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December 04, 1995 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-12-04

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 4, 1995

RECORDS
Continued from Page 9
Various Artists
Inner City Blues: The Music of
Marvin Gaye
Motown Records
Since Marvin Gaye's untimely death
in 1987 at the hands of his father, many
artists have showed their admiration
for his talent in various ways. Here
they've come together to pay tribute to
the rhythm and blues legend.
Stevie Wonder, Madonna with Mas-
sive Attack, Digable Planets, Nona
Gaye, Neneh Cherry, Boyz II Men and
Bono of U2 combine to sing Gaye's
music, accompanied by a TV Special.
Featuring videos and interviews of his
loved ones, the special aired last month.
Madonna performs a sultry version
of"I Want You," a perfect piece for her.
Gaye's classic "Let's Get It On" be-
comes more raplike when Boyz II Men
takes their hand at it. Arrested Develop-
ment vocalist Speech lends his writing
skills to reshape the original "What's
Going On" (from 1971) to become "Like
Marvin Gaye Said (What's Going On)."
Another interesting twist in technol-
ogy appears in "Save the Children,"
actually a duet with Gaye and Bono
(who considers Gaye one of his influ-
ences, performing "Sexual Healing" in
concert). Gaye's original vocal speak-
ing track was dubbed over Bono's fal-
setto echo of the lyrics, complete with
rain sound effects. The video also shows
old footage of Gaye.
The lyric booklet includes an exten-
sive biographical essay about "the main
man," written by Paolo Hewitt. It de-
scribes Gave's work as "doo wop, r'n'b,
soul, funk, sex,jazz, love and hate seep-
ing into its every groove."
While these artists could never do the
man's songs like he could, it's certainly
fitting for them to honor him in this
way, and put an interesting twist on his
work that he may have enjoyed.
- Elan A. Stavros
Rachelle Ferrell
Fitrst Intrutment

monk hymn, Sting and the Chieftains
cover "Sisters of Mercy."
The liner notes reveal Cohen's trea-
sures -the lyrics to the songs he wrote
mostly in the late 60's. "You say I took
the Name in vain; I don't even know the
name," he implores in "Hallelujiah,"
perfectly accented by Bono's low, deep
drone.
The token essay about the artist is
present there too, trying to capture the
beauty of Cohen's work. It describes
his "ability to establish succinct analo-
gies among life's realities ..." Cohen,
the essayist claims, has discovered the
secret of the universe: "Everything is
connected."
If so many wonderful artists admire
this little-known songwriter, perhaps
it's time to pick up his original work of
these lovely melodies, and discover the
secret for ourselves.
-Elan A. Stavros
Impromp2
you 're gonna love it
MoJazz/Motown Records
What exactly is Impromp2? Accord-
ing to Sean E. Mac, one-half of the
Impromp2 duo, listening to them is
"like going in acircle, back to when you
could hear live musicians on records
and at every show you went to see."
And what kind of music could we ex-
pect to hear from them? According the
Johnny B, the duo's second half, "I had
this idea for making music that com-
bined the flavor of Marvin Gaye's
ground-breaking '70s style, Miles
Davis' jazz influence and a modern-
day form of rap."
Whatever.
Why is it that what we actually hear
on this debut LP isn't half as nice as
what Mr. Mac and J.B. said they were
creating? Could it be that there were
some unforeseen technical difficulties
in the production of "you're gonna love
it?" Or, maybe while the duo was asleep
some evil space aliens kidnapped them
and replaced them with some lackluster
clones meant to make the real Impromp2
look bad.
Or, could it be that Impromp2 is just
wack? Yup, I'd go with that one be-
cause while the CD's cover suggest a
strong jazzy orientation intermingled
with a smooth R&B/soft rap flava, the
noise "you're gonna love it" delivers
best models nonsensical, thumping
jibberish serving as background to some
pathetically weak voices.
The horrible synthesizer clutter which
opens "Enjoy Yourself" leads into one
of the worst attempts to push what Im-
promptu wishes to call jazz onto the
laps of the unsuspecting consumer. The
fake Caribbean beats jumbled together
to form "Summer Nights" is equally
blah.
Impromp2's ability seems to revolve
about ripping to shreds even those songs
which start off promising. The duo's
sad attempts at rapping in the title track
takes away greatly from some rela-
tively decent beats. Even more despair-
ing is the "scat rap" attempt in "Pass It
On." It's enough to make any true-
blood, new wave-jazz lover heartbro-
ken.
The only cut on this 9-song MoJazz
mishap worth giving a positive men-
tion to is the slow groovin' "Lovin'
You." Even though the vocals here
are as bad as anywhere else on this
CD, "Lovin' You" in totality best
exemplifies all that Impromp2 could
be and isn't.
- Eugene Bowen
Sweet Honey in the
Rock

