Saturday, January 1, 2005

Chris Botti - When I Fall In Love (Sony Music)
Saurabh & Gaurav

As a trumpet player, Botti brings out the softest tones we have heard in a long time. In this album, Botti takes it a step further by employing the London Session Orchestra. The songs on this disc are more like love songs. The Oregon native adds to the album's sound by calling on singer Paula Cole, whose burnished vocals provide a fine gloss to Irving Berlin's What'll I Do? La Belle Dame Sans Regrets is our song on the disc. Sting is one of the writers and his signature style is evident from the start. With its dusky mood, When I Fall In Love serves as the perfect soundtrack for a late-night romantic evening by the fireplace.

Beat track: How Love Should Be

Worst track: Hot House Flowers

Rating: **


Fantasia - Free Yourself
(J Music)

J/19 recording artist Fantasia, the American Idol 3 champion who made history with her first record I Believe in June releases her debut album Free Yourself. The album features guest appearances by Missy Elliott, who is producing three tracks, and a host of hit-makers that include Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Soulshock and Carlin, The Underdogs, Jazze Pha, and others. This album is striving to seem fresh and hip, something that no other American Idol album has even attempted. In addition to I Believe, Free Yourself includes Fantasia's show-stopping version of the Gershwins' Summertime, the song that took her to the final round on the American Idol competition.

Best track: Summertime

Worst track: Don't Act Right

Rating: ***


Now That's What I Call
Christmas - Various Artists

The latest volume of the celebrated Now That's What I Call Christmas series gathers some of the new millennium's chart mainstays and familiar radio staples, as well as some of modern rock's rising. It's more of a tradition, and certainly a welcoming one at that, in the spirit of Christmas. Thankfully, the double-disc, 36-track collection lives up to the series' reputation by collecting an abundance of pop holiday classics, from Bing Crosby (White Christmas) and Nat "King" Cole (Merry Christmas to You) to Britney Spears (My Only Wish This Year) and Boyz II Men (Silent Night). Past hits like Sinatra's Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Dino's Let It Snow!, Elvis' Blue Christmas, Johnny Mathis' The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime, The Beach Boys' Little Saint Nick, Lennon's Happy X'mas, Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas? are sure to find a welcome place in almost every listener's holiday collection.

Rating: **


Gwen Stephani - Love, Angel, Music, Baby (Interscope)

Gwen Stefani has brought a host of top-notch collaborators on board for her first solo effort, and the result is a gloriously kitsch classic. Here she offers the Dallas Austin-produced Cool, with its hummable harmony. From the party-starting Long Way to Go with OutKast's Andre 3000, this record boasts of a mastery of the modern musical argot. What You Waiting For is enjoyable with its fast lyrics and catchy melody and Cool is a liltingly sweet paean to post-break-up friendships.

Best track: What You Waiting For

Worst track: Hollaback Girl

Rating: ***

Album of the month

Destiny’s Child — Destiny Fulfilled (Sony Music)

It’s been three years since this Texan trio released the multi-platinum album Survivor, spawning such hits as Survivor, Independent Women and Bootylicious. Since the release of this album, the girls have all pursued solo careers, and pretty successful ones at that. Destiny Fulfilled begins with the UK No.2 smash hit Lose My Breath, an incredibly hot track that announced the girls’ arrival with a bang. Tracks like Love and Free show just how much the girls have grown and matured into young women, as they sing of their commitment and love for their partners: ‘Inspire me from the heart/ Can’t nothing tear us apart/ You’re all I want in a man/ I put my life in your hands.’ After an invigorating opening salvo of hard-driving dance cuts, the album slides into a series of nine slow-grooving tracks that eventually blend together. The path to love is never easy, and this is expressed on tracks like Bad Habit and Through With Love.

Best track: Lose My Breath
Worst track: Cater 2 U

This feature was published on December 4, 2004