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February 03, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-02-03

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

ART S

4

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

4

I I I

HORT
OUND
ATLANTA RAPPER
CEE-LO FALTERS
WITH HIS NEWEST LP
By Evan McGarvey
Daily Arts Writer

Jazz quintet
soars on latest
By Andrew Horowitz
Daily Arts Writer

Two years after their debut, The Infinite, Dave Douglas
returns with guest guitarist Bill Frisell on Strange Libera-
tion. Whereas the first CD blended pop songs and origi-
nals, Strange Liberation consists entirely of
Douglas-penned tunes. The playing is far more complex,
augmenting Douglas' affinity for odd
time signatures and multifarious for-
mal constructions, and the soloists are Dave
much more at home with the ensem- Douglas
ble. In the two years since last hearing Strange
them, the quintet has grown up. Lbration
A lot of this has to do with the Liberation
addition of Frisell. Douglas, a long- Bluebird
time admirer of Frisell, wrote with
him in mind. There's plenty of room for Frisell's sonic
experiments, but at the same time Douglas' charts come
across as very controlled. This interplay of freedom and
limitation sows the threads that make this group and
album work.
On the opener, "A Single Sky," the energy of drummer
Clarence Penn and bassist James Genus is immediately
apparent. Genus' crisp pedal tones and Penn's liberating
grooves lay the groundwork for the band. No time is wasted
before Frisell and Rhodes keyboardist Uri Caine welcome a
series of free-sounding chords to the mix. Once the founda-
tion is laid, the CD flows from start to finish.
Some of the tunes lend themselves as solo vehicles; oth-
ers are purely soundscapes. "Mountains from the Train"

Courtesy of Arista

You are getting sleepy ...

It's hard to lose Cee-Lo in the pack. The
squat, Atlanta-based singer/MC has a distinc-
tive voice that falls in the range somewhere
between falsetto and whine. If someone tried
to take themselves seriously with this voice,
they'd come across as Smokey Robinson
singing in a blender with a sick tabby cat.
As a member of the recently dissolved dirty

South super-group Dun-
geon Family, Cee-Lo was
usually relegated to
singing the hook or, at
best, spitting a 10 second
mini-verse. Striking out on
his own, he released his
debut album, Cee-Lo

Cee-Lo
Cee-Lo Green
is The Soul
Machine
Arista

Green & His Perfect Imperfection. Even with
the huge chart success of his compatriots Out-
Kast, his first album did disappointing busi-
ness. He billed himself as a slightly
intellectual alternative: a modern day Q-Tip.
With OutKast firmly on the national music
scene and Southern rap dominating popular
hip-hop, the time seemed ripe for Cee-Lo's
elevation into a higher echelon of success.
Cee-Lo Green is The Soul Machine lives
and dies on listenability. Cee-Lo's desire for
independence is commendable, but sometimes
he has to just give the people what they want.
He goes so far to exert his individuality that
on "I am Selling Soul," he doesn't rap, he
doesn't sing he gives a slightly over-wrought
monologue about the future of soul music. It's

more entertaining to listen to some stupid
antics on a Redman skit than a holier-than-
thou manifesto.
When Cee-Lo is on point, however, he
crafts a blend of trickling, cartoonish funk.
"Child Play" uses a xylophone to smash
together a dope day-care jam. The lead sin-
gle, "I'll Be Around," might be Timbaland's
best mid-tempo song since the L.O.X.'s
"Ryde or Die." With fluttering trumpets, a
digital choir in the chorus and Cee-Lo
squawking, it's the oddest way to start danc-
ing so far this year. Imagine Jimmy Buffet
slathered in sloppy Georgia funk, praising
everyone at the bar, and you've got Cee-Lo
on "My Kind of People."
It's these tracks, filled with distinct
melodies and real experimentation that war-
rant some of Cee-Lo's constant explorations
into new hip-hop territory. However, explo-
rations, sadly, cripple the album's success.
The aforementioned monologues appear on a
total of three tracks and do a marvelous job of
murdering any good will the listener has built
up for Cee-Lo. Other songs devolve into a
similar funk-less stupor. "Glockapella" is
needless gun-play from someone who claims
to be above such subject material. Cee-Lo just
needs to temper his desire for trailblazing hip-
hop with some common sense. Get some bod-
ies on the dance floor and then try to get your
point across.

Twista is more than just a gimmick

4

showcases Frisell's free-flowing harmonics, complemented
by an aroma of Caine's light textures and the melancholy
horns. "Just Say This" highlights Douglas' gorgeously
understated muted trumpet.
One of the most fulfilling moments on the CD is saxo-
phonist Chris Potter's superb solo on "17." The rhythmically
complex journey through fast dark grooves, medium-tempo
swing, stomp time and unpredictable vamps seems effortless
in Potter's hands. Potter is easily one of the most exciting
players on the current jazz scene.
The title track, inspired by the words of Martin Luther
King Jr., aptly fits the album. While starting with distinct
harmony and clear melodic intent, the tune quickly opens to
vamped solos backed by intricate horn lines and odd time
changes. Strange Liberation, like the title track, is a well-
stated essay on confined freedom. This album's a welcome
addition to Douglas' accomplished catalogue, and easily
stands as one of the best jazz albums in recent memory.

By Hussain Rahim
Daily Arts Writer

MUsic REVIEW ***9
No one has ever respected fast
rappers. Often seen as a gimmick, it
has never sus- _
tained long-term
interest from the
public. Jay-Z Kamikaze
abandoned his Atlantic
spit-fire style
prior to his major label deal as his
best bet for long-term credibility and
the brief success of Bone Thugs 'n'
Harmony was little more than a blip
on the rap radar.

Enter Twista. After years of under-
ground albums, hot radio singles and
guest appearances, his much delayed
major-label debut finally arrives. The
word is in. The boy can rap, not to men-
tion the production isn't so bad either.
While the album doesn't work in
its entirety, it is good enough and
simply energetic enough to warrant
a listen. The majority of the album
is produced by Twista's partner
Toxic and producer du jour Kanye
West. It may be the Chicago affilia-
tion, but they definitely know how
to ground his exuberant delivery
with matching beats.
In one of the best constructed
odes to classic R&B, "Slow Jamz,"

is easily one of the best cuts on the
album, and R. Kelly turns in "So
Sexy" - a radio hit to be produced
- with the energy of a man that's
turning out hits like he's going to
prison. Oh wait ...
There are definite bangers on
this album, and when it's good it's
really good.
Following the curse that follows
most rap albums nowadays,
Kamikaze is a bit too long and Twista
tags on a few spiritual tracks at the
end that really don't make sense for
him or the album. While he hasn't
exactly blown open the door for mile-
a-minute rappers worldwide, he has
definitely made a case for himself.

4

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