|Saturday, July 21, 2001||
Janet Jackson is back
with her eagerly-awaited album All For You. This is a concept album of
sorts, rooted in Jackson’s traumatic separation from husband and
collaborator Rene Elizando Jr. The catalog album starts with dance
floor fillers depicting the freedom of a woman, and soon move to a
phase after much pain, heralding a new life and the prospects of new
love. The delightfully different and massive bass and kick-drum sounds
Rockwilder invented for uptempo numbers like You Ain’t Right
and Come On Get Up are sure to spawn envious imitations all
through the clubland. All For You is a pop-funk fusion
co-written and co-produced by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, her long-time
songwriting and studio collaborators. It is the latest landmark in an
eclectic, audacious career that has touched audiences in R&B, pop,
rock and hip-hop worlds. What more, it has already climbed to #1
position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Other production strategies
that work beautifully here are samplers and quotes from classic ‘70’s
radio hits, with Janet freely borrowing from the decade of
jazz-fusion, disco, rock and funk. For instance, the pretty ballad Would
You Mind contains guitar and keyboard layers reminiscent of Norman
Connors’ You Are My Starship and Isley Brothers’ Between
The Sheets. Jam and Lewis manage to pitch-in Carly Simon for Son
Of A Gun, a hip-hop remake of You’re So Vain. Doesn’t
Really Matter (from the Nutty Professor II soundtrack)
deserves an applause. The bright acoustic signature of Ventura
Highway drives Someone To Call My Lover into a particularly
sunny horizon. This is Janet at her best.
Another ex-spice goes her way to prove her individual talent. While only Melanine C and Geri Helliwell were taken seriously in a solo act, it’s pleasant to see Emma Bunton handling it all well without any aid. The success of the album has proved that, despite a flagging career in ‘Girl Power’, the world still loves little Emma. She’s come of age here, working with a mixed bag of notable producers, such as Evan Rogers, Andrew Frampton and Julian Gallagher. A Girl Like Me uses her breathy voice to good effect, pairing it with strings and acoustic guitar-driven rhythms, for a groove somewhere between Gabrielle and soul-pop of early Lisa Stansfield. There are several lovely moments — What Took You So Long is a mature-sounding catchy mid-tempo track. Take My Breath Away is a Mandy Moore sounding number that exhibits some great vocals. Spell It Out slows down the tempo and the way it is handled makes it very trite for the R&B culture. Been There, Done That sounds like a cocktail of Pink and Dream for its cool beats and casual attitude.
Better Be Careful has a Motown feel to it and is a sure-shot radio-hit track. The song that took us by surprise was Zoe’s cover of Sunshine On A Rainy Day that makes the future look bright for this Spice Girl.
Air Supply - Yours
Truly (BMG Crescendo)
Since 1985, the newer recordings of this group have been avoided by the radio and print media in the US for unexplained reasons. Frankly, Air Supply hasn’t really got their rightful share of praise. However, this 13-track package cannot be ignored. Written by Graham Russell, the album mixes the velvet-rock trademark Air Supply sound with an occasional rocker, although both Graham and Russell remain committed to their on going exploration of the theme of love. Yours Truly boasts of dramatic string arrangements (mainly of ELO’s Louis Clark), intimate ballads and complex harmonies. The album opens with Who Am I — a strong orchestral arrangement with remarkable chorus demonstration. Body Glove is a surprise track that turns up the tempo with techno-flavored moments. You Are The Reason is a lyrically beautiful track featuring our very own Mehnaz. Tell Me Of Springs is a flamenco-rhythm-filled prayer of thanksgiving for the rebirth of love. The rocking Peaches & Cream is a moving dreamscape filled with childhood memories of love and fondness. The tempo calms down for Don’t Throw Your Love Away, Why Don’t You Come and the title track Yours Truly. A catchy retrospective piece is the upbeat Learning To Make Love To You, that offers some catchy lyrics. Yours Truly is this season’s must-have accessory.
Vanessa Mae - Subject
Vanessa Mae took the world by storm, bringing commercial sensuality to the often sterile world of classical music when she moved from the popular music scene with her break-through album, The Violin Player. Things began to shape up when she got an opportunity to perform with the London Mozart Players. Moving to a solo career, she finally released her debut album in 1994. The freshness in all her works immediately gained global attention and the rest is all history. She carries all the successful traits onto this new album, but has combined more contemporary pop influences with stronger songs. The prominent tracks here include the energetic opener Yantra, Picante, Night Flight, Clear Like Ice, Laughing Buddha and Love Is Only A Game.
Subject To Change is Vanessa’s most ambitious work to date: 12 violin-driven choral pieces that inhabit the space between contemporary, classical and new age, with a wonderful choice of instruments too. Haunting but surprisingly accessible.
Album of the month
Destiny’s Child has managed to acquire what many girl bands could only dream about. The trio makes up as one of the world’s best-selling-ever female groups. After immensely well-received Writings On The Wall, Destiny’s Child launched off their eagerly anticipated album Survivor. Lead by the lead singer Beyonce Knowles, the album represents a new dimension for the band. Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce possess impeccable harmonising talent and show their incredible effort throughout the album. There’s a feel of everything from jazz to reggae and gospel to opera influences. The trio stamps its way through a set of sparely arranged showcases for the layered vocal weave, from the spiritedness of My Heart Still Beats to the soul-stirring The Story Of Beauty. Dance-floor anthems like the spicy Sexy Daddy and the old-school disco-funk of Bootylicious balance on a gospel medley and the trio’s sensitive, soaring cover of Emotion (a disco hit by Samantha Sang, penned by Garry Gibb and Robin Gibb of the BeeGees- 1978).
There are two versions of Independent Women — the group’s hit theme for the film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels.
Noteworthy tracks include Nasty Boys and Fancy, which are both uptempo R&B with heavy grooves, but the prominent part manifest in the form of ballads. Destiny’s Child is set in the right direction to discover themselves, and yes, in the music industry they will ‘survive’.