|Saturday, April 12, 2003||
BRITAIN-born Craig David’s much-awaited follow-up to his debut album Born To Do It has finally arrived. Craig has sacrificed some of his innocence but none of his braggadocio, as the title attests. The sound is harder and more suitable for clubs than the soft, breezy music of his first album. This time, he deals with darker matters, such as the pitfalls of fame, success and envy. But his newfound complexity makes for a much more interesting album than his debut. He gets his own back at those who criticise his ‘squeaky clean’ image and musical style: "Now they’re telling me that I’m too R&B/ How I turned my back on the whole UK garage scene/ Now they’re stressing me when I know there’s so much more to see." The current hit What’s Your Flava best illustrates the change. The pop track offers some smooth-edged beats. Eenie Meenie has Craig showing off his lyrical flow, while his honey sweet voice charms listeners in the heartfelt You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til The Well Runs Dry). Fast Cars kicks off with an unnerving window-smashing and ear-piercing car alarm, and turns into an ode to living life in the fast lane. Craig’s background as a DJ is no doubt a reason why the tracks have a flow and continuity. In Hidden Agenda he uses his unique 2-step garage sound with smooth R&B vocals. Rise & Fall, featuring Sting, combines elements of hip-hop, R&B, soul and pop into an innovative new sound. With Slicker Than Your Average, Craig shows that he will be a pop force to reckon with. Elton John once said of Craig: "If there’s a better singer than Craig David in Britain, then I’m Margaret Thatcher."
Bond — Shine (Universal) **
Dubbed classical music’s answer to Spice Girls, crossover string quartet Bond is back with its new album Shine. Their debut album saw them booted out of the classical charts for being too much on the pop side, but eventually found international success in the pop-instrumental category. World beats are an important component of Bond’s sound, with bits of Celtic, West Asian and southern/eastern European folk music easily recognisable. However, appropriated classical themes and movie soundtrack feel (often courtesy film composer Magnus Fiennes) predominate. The album mixes different genres of instrumental music with pulsing dance rhythms, and new age musical hooks to take the quartet into new territory. Classical composers Borodin and Albinoni contribute Strange Paradise and Big Love Adagio, while the tracks take different directions, with a take on the tango style of Astor Piazolla (Libertango). Other international-flavoured tracks include Sahara, Gypsy Rhapsody and Fuego. The highlights of the album include a Led Zeppelin cover Kashmir and a Bond version of the 007 Bond theme tune Bond On Bond.
John Mayer — Room For Squares (Sony) ***
Mayer is a bit of
Melanie C — Reason (Virgin) *
Sporty Spice makes a comeback with her second album and a supposed shift into more mature waters to delve into markets beyond top-of-the-chart pop. Reason has the potential to be a hit depending on how the pop punters receive it. The transition to more edgy sounds is evident in the overly eclectic and patchy Northern Star. With little instrumental backing, Melanie Chisholm shows that her voice can stand the test of being an individual enterprise. If there was any doubt about her talent, this album should give a befitting reply. She has co-written each song with a production team that includes Marius de Vries and Pat McCarthy. Go and Ga Ga are fantastic tracks. As with her debut, Reason is a complete mish-mash of styles from straightforward diva pop to piano-driven ballads, taking in beat-laden disco tunes and acoustic numbers along the way. Water is mellow and soulful, however not unlike anything we’ve already heard. The outstanding Positively Somewhere is a driven slice of pop/rock brilliance with a wonderfully catchy chorus. Slowing things is the smokey Melt with smouldering verses into a harder edgy chorus, the melodic relaxation of Do I and fresh sounds of what could almost be classified as chill-out music is the innovative Soul Boy. Despite being far less commercial than its predecessor, Reason is a top-notch album.
Album of the month
Richard Ashcroft — Human Conditions (Virgin)
solo debut, Alone With Everybody followed the breakup of Verve, whose
Urban Hymns and, especially the tracks Bitter Sweet Symphony
and Drug’s Don’t Work saw the band finally break through
commercially after struggling for nearly a decade. The album is
panoply of ruminations about love, life and eternity. The tracks flow
with confidence through a phalanx of mid-tempo ballads, most of which
are about soul searching and all of which are delivered without a
speck of irony. The first song, Check The Meaning, billows for
close to eight minutes, pondering over the human condition. It
traverses across emotional, spiritual and metaphysical questions.
Lyrics ring true when he sings about issues closer to home. Science
of Silence puts personal needs in the context of universal forces
("We are on a rock spinning silently/ But I’m safe when you’re
here with me.") The soulful material of God In The Numbers
and the confessional piety of Lord I’ve Been Trying are
blatantly spiritual. Nature Is The Law featuring harmonies from
Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) is built on gravitational vocals and
righteous faith. Elsewhere, Paradise features ubiquitous
strings, layered vocals, brass and bells, and an overwhelming lyrical
melancholy reminiscent of Lucky Man from Urban Hymns. The most
incongruous moment comes with Bright Lights and the appearance
of Mercury-winning Talvin Singh that builds up the tempo and comes as
a welcome change. Human Conditions is solid, consistent and
structured. It will be good for fans who may want to pick up where The
Verve left off.