September 2003

Cafeteria - Hear: A Chill Compilation-Various Artists
Star 69 Records

Have you ever been, or recently been, to Cafeteria? If so, you already know that this eatery is one of the hottest spots to grab a bite while in NY and/or South Beach. If you haven’t been to either, now you know. To make this perfectly clear, I’m not here to review the digs, even though I would give it five sterling spoons. The reason I mention it is because of the fabulous music that is constantly played while dining. In this compilation, Peter Rauhofer, the mix-master to such icons as Madonna and Annie Lennox, just to name two, has compiled his first ever down-tempo collection of selections and put a chill on the thumps to make some of the most beautiful music from some absolute classics. On this 15-set collection, Rauhofer serves up some tasty dishes, from Ono’s “Walking On Thin Ice” to Lydia Rhodes phenomenal cover of Stevie Nicks’ classic “Dreams.” In between those dishes, there are other blue-plate specials that are completed with a scrumptious dessert by Chantal Kreviazuk’s spoonful of “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” Like the 24-hour restaurant, this CD is yours whenever you desire.

Thalia: Thalia
Virgin Records

If you’ve been to Europe, Puerto Rico, Asia or even south of the border in the past decade, chances are, you have heard of Thalia. Even if you haven’t heard of Thalia, odds are you have unknowingly heard her glorious vocals. Thalia is a Latin superstar whose sales have been in the millions. This self-titled disc is Thalia’s first-ever English CD. With the first single, “I Want You,” a duet with Fat Joe, already a certified radio smash, Thalia’s well on her way to conquering America the way she has already established herself around the rest of the globe. If that’s not enough convincing, she’s caught the attention of production teams responsible for such performers as Christina Aguilera, Anastacia, J.Lo and Destiny’s Child, who were ready, willing and more than able to do for Thalia what they have done for the aforementioned talent. If you need even further evidence of Thalia’s remarkable talent, songwriters who have written for Celine Dion, Kylie Minogue and Ricky Martin have most ambitiously jumped on board to write songs specifically for the Latin songstress. If you’re still skeptical, just pop on the disc and find out for yourself what makes this woman the next big deal. I realize the word “Diva” has appeared before many female vocalists’ names that have hardly deserved the title, but this time around the word seems to be a perfect fit.

The Dandy Warhols: Welcome To The Monkey House
Capitol Records

After listening to this latest and fourth offering from The Dandy Warhols, I was trying my best not to put a label on what I consider to be the sound of this disc. Being a person who generally dislikes labels, I couldn’t help myself with describing this CD as R.E.M. meets mid-eighties Bowie. The sound is as magnificent as soulful rock gets. Well, there goes my label. But, I believe this is one label that this Porland, Oregon based foursome would be proud of. From guests appearances by such music luminaries as Nile Rodgers on “I Am A Scientist” to Simon Le Bon’s backing vocals on “Plan A,” this disc jumps right out of your speakers and makes you realize why these and other “big names” are not only part of this project, but why they also attract fans such as Bowie himself. The first single, “We Used To Be Friends” is just a taste of the magnificence that make up this collection. By the time you reach the halfway mark on this set with the ever-so-clever “The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone,” I’m confident you’ll believe that they are most sincere. It’s almost ironic that I didn’t want to put a label on a group that seems to have taken the very essence from Andy Warhol, a man who thrived on labels. Welcome To The Monkey House is most welcome in my house, as I deem it will be in yours as well.

Smile Empty Soul: Smile Empty Soul
Lava Records

One of my favorite requirements of my job is to listen to new music. Especially debut CD’s, because I gear my ears up for almost anything. From the most mundane of discs to those that are surprisingly smart and sophisticated. With the debut of Smile Empty Soul’s self titled CD, I’d say I got a special treat. This disc is extremely fresh. The lyrics alone take on such subjects as drugs, religion and the politics of war. If that doesn’t get you, the kick-ass hooks will blow you away. I rarely enjoy an album from beginning to end, but I have to say, this one got me from the opening track of “Bottom Of A Bottle” right through to the miraculous closer, “Eraser.” Other amazing highlights include “Silhouettes,” “This Is War” and “Every Sunday.” It’s been said that one remembers where they were through important events in one’s life, whether it be happy or sad. The word “Smile” in the title of this band’s identity was no accident.

