Previewing new albums from Missy Elliott, R.E.M., Tool, Weezer, Depeche Mode, Buddy Guy, and more.
'Addicted' To Missy
With the release this week of "Miss E ... So Addictive," her third set on The Gold Mind/Elektra, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott is hitting the road like never before. "You really don't know how much people love to see you until you get out," Elliott says. "People are like, 'We're so glad you came here.' I'm like, 'Maybe I need to get out a little more.' With this album, I'm going out to meet radio and retail reps and do a lot more in-stores and parties."
In keeping with that vibe, the new album mixes party tracks and ballads together with an inspirational tune and a track described as techno meets hip-hop. Elliott wrote and executive produced the set with her usual partner in beats, Timbaland. Other guest contributors include Ginuwine, Jay-Z, and Eve.
The album's first single, "Get Ur Freak On," is No. 14 on The Billboard Hot 100 this week. Rising pop sensation Nelly Furtado appears on a "Freak" remix, offering up a reggae chant. "People are going to bug out when they hear it," Elliott promises. "Nelly's hot on the pop side, but R&B people are going to respect her when they hear this."
R.E.M.'s 12th studio album, "Reveal" (Warner Bros.), features first single "Imitation of Life," which is No. 23 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. "It may be the best thing we've ever done," guitarist Peter Buck enthuses about the set. "If not, it's close. It's just a great collection of songs."
"Reveal" was recorded in Miami, Vancouver, Dublin, and the group's homebase of Athens, Ga. Augmenting the core trio of Buck, vocalist Michael Stipe, and bassist Mike Mills were longtime collaborators Ken Stringfellow and Scott McCaughey, as well as drummer Joey Waronker.
The new album sports some of R.E.M.'s most unabashedly pop-oriented material ever, including the sunny-day hymm "Beat a Drum" and the epic ballad "I'll Take the Rain." But there's no shortage of the musical experimentation found on 1998's "Up," including the meandering, electronic-based "I've Been High" and the rhythmically off-kilter dirge "Chorus and the Ring."
Breaching The 'Schism'
After nearly five years without an original recording, side project excursions (singer Maynard James Keenan's A Perfect Circle and bassist Justin Chancellor's Peach), and the explosion of rap/rock, L.A.-based prog-metal quartet Tool returns with "Lateralus" (Volcano), a big, fat, 80-minute middle finger to today's hard rock conventions.
Wrapped in seemingly un-navigable folds of murky movements and contemplative Keenan vocalizations, "Lateralus" makes 1996's overly ambitious "Aenima" sound like Tool on MTV's Total Request Live. While tracks like "Parabola" and lead single "Schism" maintain some vague semblance of traditional song structure, the majority of "Lateralus," like the nine-minute title track and the 11-minute "Reflection," carries on like Tool but dashed with even more hallucinogens.
It's no surprise that David Botrill, who produced, mixed, and engineered "Aenima," was called out to do the same here. The results are undeniably like nothing else, but sound much more like Tool than one would have imagined after such a long absence.
For an act that has amassed a 20-year catalog of songs about life's darker edges, Depeche Mode's members seem revitalized by their new Reprise album "Exciter," due this week. "We've seen each other through enough twists and turns over the past 20 years that we are a family," songwriter Martin Gore says, referring to a headline-grabbing history that includes various band members' bouts of drug addiction, alcoholism, and near-suicidal depression. "We've invested as much in each other as blood relations."
Produced by Mark Bell (Bjork), "Exciter" is led by first single "Dream On," which is No. 16 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. The track is also a bonafide smash in Europe, where it's already topped the charts in Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Germany. It's also reached the top-10 in the U.K., Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Austria.
Other highlights include "The Sweetest Condition," which layers languid slide-guitar lines into a mix of industrialized keyboards and swaying rhythms, and "When the Body Speaks," on which a quietly rumbling beat supports delicate guitar lines and an intimate, almost whispered vocal by David Gahan. An extensive world tour begins June 15 in Montreal.
'Green' With Envy
Weezer's self-titled third album (already dubbed "The Green Album" for the shade of its cover art) and first release in almost five years finally arrives this week DGC/Interscope. The set was produced by Rick Ocasek, who was behind the boards for the band's 1994 self-titled debut. That set peaked at No. 16 on The Billboard 200 and spawned two top-10 hits on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart ("Undone - The Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly").
But after the 1996 "Pinkerton" sputtered at retail, Weezer essentially dropped off the face of the earth. Luckily, "The Green Album" picks up right where its predecessors left off, exploding one insanely catchy pop/rock bomb after another. The powerful, grunge-tinged single "Hash Pipe" has been a quick hit at radio, having reached No. 2 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart in just four weeks.
