Previewing new albums from Brandy, Natalie Imbruglia, Lo Fidelity Allstars, EchoBrain, and more.
Brandy's "Full Moon" (Atlantic) comes on the heels of the young R&B star's secret marriage to producer Robert Smith and the recent announcement that she is pregnant. "In the last three years I've experienced a lot with love, both ups and downs, and I'm not embarassed by it, so I wanted to reflect that in my music," Brandy says. "A lot of people that are my age experience love at an early age, and with this album I just wanted to reflect and express myself on different aspects of love."
"Full Moon" finds Brandy collaborating with Rodney Jerkins, Warren Campbell, and Keith Crouch. "I'm not rebelling against my image, or trying to be a sex symbol," she insists. "I'm just saying that I've experienced love on many different levels and I'm not embarassed about it."
First single "What About Us?" is No. 7 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and No. 8 on The Billboard Hot 100. Other highlights include the Campbell-produced ballad "He Is," Jerkins' "It's Not Worth It," and the more up-tempo title track.
'Island' In The Sun
Every pop artist who's just starting out wishes for a No. 1 hit. But sometimes -- as Natalie Imbruglia knows too well -- you should be careful what you wish for. The Australian singer made a splash in the U.S. with her debut single, "Torn," which topped the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart in May 1998. But success was fleeting; nothing else from Imbruglia's RCA debut set, "Left of the Middle," hit the U.S. charts. Some critics also chided her over the success of "Torn" because she hadn't written the track.
For "White Lilies Island," due this week, Imbruglia had a hand in writing all the material. "I'd rather invest my time in growing as a songwriter than looking for hit songs elsewhere," she says. "There was a lot of curiosity about whether I could meet the challenge. I think I did." The results range from hook-laden rock tunes ("Do You Love?") to poetic anthems ("Come September") to bittersweet ballads ("Goodbye"). First single "Wrong Impression" is No. 9 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart.
This time around, Imbruglia isn't hanging all her hopes on another "Torn." Instead, she sees "White Lilies Island" as "a solid piece of work from start to finish." She says, "I don't think it's a first-listen album. It's an album where once you get it, you get it." The artist's first tour is in the works for the summer.
Insane In The 'Brain'
Aspiring teenage drummer attends a Super Bowl party thrown by a friend of a friend. Also in attendance is the bass player of Metallica, Jason Newsted. At halftime, the teen jumps on a drum set, gets funky, and ends up so impressing the metal giant that they leave the party together to jam down the street at Newsted's home studio.
Within months, this teen (Brian Sagrafena) has introduced Newsted to his buddy (Dylan Donkin), a teenage singer/songwriter/guitarist, and all three are now jamming on a semi-regular basis at Newsted's place. Fast forward seven years, and Newsted has quit Metallica and is devoting his full energy to EchoBrain, the band he has formed with the two of them. The group's self-titled debut is due this week via Newsted's Chophouse label.
Of the group's sound, Newsted explains, "In our thing, you got me, the metal guy; Dylan, the rock/classic rock/somewhat folk/California '60s and funk thing going on; and Brian's full-on jazz/funk thing. It's not three rock guys making a rock record. That's why it sounds so colorful -- the push and pull." The group's maiden U.S. tour begins March 20 in Petaluma, Calif.
'Love' For Sale
U.K. rock act Lo Fidelity Allstars returns this week with "Don't Be Afraid of Love" the sequel to its 1999 Columbia debut album "How To Operate With a Blown Mind." That album reached No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and spawned the single "Battle Flag" featuring Pigeonhed, a No. 6 entry on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. First single "Sleeping Faster" is No. 11 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play.
The new album, written largely while on tour in the U.S., features vocals from the remainder of the band and such collaborators as Bootsy Collins ("On the Pier") and former Afghan Wigs frontman Greg Dulli ("Somebody Needs You"). "We met Greg backstage when we were playing in New York," keyboardist/engineer Martin Whiteman says. "We liked each other's work, so we wrote this dirty, sleazy piece of music and sent it to him, and he came up with the dirty, filthy lyrics to go with it."
A full-scale tour of North America is tentatively set for the latter part of the year. "The dream is to get a show together where we get all the guest vocalists and a brass section in and do the whole extravaganza," Whiteman enthuses. "But we'll have to sell a lot of records to fund that!"
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- the "Longshot" soundtrack (Transcontinental), featuring previously unreleased cuts from 'N Sync, LFO, and O-Town.
-- the "Six Feet Under" soundtrack (Universal), with tracks from PJ Harvey, the Beta Band, Zero 7, and the late Peggy Lee.
-- a new album from Billy Bragg and the Blokes, "England, Half-English (Elektra).
-- pianist/television personality John Tesh's "A Deeper Faith" (Garden City Music).
-- Norwegian pop duo M2M's "The Big Room" (Atlantic).
-- Astralwerks' "My House in Montmarte" compilation, with tracks from Phoenix, Daft Punk, Alex Gopher, and Air.
-- DJ Carl Cox's "Global" (ffRR/Strictly Rhythm).
-- inspirational rock outfit Jars Of Clay's "The Eleventh Hour" (Silvertone).
-- singer/songwriter Ben Kweller's "Sha Sha" (RCA).
-- modern rock act Local H's "Here Comes the Zoo" (Palm Pictures)
-- a split CD from punk veterans Rancid and NOFX, "Rancid/NOFX" (BYO).
-- a concert set from gospel vocalist BeBe Winans, "Live & Up Close" (Motown)
-- reissues of Joan Baez' "In Concert Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2" (Vanguard).
-- a compilation from roots rockers the Blasters, "Anthology: Testament - The Complete Slash Recordings" (Rhino).
-- early recordings from the late Waylon Jennings, "Phase One: The Best of 1959-1964" (Hip-O).
-- remastered editions of the Bonnie Raitt albums "Give It Up," "The Glow," "Green Light," "Home Plate," and "Takin' My Time" (Rhino).