Previewing new albums from Glenn Lewis, Jimmy Buffett, Angelique Kidjo, Super Furry Animals, and more.'Window' Paine
"Don't You Forget It," Toronto-bred singer/songwriter Glenn Lewis' first single from his Epic Records debut "World Outside My Window," leaves no doubt as to who his musical influences are: Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson. That's an interesting choice of inspirations when you consider that his homeland is hardly noted for being a soulful breeding ground.
"It's an entirely different atmosphere than in the States," Lewis says. "There are definitely cultural differences: Canada's black population is of West Indian descent; the U.S. black community had to redefine itself and create a culture. Sometimes I also feel like an outsider. I was born in Canada, but my father is Jamaican and my mother is from Trinidad, where I've [also] lived." Lewis' musical lineage comes directly from his father, who was lead singer with R&B group Crack Of Dawn.
"World Outside My Window" indulges in retro soul with the influence of the aforementioned Wonder worn like a badge of honor over contemporary beats. Recorded in Toronto and Philadelphia with producers Andre Harris and Vidal Davis, the album possesses a continuity only attained through working closely with one production team. "Don't You Forget It" is No. 12 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and No. 30 on The Billboard Hot 100 this week.
'Blades' Of Steel
Immortal's soundtrack to the upcoming film "Blade 2" features a number of unique pairings between electronic and hip-hop artists. Redman's collaboration with animated act Gorillaz, "Gorillaz on My Mind," is slated to be the first single. The soundtrack, due this week, also features partnerships between Mystikal and Moby ("Gettin' Aggressive"), the Roots and BT ("Tao of the Machine"), and Bubba Sparxxx and the Crystal Method ("PHDream").
Also featured on the 13-track set are collaborations between Cypress Hill and Roni Size ("Child of the Wild West"), Ice Cube and Paul Oakenfold ("Right Here, Right Now"), Massive Attack and Mos Def's cover of Bad Brains' "I Against I," and an Eve and Fatboy Slim cut dubbed "Cowboy." The film, starring Wesley Snipe, opens March 22 in U.S. theaters.
The project is the brainchild of Immortal founder/CEO Happy Walters, who orchestrated similarly off-beat genre pairings on 1994's "Judgement Night" (hip-hop/rock) and 1998's "Spawn" (electronic/hard rock) soundtracks. "We have taken an aggressive approach in combining these two types of music on this soundtrack," Walters said in a statement. "The process of putting this together was both artistically challenging and fulfilling."
Never Too 'Far'
"I'm just glad to still be making albums," says Jimmy Buffett of "Far Side of the World," due this week from his own Mailboat Records. "At one level, I pretty much know if you like what I do, you'll like this music. It's not the time to go off and do Buffett Discovers Gershwin. It's like cooking: You don't completely go make some other dish that's not palatable, but you try to use some different ingredients."
In this case, the "different ingredients" in many ways hark back to Buffett's early days, when he recorded such plaintively beautiful songs as "Come Monday." On "Far Side of the World," he reflects on love through a cover of Bruce Cockburn's wistful "All the Ways I Want You" as well as his own ode to dreamers, "Someday I Will," and closes with a gentle reminder to stay true to oneself with "Tonight I Just Need My Guitar."
The slightly more intimate feel was by design, he says. "At a certain age, you start to become more introspective. I'm 55. At some point, wisdom starts to overcome testosterone." At the same time, longtime fans still have plenty of Buffett's quick wit to draw upon on the drippingly condescending "Altered Boy" and hilariously existential yet nostalgic "What If the Hokey Pokey Is All It Really Is About." Buffett's annual summer tour gets underway April 13 in Antioch, Tenn.
It's a long story, one filled with pain, emotional confusion, and ultimately, jubilation. West African singer/songwriter Angelique Kidjo just cannot explain the origins of "Black Ivory Soul" -- a deeply joyful and always passionate expression of the kinship between African and Brazilian music, due this week from Columbia -- without discussing the history of her native Benin and her first exposure to the horrors of slavery.