Weezer will spend late June and early July touring Europe, and is expect to set off on a full-scale North American trek upon its return.
Nothin' Better Than The Blues
To record his new Silvertone/Jive Records album "Sweet Tea," bluesman Buddy Guy says, "They sent me down to Mississippi and said, 'Buddy, get on top of this!'" What Guy got on top of at producer Dennis Herring's Sweet Tea studio in Oxford, Miss., was the elemental, hypnotic blues style of the North Mississippi hill country -- a quantum leap from the brawling Chicago blues that the Louisiana-born guitar wizard has played since he began his Windy City career in 1957.
Guy says he enjoyed the challenge of working in a blues style that was essentially foreign to him. "I didn't like the idea at first," he says, "but every morning I'd wake up, [and] I'm sayin', 'Wait a minute, that didn't sound bad at all. I'm learnin' somethin'. Whatever it is they're playin', Buddy, you did somethin' on top of that, and it is a little different. Hey, get ready to be like you in a boxin' ring -- keep punchin'!'"
Blues colleague Robert Cray also releases a new album, "Shoulda Been Home," with his band this week via Rykodisc. "We made this record in the tradition of how people used to record," Cray says. "We play live in the studio and it's like we're reproducing what we do onstage. This album really shows what we can do as a band."
The Cray Band will play U.S. venues and festivals through June 24, then adjourn to Europe for a month of dates. U.S. performances pick up again Aug. 5 in Portland, Ore.
"I think that the world needs a hero because there are no more rock stars, Axl (Rose) killed that," Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine says of the metal veterans' new Sanctuary album, "The World Needs a Hero." "What the world needs is an enema but there are too many assholes in the world to choose from to know where to put the hose, so a hero would be my second choice. It's kind of hard to find a rhyme for 'enema.'"
The band -- Mustaine (guitar/vocals), Al Pitrelli (guitar), David Ellefson (bass), and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums) -- stuck to its roots in recording the album, according to Mustaine. "This record was written in spite of all the people who tried to turn us into an alternative pop machine," he says. "Basically, no one was welcome into the studio, and if they did get in we tried not to let them influence us. "
The new set is the band's first album for the Sanctuary after seven full-lengths with Capitol. Megadeth's last set for the label, 1999's "Risk," bowed at No. 16 on The Billboard 200.
A Range Of Emotion
The phrase "Good things come to those who wait" definitely applies to R&B ingenue Olivia. The 20-year-old singer/songwriter has been waiting for that big break, and it has come in the form of her self-titled J Records debut, "Olivia," due this week.
From the sexually driven "R U Capable" to the lush "When Two Souls Touch," Olivia offers a range of emotions on her debut. "I love that [J Records founder] Clive [Davis] let me explore every part of me on this album," the singer says. "You're getting a variety on my album."
According to the New York native, "Bizounce," the album's first single, is "an empowering women's song -- letting guys know that you don't have to stick around and take any crap from anybody." The track is No. 17 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and No. 43 on The Billboard Hot 100 this week
Other titles hitting stores this week include the first studio album in more than 17 years from pop veterans the Go-Go's, "God Bless The Go-Go's" (Beyond); singer/songwriter Joe Henry's "Scar" (Mammoth); noted jam band the String Cheese Incident's "Outside Inside" (Overcore); guitarist Ottmar Liebert's "Little Wing" (Epic); singer/songwriter Meredith Edwards' "Reach" (Mercury); the soundtrack to the animated adventure "Shrek" (DreamWorks); punk band H20's "Go" (MCA); a new set from former New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre, "Meet Joe Mac" (Q/Atlantic); Canadian folk/rock outfit Cowboy Junkies' "Open" (Zoe/Rounder); modern rock band Econoline Crush's "Brand New History" (Restless); singer/songwriter Radney Foster's "Are You Ready for the Big Show?" (DualTone); R&B vocalist Syleena Johnson's "Chapter One -- Love Pain & Forgiveness" (Silvertone); Colombian art rock act's Aterciopelados' "Gozo Poderoso" (BMG Latin); and rock group Ours' "Distorted Lullabies" (DreamWorks).
Also out this week are remastered and expanded editions of Elton John's "Greatest Hits 1976-1986," "Love Songs," "Reg Strikes Back," "Sleeping with the Past," and "The One"; a reissue of punk act Shades Apart's "Sonic Boom" (Universal); and reissues of two albums from Irish rockers Thin Lizzy, "Black Rose" and "Chinatown" (Wounded Bird).