By Jef With One F
By Bob Ruggiero
By Corey Deiterman
By Marco Torres
By Angelica Leicht
By Angelica Leicht
By Charne Graham
While this record isn't exactly new -- it was released in September -- it surely qualifies as an overlooked gem from the past year. Vern Gosdin has been called "The Voice" of country music for good reason. His deep baritone and bent-note phrasing are a perfect match for both deeply emotional tunes of heartache and high-stepping, fast-moving honky-tonk. Here he teams up with legendary producer Barry Beckett (Hank Williams Jr., Alabama, Etta James, Delbert McClinton) for a set of all new music that demonstrates his prowess as both a vocalist and a songwriter. Of the 12 cuts on The Voice, he co-wrote ten, including collaborations with such famed country songwriters as Max D. Barnes, Hank Cochran, Buddy Cannon and Dean Dillon. The results are pure country magic, the kind that doesn't rely on the drum machines or lyrical cliches like what Nashville's Music Row has been pumping out lately. When Gosdin smoothly moans his way through "Maybe Then I'll Be Over You" and "Baby That's Cold," you believe he's feeling the pain he's singing about. Then there's the endless joy in his performance of the aptly titled honky-tonkin' "Back in the Swing of Things" and the high-spirited tribute to Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell and George Jones, "Chip Off the Chip Off the Old Block." Gosdin has been making memorable country music for more than 30 years, has had countless hit songs, Grammy nominations and gold albums and even won the Country Music Association's Song of the Year Award in 1987. Yet, as evidenced by his stunning performances on The Voice, he's still in peak form.
-- Jim Caligiuri
Tim's Bio: From the Motion Picture Life
from da Bassment
Most rap impresarios are content to be the king. In the rascally court of rapper/producer/Virginian splackavellie Tim "Timbaland" Mosley, he's the king, wizard and jester. The man who helped Aaliyah smolder into womanhood (and brought her out from R. Kelly's shadow) on 1996's One in a Million, who turned an obscure, doughy songwriter named Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott into one of hip-hop's most charismatic entities with 1997's Supa Dupa Fly, and who even transformed himself into a ghetto superstar, along with rapping partner Magoo, on Welcome to Our World drops another sonic boom with the enigmatically titled Tim's Bio: From the Motion Picture Life from da Bassment.
What sets Timbaland apart from other hip-pop masterminds like Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Jermaine Dupri is that he's determined to craft original, prismatic beats without sampling other songs much. (When he does sample something, it's usually, as on this album, a campy artifact such as the TV themes to Spider-Man and I Dream of Jeannie.) You can immediately spot a Timbaland-produced song from its first note, and he's not a hog when it comes to the mike. Although this is billed as his "solo" debut, he doesn't show up much on vocals. And even though you can take or leave his lyrical flow's quiet-storm DJ style, he's content to pump out those playful, bass-heavy beats.
The guest list on Tim's Bio is impressive. Along with Aaliyah, Missy and Magoo, rapper-of-the-moment Jay-Z shows up to saddle Timbaland's sonic whimsy on "Lobster & Scrimp." Kelly Price adds her hefty voice to "Talking on the Phone," yet another my-best-girlfriend-did-me-wrong affair. Rookie emcee Ludichris helps Timbaland out with "Fat Rabbit," a song that's sure to displace "Ill Na Na" as the top rap euphemism for the female genitalia, and proteges Ginuwine and Playa also show up for a couple of pantie-dropping R&B numbers. But, of course, Tim remains the star of the show. His bouncy, fast-paced, no-additives-no-preservatives beats are exuberantly refreshing, with the kind of frisky energy you don't get from sample-encrusted hip-hop. It's no wonder R&B stars are starting to try to pull off second-rate riffs on his style. In Timbaland's kingdom, imagination reigns supreme, and familiarity is sent to the dungeon.
RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo
Tical 2000: Judgement Day
It seems like every other week there's a new release from a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, or someone on their Wu-Tang label, or someone associated with the Wu-Tang Clan, or someone who's creepin' with one of the Wu-Tang Clansmen's babies' mamas. And every time you switch on MTV, Kurt Loder is gleaming with joy over Ol' Dirty Bastard's latest arrest. Is the world's most dangerous thug-rap crew on the brink of overexposure? Two of the most well-known Wu-Tangers, Method Man and producing mastermind RZA, have new high-profile albums out, and luckily they are putting fans' worst fears to rest.
Assuming the guise of a techno-loving, analog-hating superhero named Bobby Digital (the album claims to be a soundtrack for an upcoming movie), RZA proclaims himself a sonic wunderkind for the next millennium on Bobby Digital in Stereo. His loud, rambunctious flow, complete with pop references that would make Dennis Miller have seizures, saddles his studiously heavy backbeats. More of a subversively assaultive orchestration than an experimental step beyond, most of the album's tracks carry his signature gangsta rap-meets-Ennio Morricone veneer. But he opens up new avenues of sound here, too. "My Lovin' Is Digi" has a dark, retro feel, and he goes at it slow and funky on the romantic (well, by RZA standards) "Love Jones." He's even hip enough to sample Portishead on "Kiss of the Black Widow," where he lets his frustrated pal Ol' Dirty Bastard speak his grievances on the opposite sex. "Domestic Violence" is a mercilessly funny, insanely vulgar rant where RZA and a female vocalist tear at each other's throats; if you're not offended, you'll be bawling with laughter. Complex, convoluted and oddly inspiring, the album shows that he's not afraid to go progressive.