David Bowie - Reality
Columbia Records

The release of a David Bowie album is always an event. Appropriately titled Reality, because of the state our world is in, Bowie’s 26th album was penned in New York earlier this year, and 9/11 is completely evident in his latest compositions. From the opener “New Killer Star,” to the closing opus, “Bring Me The Disco King,” which is eerily reminiscent of Steely Dan’s masterpiece track “The Royal Scam,” Bowie’s music never misses a beat. This latest disc is absolutely timeless for any generation that appreciates intelligent rock and roll. Standouts also include the haunting ballad “The Loneliest Guy,“ and the title track, where we discover that Bowie’s hard rock sensibilities are still top-notch. In addition, there are two covers, the Jonathan Richman-penned “Pablo Picasso” and a rare George Harrison tune entitled “Try Some, Buy Some.” It’s easy to see the why Bowie, a craftsman in his own right chose these two particular songs to cover, they are superb. If you need a Bowie fix, or are just in the mood for some great music from one of the masters of rock and pop, I suggest you pick up this CD. You’ll find it’s always nice to get back to Reality.

Remembering Patsy Cline - Various Artists
MCA Nashville

I love Patsy Cline’s music as much as I love her voice. She was an artist who took a song and made it her own. I never thought I could appreciate a Cline song by another artist, that is until now. From Natalie Cole’s interpretation of “I Fall To Pieces,” Norah Jones’ gorgeous vocals on “Why Can’t He Be You,” to Diana Krall’s brilliant take on “Crazy” and the finale of all finales, an acapella rendition of “Sweet Dreams (Of You)” recorded impeccably by Martina McBride with Take 6. This CD has something for every Cline fan and anyone a fan of beautiful songs that are brilliantly recorded and arranged. Other artists include, Michelle Branch, Amy Grant, Lee Ann Womack, and the incomparable k.d. lang singing her idols praises on “Leavin’ On Your Mind.” If you’re in the mood for love, or memories of love, this one’s for you. What a remarkable tribute to a remarkable artist. Sweet Dreams indeed!

Verve - Remixed 2
Verve Records

Jazz and Dance fans unite! There is something for everyone on this CD. The original Verve Remixed was so good last year; Verve went a step further and made this second outing even better than the last. The artists are the crème de la crème of the Jazz world, and the remix masters are perfectly suited to give these originals a 21st century twist. All the tracks are standouts, including, Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” (Felix Da Housecat Heavenly House Mix), Sarah Vaughan’s take on “Whatever Lola Wants”(Gotan Project Remix), Ella Fitzgerald gets the remix treatment twice on the humorous “Slap That Bass” (Miguel Migs Petalpusher Remix) and the haunting “Angel Eyes” remixed by Layo and Bushwacka. Other highlights include Ramsey Lewis’ “Do What You Wanna” (Mr. Scruff Remix), the underappreciated Betty Carter on “Naima’s Love Song” carefully and brilliantly remixed by DJ Spinna and one of my personal favorites, Astrud Gilberto’s rendition of “Here’s That Rainy Day” (Koop Remix). The rest of the artists to round out this 15-track superstar set are Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Brown, Jr., Cal Tjader, Willie Bobo, Hugh Masekela and the inimitable Archie Schepp. For those who appreciate these artists and their music, this is a real treat. For those just being introduced, but were weary of “older” music, here’s your chance to appreciate greatness in the style to which you are accustomed. In a word, Brilliant!

Pat Benatar - GO
WMG Records

I have been a fan of Pat Benatar’s ever since I first heard the rocker “Heartbreaker” back in ’79 from her first of several, brilliant platinum albums. Benatar burst onto the scene and it seemed there was no slowing her down. Her own domesticity is what Pat found rewarding at the end of the 80’s and we the fans would have to settle for a bunch of greatest hits projects with just two new albums in the past decade. Settle no more, Benatar is back with all the brilliance she displayed in all of her earlier albums. Neil Giraldo, her husband, producer and guitarist on all of her previous projects wrote all of the material for this new disc, and from the word “GO” we have Pat belting and cooing her one-of-a-kind delivery. How many female rockers can you name that have a four and a half-octave vocal? The years have been kind to Pat, her voice is as explosive and aggressive as it was all those years ago. Her rock songs are ballsy and her ballads are bluesy. Welcome back Pat, almost a quarter century later, you still know how to hit us with your best shot!

© 2003 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.