August 2003

Shane Fontayne - What Nature Intended
Mile End Records

It’s been said, “it’s not where you’ve been, but it’s where you’re going.” That’s all fine and dandy. But it’s almost imperative that I tell you where Shane Fontayne’s been for the simple reason that his debut disc, What Nature Intended, may not have been so bloody perfect if it weren’t his impressive past. I’ll make the list short for obvious space constraints. Bruce Springsteen, U2, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Mary J. Blige and Sheryl Crow are just some of the artists Shane has had the pleasure of playing and recording with. When John Waite tells the press that Fontayne’s is “The best album of the year so far,” and Marc Cohn says that “this album was well worth the wait,” it gets your attention. I had to hear what the hype was all about, and I must inform you that these artists’ words were modest at best. The entire CD is a guitar-laden fantasy with some of the best lyrics and melodies I have heard in a long time. He’s soulful, romantic, ballsy and beautiful, all the elements that classic rock albums are comprised of. I want to single out selections as I usually do, but I sincerely loved the entire disc. I could go on, but my best review would be for you to hear this gem for yourself. If you have the slightest admiration for any of the above named artists, you owe it to yourself to hear what I’ve been telling you. To sum up the CD in a nutshell, I’ll steal the titles from tracks number four and nine respectively, “Spin It” for “It’s Only Love.”

Conception - An Interpretation Of Stevie Wonder’s Songs
Motown Records

To the music world, Stevie Wonder is what Meryl Streep is to the art of acting, Emeril is to a spatula, or Jacques Cousteau was to Oceanography. In other words, he’s a genius at his craft. So, what took so long for this tribute? Now that it’s finally been delivered, I don’t care. If you admire Wonder the way most people with any musical sense do, this one’s for you. Dig this, Eric Clapton kicking off the album with “Higher Ground,” Mary J. Blige getting “Overjoyed,” Angie Stone sweetly singing “You Will Know,” Marc Anthony pouring his heart, soul and remarkable vocals out to “All In Love Is Fair, Musiq’s 20/20 version of “Visions” to the inimitable India.Arie closing the disc with a medley of Stevie’s songs in a tune entitled “Wonderful.” That’s only half the songs and artists. I wonder when volumes two, three, four and more will reveal the vast catalogue is Stevie’s genius? Listen to Conception and its fourteen-song set in its entirety, it gives you a sense of how Stevie is without a doubt, the eighth Wonder of the world.

Franky Perez - Poor Man’s Son
Lava Records

Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and a host of other Latin heartthrobs hit the airwaves in the late 90’s, now it’s Franky Perez’ turn. The 17 tracks on this disc are highly personal, autobiographical, and lyrics that are so prolific, you’d think a Perez was a veteran. Amazingly enough, this is his debut CD. All 17 cuts were written by Perez and either produced or co-produced by Perez. The first single, “Something Crazy” sucks you right in, as do all the other tracks. Highlights include “Cecilia,” “Class Act” and “Angel Park.” If that’s not enough, the co-producers on this album are impressive including Aerosmith’s Mark Hudson and Nona Hendryx’ main man Jason Corsaro. Every track tells a story. Poor Man’s Son is like a rock and soul novel. By the time you’re finished with your first listen, you’ll want to play the “book’ over and over again.

Lisa Marie Presley: To Whom It May Concern
Capitol Records

For years, there have been rumors of Lisa Marie releasing an album of her own. The wait is over, and the reasons why it took so long are clearly evident on this stunning debut. All of the songs are written by Presley and carry lyrics that are intelligent, and sometimes autobiographical. Each track also has a rock and roll swagger that would make the King himself proud of his only daughter. It’s clear from the opening track, the self-analytical “S.O.B.,” that Miss Presley means business. “Lights Out” was a no-brainer for the first single. It’s clearly the most personal track of Lisa’s family legacy with lyrics such as “Someone turned the lights out there in Memphis/That’s where my family’s buried and gone/Last time I was there I noticed a space left/Next to them there in Memphis in the damn back lawn.” As for her voice, it carries shades of a hardened Sheryl Crow and the deep timbre of Elvis himself. All eleven selections are remarkable tracks, and as for the title and final track, “To Whom It May Concern,” it concerns anybody with a morsel of rock sensibility. This is a CD to be taken seriously. Lisa has just entered the building. Thank you very much!

Party Groove: The Fireball - Rosabel
Centaur Records

The legendary remixing team of Ralph Rosario and Abel are back with the first ever Fireball CD. The event that blew the roof off in Chicago this past February is established here with an explosive CD. This disc is the next best thing to attending the Ball itself, with inclusions such as the #1 hit “That Sound” and the recent #1 hit “Some Lovin’,” which features circuit party diva Kristine W. Other notable tracks are Deborah Cooper’s “Real Love,” Pat Hodges’ “Love Revolution” and closing with the party anthem of all ages, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by the legendary, late-great Sylvester. If that’s not incentive enough, Party Groove: Fireball will benefit the Hearts Foundation, which is expanding its fundraising support program involving several agencies focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and services.

© 2003 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.