Previewing new albums from Bob Dylan, Jay-Z, Jamiroquai, Stone Gossard, P.O.D., John Hiatt, and more.'Love' Everlasting
Few '60s icons still inspire the sort of anticipation that is rife for the Columbia follow-up to Bob Dylan's latter-day high-water mark, 1997's Grammy-winning "Time Out of Mind." That album debuted at No. 10 on The Billboard 200, Dylan's highest chart showing since 1979's "Slow Train Coming. With "Love and Theft," Dylan trumps all expectations with a very different kind of masterpiece, one that channels a century's worth of archetypal American song forms into a jubilant travelogue of gutbucket rock, front-porch folk, and tin-pan alley pop.
Wearing his 60 years lightly ("feeling like a fighting rooster"), Dylan sings with deep blues feeling and sly, ironic humor; he helmed the album himself, leading his versatile road band (guitarist Charlie Sexton, bassist Tony Garnier, multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, and drummer David Kemper; keyboardist Augie Myers also guests) with a deft hand.
The 78-rpm swing of "Bye Bye," the Delta soul of "High Water (For Charley Patton)," and the roadhouse ramble of "Honest With Me" are reference points, but "Love and Theft" is very much of a piece, a sublime 12-song rumination on fleeting romance and enduring memory, the poetry of place names and the potency of song. Dylan begins a six-week North American tour begins Oct. 5 in Spokane, Wash.
'Long Road' Home
Lost and forgotten for nearly 30 years, "The Long Road to Freedom: An
Anthology of Black Music," a boxed set chronicling the African-American experience and its rich contribution to America's musical culture," will finally be heard this week. A dream of entertainer Harry Belafonte's, the endeavor languished in BMG Entertainment's vaults for nearly three decades until archivists rediscovered the music two years ago. BMG archival imprint Buddha Records will release the 80-song, five-CD set.
Researched and recorded between 1961 and 1971, the collection traces the history of black music, starting with the 17th century. It's a far-reaching journey that takes listeners from the shores of slave-trading West Africa and the roots-preserving Georgia Sea Islands community to Louisiana's Creole mix to the Delta blues and modern big-city sound. In addition to African chants and the blues, the music encompasses work songs, minstrel tunes, spirituals, and children's songs.
Belafonte's perseverance in realizing his dream is not only a personal triumph but also a parallel testament to the dreams of African- Americans whose often ignored contributions to American culture are the bedrock of this anthology. When work on the project first began, "America was segregated, and we hadn't come to that moment of Dr. King and the greater truth," says Belafonte, who was one of three executors of the late activist's estate. "I think America today will be able to hear this with greater generosity of spirit and curiosity than back then."
A 'Blueprint' Redrawn
"The Blueprint" is Jay-Z's third Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam album in two years, but that didn't stop the label from moving up the release date two weeks from its originally scheduled on-sale. The two sets the rapper released in 2000, January's "Vol. 3...Life and Times of S. Carter" and November's "The Dynasty Roc La Familia (2000-- )," debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, as did his 1998 release "Vol. 2...the Hard Knock Life."
The new album boasts production by Just Blaze, Kanye West, Timbaland, Poke & Tone, and Bink, as well as Eminem, who appears on the track "Renegade." First single "IZZO (H.O.V.A.)," produced by West, is No. 5 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks this week. The second single will be "Girls, Girls, Girls"; a supporting video is due to be shot in Los Angeles.
Jay-Z kicks off a month-long North American tour Sept. 14 in Columbus, Ohio. Fellow Roc-A-Fella artists Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek will support.
Here Come The Vets
It's a busy week for some of the music industry's most enduring singer/songwriters, beginning with John Hiatt, who follows up his Vanguard Grammy-nominated acoustic set "Crossing Muddy Waters" with the amped up "The Tiki Bar Is Open." The new set was mostly recorded before "Crossing Muddy Waters," Hiatt was still under contract at Capitol Records. The Jay Joyce-produced set reunites Hiatt with his band the Goners, who hadn't backed him on a release since his much-praised 1988 A&M album, "Slow Turning." "It's such a magic little quartet," Hiatt says. "I think what I do best is when I get a batch of tunes together and then get a little magic rock band to pop 'em down on tape."
