Capsule Reviews for Rhino Records monthly magazine 2000

Sarah Brightman La Luna

Over the last few years pop diva Sarah Brightman has seen her already successful career shoot into the stratosphere. Along with Andrea Bocelli and Charlotte Church, Sarah has led the charge of crossing classical music into the mainstream and has sold millions of albums, concert tickets and videos in the process. Having starred in the original British stage productions of Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Requiem and Aspects of Love, her most recent albums, 'Time to Say Goodbye' and 'Eden' have both gone platinum around the world.

Brightman's new album, 'La Luna' showcases the former wife of Andrew Lloyd Webber's sparrow like voice in an eclectic mix of musical styles, featuring a gorgeous selection of classical works, with pieces from Dvorak, Handel and Beethoven, alongside contemporary pop ranging from an innovative take on Dido's theme from Roswell, 'Here With Me' to stirring version of rock classics such as Simon & Garfunkel's 'Scarborough Fair' and the Moody Blues' 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'.

Elastica The Menace

With a snarly barrage of disparate sound and rhythm, Elastica's eclectic second album is a musical roller coaster ride, showcasing one time Suede member Justine Treschman in the continuing new glam movement from Britain. Trashy guitar rock and distorted vocals are woven into a wide variety of ambient sounds, quirky surf beats and techno rhythms, thrown together with an impetuous fun house attitude and a healthy dose of cynicism. Wearing influences such as the Buzzcocks, the Pretenders, the B-52's Fun Boy Three and the Kinks in plain sight, Elastica's clean cut new wave glamour presents an unrepentant aural assault with an energetic pop approach. Features the single 'Mad Dog' and a quirky, minimalist electro cover of Trio's 'Da Da Da'. In concert September 21 & 22 at the Roxy.

Rickie Lee Jones It's Like This
Given the astounding depth of characterization and imagery in her own songwriting, it seems a hollow exercise to do an all covers album. Tackling tracks such as Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man and Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, Jones embraces and inhabits each story as if it were her own. Self produced and backed by a competent and unpretentious studio band (plus guests Joe Jackson, Ben Folds, Taj Mahal and Peter Erskine), the discriminating arrangements showcase Jones' eccentric and indefinable vocal qualities - at once both child like innocent and world weary. Standouts include a stirring piano version of the Beatles' "For No One" and the spirited single, Steely Dan's "Show Biz Kids" along side such well worn classics as "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "I Can't get Started". Rickie also guests on Dan Hicks' new album, "Beat Your Drum", performing vocals on two tracks.

Paul Simon You're the One
"Somewhere in a burst of glory sound becomes a song. I'm bound to tell a story - that's where I belong." So begins Paul Simon's first shimmering collection of dynamic new songs since 1990's 'Rhythm of the Saints'. 'You're the One' shows a return to the exquisite and forthright pop of his 70's material, blended with the experimental world music sounds and intricate rhythms of his late 80's work. "Old", the first single, is of the same blueprint as "You Can Call Me Al," combining a driving Soweto beat, breezy rhythm guitar and playful storytelling with a serious yet spirited message. Contemplative in tone, a heaviness pervades the work, recalling the glorious denseness of Simon & Garfunkel albums; as though each beat and syllable has been cautiously chosen and performed. "Darling Lorraine" examines a 30 year marriage, presenting the highs and lows of a long term relationship with the reservation of a broadway play, stopping short of judgment and moralization, yet making a tender and moving statement.

Mark Knopfler Sailing to Philadelphia
Having spent several years doing successful yet largely unnoticed soundtrack work on such films as 'The Princess Bride' and 'Wag the Dog', Dire Straits founder, guitarist and vocalist steps out with his third solo album. Knopfler's gruff vocals and consumate burnished Fender guitar tones are warmly familiar to any fan of his early work. Knopfler's comfortable yet breathtakingly precise style is welcomed on thirteen vignettes filled with vivid characters, mystical sounds and contemplative lyrics. Closer in tone to the quiet elegance of the Dire Straits album 'Love Over Gold' than the obvious "Money for Nothing", Mark's heartfelt social commentary nonetheless remains intact, and augmented by Hammond and other organs / pianos, his legendary guitar work is awash in a lush world of sound and substance. Guests on the album include James Taylor and Van Morrison.

David Sylvian - Everything and Nothing
A retrospective unlike any other; a welcome and satisfying collection from the most gorgeous and under rated voice in pop music, this set includes new tracks, recently completed works from as long ago as 1980, remixes and revamps of Sylvian and Japan classics (including a stunning new version of "Ghosts"), hard to find music ("Pop Song" was a UK single only) and other rarities (the "Marco Polo" album was released only in Italy) and collaborations including work with Ryuichi Sakamoto and 1991's short lived Japan reunion, Rain Tree Crow. An astoundingly fertile collection that plays through its two disc sequence with surprising cohesion. Limited edition UK version has a bonus third disc with two remixes and two more new tracks, including "Brilliant Trees 2000".

Steely Dan - Gaucho
1980's Gaucho would be the last studio album from Steely Dan until 2000. An inspired movement by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen away from their jazziest outing, "Aja" to a more pop oriented sound while still maintaining both their roots and their integrity. Three years in the making, 'Gaucho' soared past the million selling mark into the Top Ten, and contained two of their biggest hits, "Hey Nineteen", a tribute to Aretha Franklin that hit number 10 and "Time Out of Mind" which just missed the Top 20, as well as popular album tracks such as "Babylon Sisters". This newly remastered edition features remarkable sound plus the original album artwork with lyrics and newly penned liner notes by Becker and Fagen.

The Manhattan Transfer - The Spirit of St Louis
With their eleventh studio album, eight time grammy award winners pay tribute to the great Louis Armstrong, one of the most influential artists in jazz history. The Transfer's unique take on Armstrong's well known classics such as 'What a Wonderful World' and 'When You Wish Upon a Star' from Pinnochio are set among each member's stirring solo performances which complement the group's signature four part harmonies. With it's natural sounding presentation, the quartet has carved out a unique aural territory that evokes Armstrong's heyday while remaining utterly contemporary. Guests on the album include members of KD Lang's band and Los Lobos' Steve Berlin.

The Jayhawks - Smile
Minneapolis, aside from being the home of Mary Tyler Moore (on tv anyway) has also proved breeding ground for such innovative and well respected artists as the Replacements Prince and Husker Du. Similarly, the Jayhawks found their niche in alt country in the twin cities. While retaining their distinctive steel guitar background, their sixth album is jazzed up with the addition of keyboards and synthesizers. "Smile" reveals a more accessible pop side of the band, reminiscent of Tom Petty or the Travelling Wilburys, and is produced by Bob Ezrin, famed producer for Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and Kiss.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy
I was in diapers when JFK was shot, and although I remember quite clearly the day Elvis "died", no celebrity death affected me as much as the assassination of John Lennon - at least until the Princess Di tragedy in 1997. "Double Fantasy" had been released and was floundering on the charts, but John's sudden death shot the album to number one for several months, making it his most commercially successful work since the Beatles. If you're not a Yoko fan, the cd format is perfect for programming her demanding tracks right out, although the bonus track "Walking on Thin Ice" is an early synth pop dance masterpiece. Newly remastered with two bonus tracks including a short piece of dialogue, and the new packaging includes some of John and Yoko's handwritten lyrics as well as some rare photos.

© 2000 The Art Dept LA

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