Previewing new albums from Santana, Foo Fighters, Chris Robinson, Kelly Rowland, and more.
Carlos Santana faced a potentially tense scenario when he began assembling material for the follow-up to his monumentally successful 1999 Arista opus, "Supernatural." But rather than succumb to the tension, the legendary artist chose to embrace the possibility of crafting another collection of sounds that could touch the world at large. "This is not an exercise in reaching greater numeric heights. How can you draw a numeric connection to a miraculous union of music and humanity? You can't. You simply bow your head and humbly offer thanks," he explains.
For "Shaman," due this week, Santana says he felt "completely open and emotionally available" to channel and interpret a wide range of styles and concepts. "The problem with a lot of musicians and bands is that they paint with one color," he says. "They pick one style and stay there. That's too stifling to me. I want to use each and every color available. I want to paint rainbows."
To that end, "Shaman" employs a diverse troupe of guest performers to execute songs that run the gamut from traditional Latin and rock to pop and R&B -- with occasional injections of hip-hop and electronica. Among the artists featured are Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, Dido, P.O.D., Macy Gray, and Michelle Branch, who voices the set's retro-R&B-laced first single, "The Game of Love." The cut is No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.
'One' More Time
In October 2001, Foo Fighters began work on their fourth Roswell/RCA album, but after more than three months of work, the sessions were scrapped. "We were so focused on production because our intent was to make this big rock record," frontman Dave Grohl says. "But your energy tends to wane after three months. Spontaneity and energy have a lot to do with rock, and rock records shouldn't take long to make."
To remedy the stasis clogging the Foos' songwriting creativity, each member ventured off on individual, temporary musical sojourns. In the most high-profile move, Grohl recorded and toured with Queens Of The Stone Age, and afterward, he was energized to clean up and strip down the material that would eventually make up "One by One" to its barest essentials.
"I invited Taylor back to my house and in those two weeks we recorded the whole record," he says. "We did all the basic tracks in about 10 days. Then we called up Chris and Nate and said, 'I think we just made the record.' They came back and put their parts on it, and it was done." Highlights include the relentless single "All My Life," the polyrhythmic "Low," and the seven-minute guitar-rock epic "Come Back," which explores everything from piano and acoustic guitar breakdowns to sonorous group backing vocals.
'Mud' In Your Eye
After the Black Crowes wrapped a North American tour in late October 2001, the group's frontman Chris Robinson drove back to his Malibu, Calif., home facing myriad uncertainties. Although it wouldn't be publicly announced until several months later, he knew the Crowes would be going on a long hiatus, perhaps never to reform. He also knew he needed an outlet for the new music bubbling up inside of him. Within weeks, and without the assistance of his bandmates (including his brother Rich), he was demoing the material that would eventually comprise his Redline solo debut, "New Earth Mud."
Robinson's trademark soul-dipped vocals power the album, which largely eschews the Crowes' more hard-rock leanings in favor of slow-building ballads ("Untangle My Mind," "She's on Her Way"), unabashed love songs ("Katie Dear," written for his wife, actress Kate Hudson), and happy-go-lucky funk ("Ride). Producer Paul Stacey chipped in on guitar, bass, and organ, while his brother Jeremy played drums. Minuteman principal Matt Jones played the bulk of the keyboards.
"It's great to do things because they're special to me, not because they're a commodity for someone else," Robinson says. "I'm not interested in competing with what I've done. This is all about where I can go."
As one-third of Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland has always been able to fall back on group mates Michelle Williams and Beyonce Knowles for support. But when she recorded her Columbia solo debut, "Simply Deep," things were a bit different. "I was terrified," Rowland admits. "I remember calling the girls and telling them that I missed them. Usually, when we're in the studio, if I can't get a part, then I can tell Michelle and Beyonce to take it. This time I had to depend on myself."
Despite her initial fears, Rowland's newfound independence offered her an opportunity to branch out and try new things. "I got a chance to do a bit of writing and come up with some of the vocal arrangements," she says. "It was quite an experience. I remember feeling so proud that I was able to do this by myself." The Houston native also stepped away from Destiny's Child's trademark R&B/pop fare, choosing instead to craft her own brand of rock and R&B.
Rowland unveiled her new sound via the album's lead single, "Stole," which touches on the topic of school violence. As the song climbs the charts it also doesn't hurt Rowland's cause that she's coming off a nine-week run atop the Billboard Hot 100 as part of "Dilemma," a collaboration with Nelly. The single, which originally appeared on the rapper's Nellyville set, is also on "Simply Deep."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- An album of standards from vocalist Rod Stewart, "The Great American Songbook" (J).
-- Arista seasonal releases from country star Alan Jackson ("Let It Be Christmas") and instrumentalist Kenny G ("Wishes").
-- Female rock quartet the Donnas' "Spend the Night" (Atlantic).
-- U.K. rapper Mike Skinner's debut album under the moniker the Streets, "Original Pirate Material" (Vice/Atlantic).
-- New rap releases from Field Mob ("From the Roota to the Toota," MCA) and WC ("Ghetto Heisman," Def Jam).
-- The self-titled debut from rock act the Transplants (Hellcat), featuring members of Blink-182 and Rancid.
-- The latest studio album from veteran rock combo Rocket From The Crypt, "Live From Camp X-Ray" (Vagrant).
-- A David Bowie retrospective, "Best of Bowie" (EMI), available in 20-track single disc or 40-track double disc packages.
-- An expanded reissue of seminal underground rock outfit Pavement's "Slanted and Enchanted," along with the retrospective DVD "Slow Century" (Matador).
-- A new set from electronic-leaning pop outfit Saint Etienne, "Finistere" (Mantra/Beggars Banquet).
-- MTV2's "Handpicked" compilation, with tracks from Coldplay, Phantom Planet, Doves, and the Hives (Capitol).
-- The nine-disc "Metal Blade Records 20th Anniversary Box Set."