to draw too many to record stores.
And maybe that's a good thing as
"Sacred Ground" isn't meant for those
who are more attracted by name than
by substance. Sweet Honey in the
Rock is an all-woman sextet whose
music combines distinct African and
gospel sounds. What we get is a 14-
song collection of some of the most
amazing gospel music to be released
in quite some time.
The centerpiece of this album is the
music-less challenge "Would You Har-
bor Me." In this song, the group asks
who could answer all the following
questions, and more, with a definitive
"yes": "Would you harbor a Christian,
a Muslim, a Jew, a heretic ... an exile or
a refugee, a person living with AIDS ...
a Haitian, Korean or Czech ... a lesbian
or a gay?" This song's call for a selfless
love of all God's children strongly char-
acterizes the great religious feeling
Sweet Honey on the Rock possess while
simultaneously speaking to both the
deeply religious and the deeply atheis-
tic-and everyone in-between-about
the importance of basic respect for each
other.
Among the many amazing songs
performed on this LP are "Prayer," in
which the sextet question the true
meaning behind the "do unto others"
theme, "Stay on the Battlefield," a
song well-known to anyone familiar
with traditional African-American
church songs and "No More Auction
Block," another traditional African-
American spiritual whose title speaks
for itself.
Sweet Honey in the Rock has been
together for 21 years, and the miracle
that brought them together a year be-
fore I was born (God they're old) has
kept them together to this day. This
type of longevity attests to the work of
a higher power, and the pure, simple,
sweet perfection this group has pro-
duced under the name "Sacred Ground"
further proclaims - and I dare not
dispute - He is.
- Eugene Bowen
Evgeny Svetlanov
(conductor)
GustavMahler's SymphonyNo.
3
Harmonia Mundi
Gustav Mahler composed no
masses, no operas, no instrumental
solos, no concertos and only one
known chamber work. He did, though,
write nine symphonies and an unfin-
ished tenth, which are the present re-
cording project of conductor Evgeny
Svetlanov and the Russian State Sym-
phony Orchestra. Svetlanov joins the
long list of conductors who cap their
careers by recording Mahler's com-
plete symphonic works.
"Symphony No.3 - Russian Sea-
son," the composer's longest work, is
the first recording of this project. The
first movement alone lasts 31 min-
utes. The symphony is Mahler's com-
mentary on Nature, in a modest frame-
work of over one and a half hours.
Mahler did quite a job of reflecting
on the immensity of time, space, the
universe, the cosmos and pretty much
everything else. Svetlanov effectively
showcased the torment, anguish, lyri-
cism, drama, mysticism, marches, fan-
fares and joy, which all arise in this
piece.
The conductor's ideas and under-
standings shine in this much-recorded,
not much-heard piece, and the able
orchestra follows his lead. For those
who adore Mahler, Svetlanov's re-
cording is the first in another good
set. Those who find Mahler long

winded, though, will shy away from
this CD, which clocks in at just under
97 minutes.
- Emily Lambert

l &l ~)'J .1 L I.l
Blue Note/Capitol Records
Despite her inability to control some
obviously unflattering lip motions,
Rachelle Ferrell is without a doubt the
greatest R&B vocalist to gain promi-
nence this decade. From Mariah Carey
to Jodeci to Faith, a good number of
possible R&B legends have gained
poopularity in the 90s. But when they
cross paths with Rachelle Ferrell they
quickly disperse, for her vocal skills
make them look like amateurs in her
shadow.
There can be no better example than
Ferrell of an outstanding performer and
true musical artisan whose talent is
oftentimes ignored by a populace hun-
gry from more of the lame, basketball-
dropout Montel "This Is How We Do
it" Jordan or the "He's Mine Even
Though I Look and Sound Like a
Nightcrawler" MoKenStef. But even
an ignorant consumer group can be
fooled only so long by only so many. A
steady increase in Ferrell's R&B
popullarity attests to this. So why, in
her latest LP, has Ferrell decided to
leave her R&B element and sing 11 cuts
of pure jazz? Simple: just because.
Orchestraljazz songs like "You Send
Me," "What Is This Thing Called Love"
and "Autumn Leaves" quickly show
that Ferrell's vocal capabilities are not
to be underestimated. The fairly simple
background beats allow for a central-
ized focus on abeautiful woman's beau-
tiful voice. Much of"First Instrument" is
either slow songs in the tradition of R&B
(e.g. "My Funny Valentine") or more
elongated, emotional songs slightly remi-
niscent of Sad6 (e.g. "Prayer Dance").