Boz Scaggs releases "Dig," a Virgin album of his first collection of original material in seven years. Although the album is firmly rooted in his abiding affection for classic R&B, "Dig" also deftly integrates elements of jazz, rock, and hip-hop. "I've become quite comfortable with getting older-and the fact that it's had a positive effect on my music," Scaggs says. "It adds nice colors and nuances. It adds depth."
For Robert Earl Keen, already a monster act in his home state of Texas, his new Lost Highway album "Gravitational Forces" will hopefully be the catalyst that will pull even more believers into his growing fan base. The set features five covers of songs by such acts as Johnny Cash and Townes Van
Zandt; Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" is bookended by Keen's own "Fallin' Out" and "Not a Drop of Rain." Says Keen of the latter, "It's a very emotional song, written out of thinking what would happen if I lost everything I have."
Meanwhile, Nick Lowe's "The Convincer" (Yep Roc) continues in the darker, more contemplative style of its acclaimed Upstart predecessors, "The Impossible Bird" (1994) and "Dig My Mood" (1998). "Homewrecker," "Lately I've Let Things Slide," and "I'm a Mess" are superlative examples of Lowe's mature approach, which is sometimes in pronounced contrast to the tartly funny pop mode in which he worked during the '70s and '80s. "I've been looking for a long time for a way to record myself and for a style that would suit the fact that I'm getting older," Lowe says.
Two Epic artists drop their debut solo albums this week, with Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard taking a breather from his primary gig to record "Bayleaf," and Ben Folds Five's eponymous leader resurfacing after his band's demise with "Rockin' the Suburbs." Gossard's album, some three years in the making, was produced by Pete Droge and features appearances by former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain and former Green Apple Quick Step frontman Ty Willman, who sings on three of the 10 songs.
Without eliminating all traces of his Pearl Jam roots, Gossard strolls down a variety of new musical avenues on "Bayleaf." The sparse, organ- and piano-inflected "Anchors" and the melodically superb "Hellbent" demonstrate his songwriting versatility, while "Fend It Off" and "Every Family" filter obtuse personal reflections through vintage blues and soul melodies.
"In the time off between Pearl Jam, I've always liked to get up and play guitar and write," says Gossard, whose lone prior lead vocal came on "Mankind" from Pearl Jam's 1996 "No Code" album. "In the process of doing that, I wrote a bunch of songs. I had been recording and trying to learn how to sing and attempting to finish something without it having to be a Pearl Jam song. I just happened to be the first guy to get them all together and make the final push of getting them out."
In Folds' case, playing all instruments was among the challenges he happily tackled. "To not have other musicians to bounce the sounds off of is a difficult thing," he says. "I have to play it, and then have a conversation with myself. It can take days instead of minutes. Ultimately, it ended up with a little more style this way." Highlights include the trademark self-deprecating title track and the thought provoking "Still Fighting It," inspired by the birth of his twins. A six-week North American tour began Sept. 8.
Recovering The 'Satellite'
Inspirational rap/rock outfit P.O.D. returns this week with its sophomore Atlantic album, "Satellite." The set was produced by Howard Benson, who was behind the boards for P.O.D's debut, "The Fundamental Elements of Southtown," which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and No. 51 on The Billboard 200. The single "Rock the Party (Off the Hook)" won a Dove Award for best short-form music video.
The final tracklist was whittled down from more than 20 finished songs, according to drummer Wuv. As for the sound of the album, which features guest appearances from Bad Brains frontman HR and Jamaican vocalist Eeek-A-Mouse, Wuv says it's "just as heavy" as its predecessor. "It's just more mature. Some of the music is slowed down a bit. There's more emotion going on." First single "Alive" is in the top-30 of both Billboard's Mainstream and Modern Rock Tracks charts.
