Previewing albums from Bubba Sparxx, the Strokes, Jenny Toomey, the "Say It Loud" documentary, and more.'Day' And 'Night'
Rapper Bubba Sparxxx is primed to storm the charts this week with the release of his debut album, "Dark Days, Bright Nights." The set, which is being released via producer Timbaland's Beat Club imprint through Interscope, features first single "Ugly," which is in the top-10 on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks charts.
Based in Athens, Ga., Sparxxx worked his way through the regional ranks before his demo was brought to the attention of Interscope executives. Sparxx confesses that working with Timbaland, who produced six tracks on the new set, was "the most unbelievable experience of my whole life." Other production work was handled by Outkast's Organized Konfusion team, Khalfani, and Gerald "Geo" Hall.
Tracks such as "Well Water" reflect Sparxx's upbringing the rural south, while "Wutchacallit" and "Bubba Sparxxx" are self-referential numbers marked by DJ scratches and East Coast-style lyrical flow. "It's something totally new and refreshing," Sparxxx says of the album. "It injects something new into hip-hop."
'Loud' And Proud
"Say It Loud! A Celebration of Black Music in America," the five-part documentary focusing on the cultural, political, spiritual, and financial impact of R&B, hip-hop, soul, gospel, jazz, and blues, premiered last night (Oct. 7) on VH1. It is accompanied by a six-CD boxed set from Rhino, due tomorrow, which spans eight decades (1916-1999) via 110 tracks. The collection is packaged into a portfolio that is supplemented by a 100-page bound booklet featuring essays by project producer Quincy Jones and others.
Among the veritable classics contained on "Say It Loud!" are Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher," Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," Aretha Franklin's "Respect," Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe," and the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." More recent contributions feature "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, "Me Myself and I" by De La Soul, and "Fantastic Voyage" by Coolio.
"I have studied and researched the evolution and history of black music for 25 years, and I've had the opportunity to play a role in much of it," Jones says. "The influence of African-American music can be found in virtually every genre of modern music, and to date, there has yet to be a real examination of the African-American musical experience. 'Say It Loud' will be the first series to tell at least a part of that story in the words of the artists who created the music."
The 'It' Band
One of the more highly touted bands to come out of New York in two decades, the Strokes, see their RCA debut "Is This It" released this week in North America. The album has already made a big splash internationally, especially in the U.K., where it debuted at No. 2 last month. As was the group's debut EP, "The Modern Age," "Is This It" was produced by Gordon Raphael (Blonde Redhead, Sky Cries Mary).
Despite having been made by a quintet of musicians who weren't even born in the mid-'70s, the album sounds as if it could have sprung from the thriving New York rock scene of that era. Frontman Julian Casablancas' vocals channel the spirit of Lou Reed, while songs such as "Barely Legal," "Soma," and "Take It Or Leave It" kick up a racket that pays equal homage to Television, the Velvet Underground, and the Rolling Stones.
The group was the unwitting source of controversy last month, when it pulled the song "New York City Cops" from the album in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The track, which questions the intelligence of the NYPD, was removed from North American versions and replaced with a new song, "When It Started." However, it remains on international pressings. The Strokes are on tour in North America through Oct. 31, when they will return to New York for a special Halloween show at Hammerstein Ballroom.
While Leona Naess was on tour last year in support of her debut, "Comatised," a series of hotel-room songwriting sessions ultimately formed the new material featured on her sophomore MCA project, "I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll," due this week. Naess says that "being on the road and being away from your loved ones can be a pretty naked and depressing existence. [Sometimes] you just want to go home."
By working through these frustrations with her voice and guitar, Naess has created a set of emotional, yet upbeat songs. The set's title track, for example, was inspired by a long-distance breakup and its positive aftermath. "'I Tried to Rock You' is of a self-esteem song after someone has ripped your heart out," she says. "I think the song is like standing in front of the mirror and going, 'I'm a good person.'"
In much the same fashion, ex-Simple Machines label head Jenny Toomey says recording her first Misra solo set was a way to avoid falling into a spiral of depression. The vocalist/guitarist (who has been a member of such bands as Tsunami, Liquorice, and Grenadine) describes the two-disc "Antidote" as heartbroken; still, she feels lucky to have been able to express her emotions about failed romances.
The set's two discs are subtitled "Chicago" and "Memphis," after the cities in which they were recorded. "Chicago" -- highlighted by tracks such as "Fall on Me" -- features guitarist Dan Littleton (a member of Liquorice) and Amy Domingues, a cello, bass, and piano player. "Memphis," with backing by neo-soul ensemble Lambchop, includes a remake of Curtis Mayfield's "Fool for You" and two versions of the track "Unclaimed."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include teenage vocalist Charlotte Church's "Enchantment" (Columbia); country artist Trace Adkins' "Chrome" (Capitol); soul artist Kenny Lattimore's "Weekend" (Arista); newcomer Christina Milian's self-titled debut album (Def Jam); rapper T.I.'s "I'm Serious" (Arista); poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen's "Ten New Songs" (Columbia); longtime avant-garde artist Yoko Ono's "Blueprint for a Sunrise" (Capitol); veteran R&B act the O'Jays' "For the Love..." (MCA); singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman's "Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eyeshadow" (Vapor); roots rock outfit Beachwood Sparks' "Once We Were Trees" (Sub Pop); the various artists Paul McCartney tribute, "Listen to What the Man Said" (Oglio); a concert set from Steve Earle, Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt, "Together at the Bluebird" (Kela/Koch); and modern rock act Transmatic's self-titled debut (Virgin).
Also out this week is singer/songwriter Chris King's "The Legend of Tommy Johnson, Act 1: Genesis 1900s-1990s" (Valley); shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper's "Dragon Town" (Spitfire); singer/songwriter Dan Bern's "New American Language" (Messenger); Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' bassist Victor Wooten's "Live in America" (Compass); singer/songwriter Kelly Hogan's "Because It Feels Good" (Bloodshot); hard rock act Kottonmouth Kings' "Hidden Stash II: The Kream of the Crop" (Capitol); blues rock outfit North Mississippi Allstars' "51 Phantom" (Tone-Cool); and jazz pianist Dr. John's "Creole Moon" (Blue Note).