Sting is the compilation-meister. He's gonna wall on every tribute album in the history of rock.

Yet, at no time does "First Instrument"
veer from its jazzy course.
Ferrell has a priceless voice, and it is
her voice which makes "First Instru-
ment" first rate. Blanketed as it is by the
warmth of sensuous jazz, "First Instru-
ment" is a highly laid-back, mind-re-
laxing CD void of frivolities that would
take away from the pleasure of simply
listening to Ferrell do her thing.
- Eugene Bowen
South Normal
Numb
Self-Released
Everyone knows South Normal, orat
least a band just like it. The band that
played all your high school parties,
doing your favorite radio hits and sneak-
ing in an original tune here and there.
Eventually it ends up playing all your
favorite original tunes and throwing in
a cover here and there. You know 'em,
you love 'em, you think to yourself,
"Man, they should put out an album."
South Normal is that band, except its
better than that.
South Normal's "Numb" grooves; it
flows; it takes you to Kansas and back.
It even, dare I say, rocks. Songs like
"Hamster Sale" and the title track are as
good as anything you'll find on MTV
these days. The album has an edge - but
still maintains the groove and lyrical
quality that most similar bands tend to
neglect. Nate Mackinder's vocals are

superb. You can hear them croon in a
sweet and smooth savvy or release a
raw burst of energy where you can
actually hear his vocal chords bleed.
But the strength of South Normal is the
songwriting. The intertwining of the
guitar parts is pure magic. The songs
don't drag out, and they're not 45 sec-
onds of power chords either. South
Normal has found the balance.
Unfortunately, South Normal still
manages to fall prey to some of the
cliches of bad rock. You just have to
wonder why they did some things. Take
the backing vocals for instance. After
listening to a song like "Higher," and
hearing the off-in-the-distance yearn-
ing of the Ooos and Ohs, you have to
wonder what they were smoking when
they decided that was a good idea. Then
there's the little things (disclaimer: not
an intentional Bush reference.) At
points, the band tries little tricks and
gimmicks that just seem to fall short
(listen to the end of "Underline." Bad
idea.) The lyrics can get a tad boring
and repetitive -this is more the excep-
tion rather than the rule however.
South Normal is fourth and inches
from being a great rock band. As it
matures, the good should get better and
the bad will hopefully fade away. South
Normal will already remindyouof Live,
STP and even Pearl Jam, so don't wait
for their first platinum album to jump
on the bandwagon.
-Tyler Brubaker

afrios Artists
Tower of Song: The Songs of
Leonard Cohen
A&M Records
The second compilation albumin trib-
ute to songwriter Leonard Cohen,
"Tower of Song" excitingly brings to-
gether several superstars to sing Cohen's
soulful, touching pieces.
Don Henley and Elton John bring a
bit of rock and roll to the album with
their renditions of"Everybody Knows"
and "I'm Your Man," respectively.
Brooding artists Martin Gore (Depeche
Mode vocalist) and Peter Gabriel tell
Cohen's tales of woeful love too, each
in their own classic style.
Each track could easily be added to
the individual artist's own works; they
are distinctly well-suited to each and
are quite good standing alone. Even
country performers Trisha Yearwood
(who sings a way different version com-
paredto Gore's "Coming Back to You"),
Willie Nelson and Jane Arden get into
the act. Women are well-represented
here also by the striking Tori Amos and
Suzanne Vega.
Of course there's Bono of U2, who
has been showing up on nearly every
compilation and tribute lately, doing
the spiritual "Hallelujah." Another ex-
cellent, gospel-tinged performance is
turned in by Billy Joel in "Light as the
Breeze." And in an almost-chanting

Sacred Ground
EarthBeat! Records
Alright, I admit it: A
Sweet Honey in the Rock

name like
isn't likely

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