like "Hold It
Now" and "This Is a Warning," are
pleasant though inferior remakes, and
other standard songs, like lead single
"The Jump Off," suffice. The discrimi-

nating fans and those engaged by the
ical pro essi of Co n won't
e La Bella a ia, ut there are plenty
of "hip-hop fans" who will readily
approve of this album.
The record's limited originality comes
from Kim's rhyming. Having already
established herself as an unembarrassed
sex-fiend, the Queen Bee reaffirms this
distinction with a bevy of graphic and
laughable rhymes. The record's first flow
hears the female Too Short brag, "I even
gave y'all tips for riding cock as well"
while later verses provide the MC with a
platform from which she boasts of her
sexual talents. Unfortunately, Kim has
little else to say and the record's lyrics
rarely deviate from the graphically licen-
tious or boringly material.
The record's best song, "Came Back
for You," comes from Kanye West, who
is quickly distinguishing himself as cur-
rent hip-hop's finest, most-consistent
producer. How good is the track? The
beat overcomes the deficiencies of its
accompanying rhyming, and reinvigo-
rates what, by the end, is a tired record.

In the midst of an urban music scene fixated on Moet
and misogyny surfaces Ms. Dynamite. The 21-year-old
British bombshell, already a household name in the UK
and a luminary in its vibrant Garage
scene, lands stateside with A Little Deep-
er. Her debut is a captivating mixture of
grit and an honestly raw snapshot of the
multiethnic London streets. The English
MC t1ies to make-v e 'of a web of
poverty, crime and hopelessness -
amidst, displaying a refreshing level of
positivity. In "Watch Over Them," Dyna-
mite ias the outlook of artists twiceberTiT
age - "The same gunmen that cry 'bout
suppression of the white man and his
racist oppression / Have gun in his pocket
and crack in possession" - also the clever rhyme play
of "It Takes More" displays her sharp lyrical virtuosity
in where she denounces the trappings of urban material-
ism ("If it's not too complex, tell me how many Africans
died for the baguettes on your Rolex?"). Here's a female

MC who would much rather trade wits than fawn over
the latest Bulgari.
Collaborating with Salaam Remi (Nas, Fugees) to vet-
eran reggae duo Tony and Dave Kelly, the album is alive
with the rhythms of the African diaspora, infusing dance-
hall, reggae, hip hop and soul into one delectable mix.
While selectively poignant, Deeper is
also carefree. The head-nodders "Dy-
Na-Mi-Tee" and "Sick Mrs.
'N' Tired" are radio- Dynamite
ready bangers. In addi- A Little
tion, "All I Ever" is the Deeper
peak of the album's
sensual erotica, breath- Interscope Records
ing with lush brass
instrumentation. Vocally, Dynamite's
charisma and fresh approach sparkle the
record; from her amber-smoked soprano
to its notable guests: Barrington Levy to
prophet seed Kymani Marley.
A Little Deeper is an ambitious and
accomplished offering that's by turns moving, elegiac
and beautiful. With a refreshing approach at tackling
contemporary black music, it proves to be one of the
more worthy excavations of 2003 and its starlet nothing
short of a gem.

By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

By Graham Kelly
Daily Arts Writer

Music RE~VIEw
This is what electro-pop should be.
Richard Warren, going under the name
Echoboy for the third time, has teamed
up with gifted producer Flood (U2,
Smashing Pump- _
kins) to create I
Giraffe, just over Echoboy
50 minutes of Giraffe
techno-inspired
pop music. This Mute
skinny, small white
man from England creates lush sound-
scapes or barren musical deserts with
such precision and skill that sometimes
you might get a belly of butterflies
waiting to hear what comes next.

Giraffe finds Echoboy commenting
on modern society, his love of electrici-
ty and expressing relationship griev-
ances. His variance in song topics is
matched by the differences in styles.
Some tracks drip with slow beats with
Warren crooning in a falsetto; on others
he runs his voice through a processor to
make it sound deep and mechanical.
The true genius of the work comes out
when Echoboy slowly layers each song,
builds it to the crescendo and then tears
it back down piece by piece to show the
listener every possibility of the song.
This is Moby on drugs, swapping
song titles like "God Moving Over the
Face of the Waters" for "Lately Lone-
ly" and "Don't Destroy Me". Echoboy
works hard to fight the boredom that
can easily set in while listening to
electronic music; he changes his beats,

IMUs ICREVI EW
For anyone mired in underground
music circles, the Postal Service is big
news: Death Cab for Cutie mouthpiece
Benjamin Gibbard and Dntel master-
mind Jimmy Tamborello's contribution
to Dntel's last full-length was consid-
ered a masterstroke for both artists.
"(This Is) The
Dream of Evan
and Chan" seemed The Postal
like the perfect Service
one-off collabora- Give Up
tion - the piece
sounded effortless, Sup Pop Records
as Gibbon's sweet-
ly nostalgic lyrics swam perfectly
amongst Tamborello's glitch foam.
Would the duo be able to recreate the
natural chemistry over the course of a
full album?
The Postal Service sounds much like
expected: Tamborello lays down noisy,
if uncomplicated, techno as Gibbard,
who has a penchant for writing lyrics in
grammatically correct sentences, spins
stories. Because Gibbard is often so
morose, and much of Tamborello's work
is so down tempo, there was a real dan-
ger that Give Up would be a long,
hushed dirge, so it's refreshing that Tam-
borello is able to keep things moving at
a mostly upbeat pace.
The duo shows an unabashed love
for '80s synth-pop: songs like "Such
Great Heights" and "Nothing Better"
employ keyboard flourishes and shame-
less "ooh ooh" melodies. Frequent
female guest spots, like the enchanting
duet on "Nothing Better," and wrench-
ing moments like "This Place Is a
Prison" provide enough variety to keep
things interesting.
If I had to complain, I'd tell you that
Gibbard's lyrics aren't always up to his
standards, and that nothing quite
approaches the genius of "Evan and
Chan," though that was as expected as it
was inevitable. Those would almost be
petty complaints, however, about a thor-
oughly enjoyable and creative collabora-
tion between such disparate sources.

his repetitions of phrase and his synth
backdrops quickly and frequently. Just
when you realize you want the heavy
bass to go away on "Fun In You",
everything stops, leaving only the sim-
ple acoustic guitar riff on which the
song was built. When you start to
crave the darkness of the music to
accompany his urgent singing, all the
pieces fall right back into place.
Giraffe is an intense listen that only
gets better with time. Warren has truly
taken his art to a new level.

a
6

Pas
...
Teacher K
Job Fair
Saturday, March 29
8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
at the Sports and Expo Center
Macomb Community College South Campus
12 Mile Road and Hayes, Warren

The University of Michigan
Department of Dermatology
is currently offering research
study for facial acne.
If you are over the age of 12 and are in good
general health, you may be eligible to participate
in a research program for facial acne.
Office visits and study agent are provided free of charge to eligible
participants. You may also receive compensation fQr your participation!

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