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ENGLAND'S NEWEST HIP-HOP EXPORT
MADONNA'S LATEST LESS THAN STELLAR
By Todd Weiser the high-pitched, girlish
Daily Arts Editor sounding vocals of "Mother
M____cRE ___EWndand Father," the album's worst
track. However, despite the
A new, imported from the rare find of an introspective,
U.K. version of Madonna honest pop creation, the lyrics
appears on American Life. commonly sound ordinary and
Madge seems to enjoy taking the acoustic guitars-phased-
the across-the-Atlantic view into-a-techno-backbeat struc-
of her home country, suddenly ture becomes predictable.
developing an opinionated, With the exclamation "Fuck
although slightly contradicto- it!" Madonna dips into the rap
ry, view on our obsessions world on "American Life,"
with fame, wealth feeling free to mold
and even pop Madonna a genre commonly
music. However, the all about bling-bling
phase of Madonna's American Life into a tirade against
life captured on her Wamer Bros. Records all that materialism
new album is not has to offer.
Do you have any of those guitars that are, like, double guitars?
Herb David, finally where it's Strat
By Steve Cotner
For the Daily
Herb David Guitar Studio has arranged to
carry Fender products for the first time in its
41-year history. The shop has seen many
famous faces in that time - Herb fixed a Strat
for Clapton, made a special "Les-tocaster" for
Jerry Garcia, and "just argued" with Lennon.
But despite local and international admiration,
the shop never made a deal with Fender.
For 15 or 20 years, Herb had talked up Fend-
er at manufacturing shows in California and
Nashville, but Fender looked to chain stores
like Guitar Center instead. These warehouse-
style stores are the Starbucks of guitars; when
you walk inside any of them, you feel a well-
planned insipidness. But instead of Tazo tea
there are Sammy Hagar posters. And unlike
coffee, which is just as good at Dunkin' Donuts
or McDonalds, guitars from the chain stores
can be seriously damaged when they are
pawned off as new.
The beautiful guitars hanging in Herb David
tell you it is a one of a kind place. In the back,
there is the chair where John Lennon sat dur-
ing a Free John Sinclair rally; in the front a lit-
tle boy waits for his lesson, barely seeing
above his guitar case. The upstairs echoes with
world-class instructors, and on the main floor
you might hear a couple of employees pick up
guitars and play "Werewolves of London" until
it gets old. Hair styles are mostly long, some-
times shaggy, but always "clean" according to
Despite its rootsy simplicity, the store is not a
type or a relic. It is the ever-changing brain-
child of Herb David, who in 1962 began giving
lessons in a dusty State Street basement, where
the cockroaches were so big "you could use
them for sandals." Even then, Herb had gained
a reputation by his self-made talent as a guitar
maker and restorer. Gibson guitar appreciated
the character of the basement shop and
arranged for him to be a vendor even in those
Now the place at 302 E. Liberty St. is one
of the best-known music stores in the world,
and it is a perennial favorite in the Daily's
"Best of Ann Arbor." It has become a standby
while other stores offering ethnic and vintage
instruments have folded or moved to Detroit.
Here, at least, goodwill has triumphed over
So what took Fender so long? Herb attributes
the new deal to "the power of the woman."
After so many years of trying himself, his sec-
retary contacted Fender, and within minutes the
guys at the national office were calling her
"honey." Some reps came to check out the
store, and the secretary made sure they had the
application papers in hand. Herb gave her and
her new husband a paid honeymoon as thanks.
And now Ann Arbor can share in that appre-
ciation. The new amps and guitars are already
in the showroom - everything from Mexican
Telies and Indonesian Squires to the highest-
end Stratocasters, all checked and okayed by
Herb himself. And if you want something spe-
cial, Herb can do it for you. He once made a
guitar with pickups at every fret, so it could be
played "like a piano." On the more practical
side, he still makes quality acoustic guitars, and
like everything the store offers, they are in high
demand - when he went to show me one of
them, it had already been sold off the rack.
just the "Take that
Hollywood!" ranting of the
single ("American Life") and
first couple tracks but rather
her newfound lust for life trig-
gered by the love of her life,
husband Guy Ritchie.
Assisted by producer Mir-
wais, who first worked with
her on her 2000 release Music,
Madonna turns the techno-
infused dance-pop album into
a love letter. Once again writ-
ing all of her tracks, Madon-
na's heartfelt lyrics create a
cohesive feeling and persona
behind the very personal
music. Her voice has also
never sounded better, save for
starts to hit its stride on "Love
Profusion," when the love let-
ter opens on this fourth track.
"Profusion" reveals itself to
just be another silly love song
as Madonna professes, "And
the world can look so sad /
Only you make me feel good,"
but the happiness Madonna
seems to have found with
finding someone is finally
felt. The feeling builds
through "Nobody Knows Me"
and hits its peak with the
beautiful "Nothing Fails." The
acoustic guitar once again
makes its early appearance on
"Nothing," but its play is
finally varied, and the string
accompaniment hints at an
emotional explosion to come.
A subtle drumbeat underlies
the seemingly awkward but
immediately riveting cry: "I'm
not religious / But I feel such
love / Makes me want to pray /
Pray you'll always be here."
When the London Community
Gospel Choir chimes in, you
have to wonder whether Mir-
wais has done too much.
Madonna and Mirwais have
crafted a thoroughly.
respectable and admirable
album on which Madge spills
her heart out for millions to
hear. Sadly, cliched lyrics and
obvious electronic music
choices often drown out the
raw emotion. Whether Madon-
na cares what we think is
another matter, as her words
are written with only one per-
son in mind.
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Washington at Pearl