Previewing new albums from Faith Hill, LL Cool J, "Red Hot + Riot," Jeff Buckley, and more.
'Cry' Me A River
Faith Hill returns this week with her long-awaited new Warner Bros. album, "Cry." The title cut has made a quick impact across the Billboard singles charts; it is No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 14 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks survey, and No. 2 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart this week.
"Cry" is the follow-up to 1999's "Breathe," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and has sold nearly 6 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. That album's producers, Byron Gallimore and Dann Huff, were behind the boards for the new set.
"This record has been a long and rewarding process, which began quite a while ago," Hill says. "The emotions that were involved in this process, whether happiness, accomplishment, or the sheer beauty of some of these songs, I thought, lent itself so well to the title." A Hill special will be broadcast Thanksgiving Night on NBC, with different versions set to air from December through February on CMT and VH1.
'Tenth' Time's The Charm
Ask rapper LL Cool J the secret of longevity in a genre peppered with short-term careers, and he laughs. "I don't know," he says. "If I had the secret, I'd sell it for $50 million. Wait, why sell myself short? I'd sell it for a billion a shot." The artist this week releases his latest Def Jam set "10," led by the No. 10 Hot 100 hit "Luv U Better.'
LL Cool J says he "wanted to do a positive record with no profanity, strong energy, and tight beats; a record that makes you feel better after hearing it." While tracks like the single and the cautionary tale "Fa Ha" reflect his introspective side, other songs convey his feel-good, party persona.
Getting to the heart of things was foremost in the rapper/actor's mind when he went into the studio. In addition to the prolific Neptunes -- with whom he "worked before but the records were never released" -- the set includes the production skills of the Trackmasters and the Dream Team. Joining vocalist Marc Dorsey on the guest roster are LL Cool J labelmates Dru Hill and Kandice Love, Bad Boy's P. Diddy, and Rise/Columbia newcomer Amerie.
'Hot' And Bothered
D'Angelo, Common, Dead Prez, Blackalicious, and Macy Gray are among the artists who have contributed to the latest edition in the Red Hot charity album series, "Red Hot + RIOT!," due this week from MCA. The set salutes late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, with proceeds benefiting Red Hot's various AIDS-related fundraising efforts, particularly in Africa. Kuti died of AIDS-related causes in 1997.
"Red Hot + RIOT!" features several star-studded pairings. Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Bilal, and Jorge Ben team up for "Shuffering and Shmiling," while Fela's son Femi is joined by D'Angelo, Macy Gray, Nile Rodgers, and Roy Hargrove for "Water No Get Enemy." Elsewhere, former Fela drummer Tony Allen, Res, and Baaba Maal power through "No Agreement," while Common and Rail Band guitarist Djelimady Tounkara cover "Years of Tears and Sorrow."
Previous installments in the series have centered around the music of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington.
'No One' Knows
Evolver Entertainment/Knitting Factory Records has unearthed 11 previously unreleased tracks featuring the late Jeff Buckley in collaboration with noted guitarist/Gods & Monsters principal Gary Lucas. The material compiled on "Songs to No One" was recorded during rehearsals, New York live shows, and demo sessions between November 1991 and April 1992. Two of the tracks, "Mojo Pin" and "Grace," were re-recorded with Lucas on guitar and comprised the first two cuts on Buckley's lone Columbia studio album, 1994's "Grace."
Two posthumous overdubs were made: guitarist Bill Frisell added his licks to a live 1992 Buckley solo guitar version of the country staple "Satisfied Mind," a later recording of which surfaced on the 1998 double-disc set "[Sketches for] My Sweetheart the Drunk." Sex Mob recorded new horn, bass, drums, and organ parts atop the song "She Is Free," drawn from the same 1992 concert at New York's Knitting Factory.
Buckley joined Gods & Monsters shortly after moving to New York for good in November 1991. In tandem with Lucas (perhaps best known for his work with Captain Beefheart's Magic Band) and a rotating rhythm section, Buckley performed regularly with the group until the spring of 1992, when he declined to sign a partnership agreement that would have limited either artist's participation in other projects. Buckley drowned on May 29, 1997, in Memphis, while working on his sophomore album.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- R&B vocalist Gerald Levert, "The G Spot" (Elektra).
-- Modern rock outfit Taproot's "Welcome" (Atlantic).
-- A new album from singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman, "Let It Rain" (Elektra), produced by John Parish.
-- Rapper Coolio's "El Cool Magnifico" (D3).
-- Former BLACKstreet member Dave Hollister's "Things in the Game Done Changed" (Motown).
-- A double-disc anthology from Fleetwood Mac, "The Very Best Of" (Rhino).
-- A six-song EP from eclectic rock outfit Cave In, "Tides of Tomorrow" (Hydrahead).
-- The domestic release of Nordic electronic duo Royksopp's "Melody A.M." (Wall of Sound/Astralwerks).
-- All-star indie rock act Jets To Brazil's "Perfecting Loneliness" (Jade Tree).
-- Country artist Buddy Miller's "Midnight and Lonesome" (HighTone), featuring guest turns from Lee Ann Womack and Emmylou Harris.
-- The American/Island Def Jam soundtrack to "Jackass," with tracks from Andrew W.K., Sir Mix-A-Lot, the Ramones, and CKY.
-- Rapper Skillz's "I Ain't Mad No More" (MCA).
-- A new double-disc set from the Keith Jarrett Trio, "Always Let Me Go" (ECM).
-- A live album from the reunited Blasters, "Trouble Bound" (HighTone).