Previewing new albums from Janet Jackson, the Bee Gees, Tim McGraw, Case, Blind Boys Of alabama, and more.
'All' You Ever Wanted
Janet Jackson's "All for You" (Virgin) is the follow-up to 1997's chart-topping "The Velvet Rope." The title track is in its third week at No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 and has also topped Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. "All for You" also includes the No. 1 hit "Doesn't Really Matter," previously featured on the soundtrack to "The Nutty Professor 2."
The album overflows with Parliament-etched funky beats, orchestral disco flourishes, and rich bursts of sensuality. Lyrically, Janet keeps it wickedly real with tales of falling in-and out of-love. The ebullient "Come On Get Up" is a delicious cross between the singer's "When I Think of You" and "Throb," while the scintillating "Would You Mind" recalls Prince's "Do Me, Baby."
A 56-date North American tour begins July 5, to be followed by European dates in November and December and a Japanese trek next January.
'Where' They've Been
"We're not a pop group that falls out of fashion and comes back a gain -- we're a songwriting team," says the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb of the brotherly group's new album, "This Is Where I Came In" (Polydor), which debuted at No. 4 on the Eurochart Top 100 Albums survey earlier this month. The group remains one of the most e nduring in popular music, having placed 43 singles (including nine No. 1s) and 28 albums on the Billboard charts over the past four decades.
The new album speaks to every strength the Bee Gees have: love songs, danceable cuts, narrative classics, folk-ro ck ballads, and rock-pop anthems. "This album for us is variety," Barry Gibb says." "We just thought, 'How many different kinds of songs can we do?' And then we gave each other the space to go away individually and come up with things ourselves -- whic h w e used to do without any feelings of malice. So we did four songs together, and three or four each, and chose from them. It's our definitive album of our collaborations and their diversity."
For an artist who lau ghin gly confesses that his first album didn't even go "wood," never mind gold or platinum, Tim McGraw rebounded with a vengeance. The five albums that followed each debuted, and spent multiple weeks, at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.. His 1999 album "A Place in the Sun" bowed at No. 1 simultaneously on both charts. Needless to say, expectations are high for "Set This Circus Down," due this week on Curb.
Co-producing with studio vets Byron Gallimore and James Stroud, McGraw wraps his affe cting country-boy vocals around a stellar collection of songs. A highlight is Bruce Robison's "Angry All the Time," an aching examination of a marriage on the rocks that features vocals by McGraw's wife, Faith Hill. "I love that one," McGraw enthuses. "We did it live on the tour, sitting in old chairs with just little spotlights on us."
"Set This Circus Down" also features the reflective first single, "Grown Men Don't Cry," currently at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart; the shimmer ing, picturesque "Telluride"; the uptempo "Unbroken," which McGraw describes as having "some meat to it"; and "Angel Boy," a Danny Orton-penned ode to redemption and hope.
On The Case
For Def Soul artist Case, recording his latest set, "Open Letter," was a physically daunting task. The process was so strenuous that by the time he finished recording the last song, "Missing You," he had completely lost his voice. But the stress seems to have paid off, as "Missing You" has risen to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
To drive his "letters" home, Case enlisted the help of such producers as Tim and Bob, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Shep Crawford, among others. "It was cool because everybody I worked with was on the same page," says the artist. "It didn't take a lot of time to get the songs together."
Case is particularly fond of "A Song for Skye." "That's the most important song on the album because it's for my daughter," says Case of the song he wrote for t hen-2-month-old Skye. "She was at home with me, I heard the track, and the song just came out. I picked up a tape recorder and just started singing. When she gets old enough, she'll understand exactly how I felt about her then."
'S pirit' Of Music
Peter Gabriel is known more for championing a diverse array of African and Asian artists on his Real World label than for any enthusiasm for Americana. But when Gabriel heard the new album by the Blind Boys of Alabama -- a grou p of se ptuagenarian gospel singers that has been together since 1939 -- it was love at first listen.
Gabriel was instantly moved by the combination of old-time gospel soul and darkly atmospheric blues. He immediately offered to license the record, "Spir it of th e Century," which will be released via Real World this week.
Against a sparse but potent musical backdrop created by a studio band of roots-music heroes -- guitarist John Hammond, harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, multi-instrumentalist Davi d Lindley, and the rhythm section from Richard Thompson's touring band -- the Blind Boys adapt their traditional jubilee-style harmonies to songs by contemporary writers like Tom Waits, Ben Harper, and Mick Jagger/Keith Richards. They also reinvent some c lassic sp irituals, as with their haunting version of "Amazing Grace" set to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include house music diva Ultra Nate's "Stranger Than Fiction" (Strictly Rhy thm); blue s-leaning trio G. Love & Special Sauce's "The Electric Mile" (Epic); Welsh rock heavyweights the Manic Street Preachers' "Know Your Enemy" (Virgin); rap favorite KRS-One's "The Sneak Attack" (In The Paint/Koch); the self-titled debut from R&B v ocalist Can ela (DreamWorks); a new album from Scottish instrumental rock outfit Mogwai, "Rock Action" (Matador); hard rock veterans Fear Factory's "Digimortal" (Roadrunner); singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt's "Left to His Own Devices" (spin ART); electronica-leaning a ct Darwa's "More Life More Trouble" (Abstrakt Reality); German electronic duo Mouse On Mars' "Idiology" (Thrill Jockey); Dutch punk act the Ex's "Dizzy Spells" (Touch & Go); U.K. indie rockers Clientele's "Suburban Light" (Merge); and singer/songwriter th e Incredible Moses Leroy's "Electric Pocket Radio" (Ultimatum).
Also out this week is are archival compilations from indie rock trio Modest Mouse, "Sad Sappy Sucker" (K) and singer/songwriter Jason Falkner, "Necessity: The Four Track Years" (spin ART); d igitally remastered editions of John Fogerty's "Centerfield" and "Eye of the Zombie" (DreamWorks); a best-of from dance outfit Information Society, "Strange Haircuts, Cardboard Guitars, And Computer Samples" (Tommy Boy); and a reissue of si nger/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins' "Timbre" (Rykodisc).