Previewing the "Spider-Man" soundtrack, and new albums from Trey Anastasio, Ali, and Blackalicious.
Along Came A 'Spider'
Befitting what is expected to be one of the summer's most popular movies, Columbia has snared a host of top stars for its "Spider-Man" soundtrack. Aerosmith will cover the film's main theme, while a pick-up band featuring Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, Saliva vocalist Josey Scott, Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, and Theory Of A Dead Man guitarist Tyler Connolly crafted the single "Hero."
Also appearing on the set are a mix of new and previously released tracks from Sum-41, Alien Ant Farm, Default, Slipknot principal Corey Taylor, Pete Yorn, and Macy Gray. Gray, whose track "My Nutmeg Phantasy" was remixed by Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, also makes a cameo in the film, which stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and is due May 3 in U.S. theaters.
Composer Danny Elfman penned the main title theme and the track "Farewell." The soundtrack opens with the original "Theme From Spider-Man," which dates back to the popular '60s cartoon show.
Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio has a right to be nervous as he prepares to unveil his first major solo project since the Vermont jam band went on indefinite hiatus in October 2000. Luckily, his ambitious self-titled Elektra debut delivers the musical goods, touching on everything from high-energy rock to jazz, funk, and even piano balladry.
Throughout, Anastasio's trademark guitar work threads through melodically-complex tunes played by a top-notch nine-piece band, the foundation of which is bassist Tony Markellis and drummer Russ Lawton, with whom he's collaborated several times for non-Phish writing sessions and tours in recent years. Their elastic, funky grooves lead the charge on "Night Speaks to a Woman," "Push on 'Til the Day," and the 11-minute, largely instrumental "Last Tube," which can double in length in a live setting.
But the album is also laden with sonic vehicles for Anastasio's increasingly assured compositions, which he says are patterned after the community-based, legendary large African bands led by the late Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade. "The style I'm writing in with this group interaction, it's something I feel is inside of me," he says. "I only had four people in Phish. Now, here's my chance to take this idea and develop it as deeply as I've always wanted to." A summer North American tour begins May 21 in Seattle.
No 'Starch,' On Hangers
First there was Nelly, then the St. Lunatics (or was it the other way around?). Now there's Ali, the leader of the latter St. Louis act, whose debut album, "Free City" (Fo' Reel/Universal), sold more than 1 million copies last year. Ali's solo debut, "Heavy Starch," arrives this week on the same label. Nelly makes guest appearances on the tracks "Cool as Hell," "Wiggle Wiggle," "Collection Plates," "No," and "Walk Away."
With "Heavy Starch," Ali says he wanted to establish his individuality. "I wanted to keep it still in the Lunatics tradition with a little party style," he says. "But I think I have topics that are a little heavier than the Lunatics and Nelly topics. I just wanted to set myself apart. My voice is also a little different. I just wanted to individualize myself."
But he says he remains a team player and that the St. Lunatics continue to be his first priority. "My dream was the Lunatics album," he adds. "I'm always a group member first. Whatever I achieve on this, it doesn't make a difference to me. I did what I wanted to do in the way I wanted to do it. I got my point across."
Underground hip-hop duo Blackalicious, comprised of lyricist the Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel, has drafted a stellar lineup of guests for its MCA debut, "Blazing Arrow," due this week. The set -- the pair's first after several releases for the Solesides and Quannum Projects labels -- features former Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha, singer/songwriter Ben Harper, Dilated Peoples' Rakaa and DJ Babu, and Jaguar Wright, among others.
Other artists who have contributed include the Roots' ?uestlove, Jurassic 5's Cut Chemist and Chali 2Na, DJ Hi Tek, Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori, and DJ Shadow, with whom Blackalicious co-founded Quannum. Shadow, Money Mark, and members of Jurassic 5 appear in the video for first single "Make You Feel That Way," shot in downtown Los Angeles by director Jeff Renfro.
"The goal has always been to get our music out there," Gift of Gab recently told Billboard of the group's decision to jump to a major label. "MCA came along at the right time, and it felt like the right thing to do. It gives us a chance to get our music to a broader audience. We've been doing what we've been doing, and now it's our opportunity to use MCA as a vehicle to get our music exposed to people who we wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- Incarcerated rapper C-Murder's "Tru Dawgs" (D3).
-- RCA's "Sharp Dressed Men: A Tribute to ZZ Top," featuring covers by Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, and more.
-- Youthful singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton's debut album, "Be Not Nobody" (A&M).
-- Cash Money rappers Big Tymers' "Hood Rich" (Cash Money/Universal).
-- Columbia/Legacy's "Ralph Ellison: Living With Music," a companion to a 2001 collection of essays, with tracks from Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing, and Duke Ellington.
-- The hip-hop compilation "THC, Vol. 1," which is the debut release from High Times Records and features tracks from Pharcyde, RZA, Afu-Ra, and the Beatnuts, among others.
-- A best-of from country rebel Johnny Paycheck, "The Soul and the Edge" (Columbia/Legacy).
-- Canadian animated duo Simon & Milo's "Ready Ready Set Go" (Hollywood).
-- Greatest-hits sets from veteran rock acts Cheap Trick and R.E.O. Speedwagon (Epic), and heavy metal icons Iron Maiden ("Best of the Beast," Sanctuary).
-- A DVD-Audio edition of U.K. rock outfit Queen's 1975 classic "A Night at the Opera," featuring a video for "Bohemian Rhapsody."