Cool Spins

Aug 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Polls


Mix Regional

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The Mix Staff Members Pick Their Current Favorites

Les Nubians: One Step Forward (OmTown)

Playing off some of the same energy they projected on their debut album, African/French sisters Celia and Helene Faussart have taken some creative risks and made great musical strides during the past five years. Their sophomore release — aptly named One Step Forward — is not only beautiful to listen to, but it divulges portraits of their lives and comments on the larger political and philosophical issues that motivate their music. If you happened to miss out on their well-received Les Princesses Nubians CD in 1998, this is the perfect chance to get acquainted with them. The sisters sing primarily in French and are backed by sensuous R&B, jazz and hip hop rhythms. The new release demonstrates the duo's evolving artistic sensibilities by infusing reggae, soul and rap into their repertoire, including Spanish and English vocals; and bringing in a host of guests, such as Talib Kweli and I.G. Culture. Sometimes, the layers of vocals overtake the track's focus and rawness, but I find the distraction muse-worthy. I have to wonder what kind of clarity will come to their next venture because of their current experimentation.

Producers: Mounir Belkhir, I.G. Culture, Les Nubians. Engineers: Belkhir, Dave Dar, Tkae Mendez, Demus. Mixer: Demus, Lee Hamblin.
Breean Lingle

Punk Jazz: The Jaco Pastorius Anthology (Rhino)

Supremely gifted, but also troubled, Jaco Pastorius came onto the music scene in the '70s like a ball of fire. His unique approach to bass influenced generations that followed him and colored every song he played on; he was truly one of a kind. This superb two-CD set brings together tracks from every phase of his career and amply demonstrates just what was so magical about Pastorius: not just the jaw-dropping pyrotechnics (though there's plenty of that), but also his intense lyricism and his considerable gifts as a composer. The anthology gives only a cursory nod to his best-known period — as member of Weather Report — in favor of showcasing songs from his solo albums, most notably the classic Word of Mouth, represented by six tracks. There are also fine tunes from collaborations with Pat Metheny, Flora Purim, Airto, Joni Mitchell and others, and a number of sizzling live tracks that showcase his skill (and his bombast). This guy had chops and attitude to spare. Too bad he flamed out so early.

Many producers, engineers, studios. Compilation produced by Barry Benson, Ricky Schultz, Nick Sahakian. Remastering: Steve Pokorny and Don Hersh/Digiprep.
Blair Jackson

It'll Come to You: The Songs of John Hiatt (Vanguard)

Even though he's a compelling performer on his own, John Hiatt has always enjoyed greater success as a songwriter, and this CD, stuffed with some of his best songs done by a great cross section of artists, shows his sheer brilliance in a way that few of his own solo albums have. Hiatt personally selected the 13 tracks, each by a different artist, and all but three previously recorded. Of the new tracks, Patty Griffin's gorgeous acoustic version of the heart-rending “Take It Down” is the strongest. The rest is an eclectic melange of actual hits and songs that deserved to be hits, including Bonnie Raitt's sensual “Thing Called Love,” Rosanne Cash's “The Way We Make a Broken Heart,” Freddy Fender's moving “Across the Borderline,” Eric Clapton and B.B. King's “Riding With the King,” Emmylou Harris' “Icy Blue Heart,” Linda Ronstadt's exquisite “When We Ran” and Buddy Guy's searing “Feels Like Rain,” to name a handful. A great listen from beginning to end and a fitting tribute to true songwriting genius.

Executive producer: Steve Buckingham. Different producers, engineers and studios on every track.
Blair Jackson

The Crusaders: Rural Renewal (PRA/Verve)

Pianist Joe Sample, sax man Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper have been making music together on and off for nearly half-a-century, much of it as the driving forces behind The Crusaders (nee the Jazz Crusaders). The Crusaders have had a million different incarnations and floated from style to style often, as commercial pressures dictated, but they've always retained a funky R&B edge that goes back to their days coming up in Houston. On this reunion album, they dive back into that world with gusto. This is, indeed, a “renewal.” The mostly instrumental affair has a breezy looseness that belies the evident mastery of the players, which besides the core three includes stalwarts such as Dean Parks, Ray Parker Jr. and Arthur Adams on guitars; Freddie Washington on bass; trombonist Steve Baxter; and Lenny Castro on percussion. There are some great grooves here, from percolating funk to deep blues to gospel-soul to easy jazz excursions, all of it tasteful and very well-performed. Guests include guitarist Eric Clapton on a pair of tracks, and singers Donnie McClurkin and the Sounds of Blackness. A welcome return to form.

Producer: Stewart Levine. Engineer: Rik Pekkonen. Studios: Ocean Way (Hollywood), Cello (Hollywood), Record One (Sherman Oaks, CA), Master Mix (Minneapolis). Mastering: Bernie Grundman/Bernie Grundman Mastering (Hollywood).
Blair Jacksonn






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