'Funk' Of Ages
Jamiroquai mastermind Jay Kay feels he has something to prove with the group's fifth Epic effort, "2001: A Funk Odyssey." "No stone can be left unturned for this record -- not even a tiny little pebble," Kay says with a nervous snicker. "Every breathing body in this industry needs to know that Jamiroquai has returned with a real record this time."
Kay is referring to the lackluster artistic and commercial yield of 1999's "Synkronized," a collection that fell short of the expectations set by 1997's international smash "Travelling Without Moving." That set sold 8 million copies worldwide, according to the label, compared with 3 million for "Synkronized."
In the years since, a series of personal dramas became creative fodder, resulting in a set of songs that offer a pleasant shift from the retro-funk dance sound that has been Jamiroquai's calling card for nearly 10 years. Between such turntable-ready dance jams as "Feels So Good" and "You Give Me Something" are the confessional "Picture of My Life" -- with its delicate acoustic guitar lines -- and the meditative, Latin-brushed "Corner of the Earth." First single "Little L" is No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music: Club Play chart this week.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include veteran producer/R&B artist Babyface's "Face 2 Face" (Arista); ambient rockers Mercury Rev's "All Is Dream" (V2); cult rock duo They Might Be Giants' "Mink Car" (Restless); Public Enemy's Professor Griff's "And the Word Became Flesh" (The Right Stuff/EMI); English rock outfit Charlatans U.K.'s "Wonderland" (MCA); veteran metal act Slayer's "God Hates Us All" (American); the soundtrack to the film "Training Day," featuring David Bowie and Sean Combs' remake of Bowie's "This Is Not America" (Priority); California genre-bending collective Ozomatli's "Embrace the Chaos" (Almo Sounds/Interscope); rapper Fabolous' "Ghetto Fabolous" (Desert Storm/Elektra); hard rock newcomers Nickelback's "Silver Side Up" (Roadrunner); a new album from country veteran Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder, "History of the Future" (Skaggs Family); party rockers Long Beach Dub Allstars' "Wonders of the World" (DreamWorks); Wu-Tang Clan affiliates Killarmy's "Fear, Love & War" (36 Chambers/Loud); soul vocalist Phil Perry's "Magic" (Peak); experimental U.K. rock act Clinic's "Internal Wrangler" (Domino); country group the Derailers' "Here Come the Derailers" (Lucky Dog); San Francisco-based indie rock group Beulah's "The Coast Is Never Clear" (Velocette); hip-hop act Arsonists' "Date of Birth" (Matador); and Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano's "Hitting the Ground" (Instinct).
Also out this week is a self-titled album from Latin vocalist Alexandre Pires (BMG Latin); the Jermaine Dupri-produced soundtrack to the film "Hardball" (So So Def/Columbia); hard rock act Biohazard's "Uncivilization" (Sanctuary); the debut album from rock outfit Color, "Are You with Me?" (Melisma/Atlantic); the self-titled debut from U.K. rock act JJ72 (Columbia); singer/songwriter Jude's "King of Yesterday" (Maverick); a self-titled set from eclectic indie rock outfit Moldy Peaches (Rough Trade); a solo album from Posies principal Ken Stringfellow, "Touched" (Manifesto); Amsterdam-based one-girl-band Solex's "Low Kick and Hard Bop" (Matador); a greatest-hits from Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, "Wouldn't You Miss Me?" (Capitol); reissues of a Bowie instrumental album, "All Saints," and the Bowie-helmed "Christiane F." soundtrack (Virgin); reissues of six albums from seminal New York rock outfit Blondie, "Autoamerican," "Blondie, "Eat to the Beat," "The Hunter," "Parallel Lines," and "Plastic Letters" (Chrysalis/Capitol); reissues of six albums from punk legends the Dead Kennedys, "Mutiny on the Bay," "Bedtime for Democracy," "Frankenchrist," "Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death," and the two-fer "Plastic Surgery Disasters" / "In God We Trust, Inc." (Manifesto); an expanded, remastered reissue of Ween's 1990 debut album "God Ween Satan: The Oneness" (Restless); and reissues of four albums from Minneapolis college rock icons the Replacements, "Hootenanny," "Let It Be," "Stink," and "Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash" (Restless).