Previewing new albums from Solomon Burke, Boyz II Men, Public Enemy, and more.
You Get What You 'Give'
R&B titan Solomon Burke enjoyed a string of soul hits -- "Just Out of Reach," "Cry to Me," "If You Need Me," "Got To Get You off My Mind," and many more -- at Atlantic during the '60s. But new Fat Possum album, "Don't Give Up on Me," promises to be his highest-profile release since his heyday four decades ago. The album features a bag of exceptional tunes from a cavalcade of superstar songsmiths, all sung con brio by Burke, who has lost nary a step over the years. As "King Solomon" himself puts it, "I've been in exile, but I'm back on the throne."
Among the writers who offered their material for the project were Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Bob Dylan. The sessions covered four days in March and there were no rehearsals. "Nothin'," Burke says. "We heard [a song] one or two times and cut it, the way we did it in the old times."
The finished album, made with a lean band that features Rudy Copeland -- the blind organist from the L.A. church where Burke ministers -- is a sublime achievement and a career milestone. Highlights include the aforementioned Costello number; "None of Us Are Free," a gospelized piece featuring vocals by the Blind Boys of Alabama; and the title cut, co-authored by Southern soul ace Dan Penn.
'Circle' Gets The Square
Veteran R&B act Boyz II Men returns this week with "Full Circle," its fifth studio album and first under a new deal with Arista. In addition to Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, collaborators include Edmund "Butter" Clement, co-author of Usher's "U Remind Me" (on the song "Howz About It"), Babyface, and Carlos McKinney ("Relax Your Mind"). The switch to Arista reunites the quartet with label president/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid, who co-produced the group's 1992 hit "End of the Road."
Stockman expresses particular pride about the Jam & Lewis-helmed track "Oh Well." "It's a beautiful, tear-jerking ballad about a man dealing with his woman leaving him," he says. "He's trying to reconcile and make the relationship work. But for some reason he can't find her, leaving him to say, 'Oh, well, maybe I'll try again,' or 'Maybe there's tomorrow.' He's not giving up hope on this relationship."
First single "The Color of Love" is No. 76 in its 14th week on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The latest track, "Relax Your Mind" featuring Faith Evans, debuted last week at No. 46 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles tally.
Gonna Start A 'Revolution'
Veteran rap outfit Public Enemy will release its eighth album this week via SlamJamz Records and Koch Entertainment's In The Paint label. Dubbed "Revolverlution," the set will be a mixture of new and live recordings, as well as fan remixes of Public Enemy favorites. A video was recently shot for first single "Give the Peeps What They Need," featuring political provocateur Paris.
The retail release of the album will feature 15 tracks, eight of which are new songs. Production on those cuts was split between the group's Professor Griff, longtime contributor/scratcher DJ Johnny "Juice" Rosado, and Gary G. Wiz, who has worked with the band since the early '90s. There will be four remixes chosen by the band through an online contest and three live cuts --"Welcome to the Terrordome," "Fight the Power," and "Uzi Weights a Ton."
Public Enemy's Chuck D founded SlamJamz as an online venture, and will offer an additional five tracks for download at the site. It's unclear if those who buy the album will have to purchase the extra tracks or will have access to them via a link on the CD. In addition to the fan remixes, "Revolverlution" features liner notes and artwork created by Public Enemy fans.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- Country star Toby Keith's "Unleashed" (DreamWorks), featuring "Courtesy of the Red White, and Blue (The Angry American)," which is No. 2 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks.
-- Rapper Lil' Wayne's "500 Degreez" (Cash Money/Universal).
-- Former Jayhawks principal Mark Olson and the Creekdippers' "December's Child" (DualTone).
-- The soundtrack to Disney's "The Country Bears," featuring contributions by John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, and Brian Setzer '68 Comeback Special (see Billboard.com story).
-- All-star jazz group Fourplay's "Heartfelt" (Bluebird).
-- Singer/songwriter Alex Lloyd's "Watching Angels Mend" (Nettwerk).
-- Reissues of the Billie Holiday albums "Blue Billie" and "Lady Day Swings" and a collaboration with Lester Young, "A Musical Romance" (Columbia/Legacy).
-- A concert recording from Olivia Newton-John, "One Woman's Live Journey" (Hip-O).