While Kidjo's ongoing goal is to bring diverse people together through listening to music, on this project she also wanted her cast of musicians to reflect a range of ethnic backgrounds. Among the players were guitarists Joao Mota from Guinea Bissau, percussionist Abdou M'boup from Senegal, drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson from hip-hop group the Roots, and bassist Michel Alibo from the West Indies. Kidjo also collaborated with Dave Matthews ("Iwoya"), Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria ("Olofoofo," "Ominira") and with her husband, Jean Hebrail, and songwriter Tommy Farragher ("Black Ivory Soul").
Though many of the musicians were unable to communicate in English, the language of music guided the recording process. The recording session thus proved to be an eye-opening one for all involved. "Do you know 'Alice in Wonderland?' That is how I felt watching everybody with my big eyes open," Kidjo says. "At one point, one of the musicians comes to me and says, 'This is a hell of a responsibility that you put on our shoulders, because the music is beautiful. We cannot stay indifferent to what we are doing here. It brings us to ask questions ourselves. Even the Brazilians are saying that we never, ever thought about our music meaning so much to you guys in Africa.'"
'Rings' Around The Competition
Super Furry Animals are an imaginative bunch. After all, there aren't many pop bands that will release six albums in two different languages, tour the European festival circuit in a techno-blaring tank, and issue a complete "visual album" on DVD. The Welsh band adds the latter item to its resume with the North American release this week of "Rings Around the World" (XL/Beggars Banquet); the set has been out internationally via Epic since last year. A short U.S. tour begins April 18 in Minneapolis.
Upon wrapping production on the project in January 2001, the group commissioned several indie filmmakers to create visual representations of its 13 songs, filling out the rest of the DVD with bonus cuts, remixes, and assorted SFA extras. "We wanted to make something cinematic," lead singer/guitarist Gruff Rhys explains. "We've been doing a lot of our shows in surround sound over the past three years, so we felt we should mix the next album like that. Then we made the DVD; a chance for us to indulge in all our listening fantasies."
Rhys concedes that first single "Juxtapozed With U," a sexually charged electro-anthem, is one of the most uplifting songs he's ever written. The rest of the album ranges the from calm, meditative opener "Alternate Route to Vulcan Street" and the soaring orchestral pop of "Shoot Doris Day" to the inscrutable centerpiece "No Sympathy," a seven-minute adventure that begins as a gentle acoustic ballad and ends in a full-scale techno freakout. Then there's the catchy but equally convoluted "Receptacle for the Respectable" -- which features Paul McCartney munching on carrots and celery in the background.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- a collaborative album from rapper Jay-Z and R&B hearthrob R. Kelly, "The Best of Both Worlds" (Jive/Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam).
-- Sony/Legacy's reissues of Johnny Cash's "The Fabulous Johnny Cash," "Hymns by Johnny Cash," "Ride This Train," "Orange Blossom Special," and "Carryin' on With Johnny Cash and June Carter," which have been digitally remastered with bonus tracks from the period of the original recording sessions.
-- imprisoned Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard's "The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones" (D3).
-- former Savage Garden principal Darren Hayes' solo debut, "Spin" (Columbia).
-- the Grateful Dead's "Postcards of the Hanging -- The Songs of Bob Dylan" (Grateful Dead/Arista).
-- new albums from DJs Timo Maas ("Loud") and Thunderpuss ("Thunderpuss"), both issued by Tommy Boy.
-- R&B vocalist Joi's "Star Kitty's Revenge" (Universal).
-- two-disc anthologies from rock poet Patti Smith ("Land 1975-2002," Arista) and Heartbreakers/Voidoids principal Richard Hell ("Time," Matador).
-- live albums from hard rock veterans Megadeth ("Rude Awakening") and Ministry ("Sphinctour"), both released by Sanctuary.
-- reissues of the Psychedelic Furs' "Forever Now," "Psychedelic Furs," and "Talk Talk Talk" (Columbia/Legacy).
-- best-ofs from defunct alt-rock acts Uncle Tupelo ("89/93: An Anthology," Columbia/Legacy) and Soul Coughing ("Lust in Phaze," Rhino).