Following are reviews of recent big band, guitar rock, hip hop, jazz-soul and metal-farce recordings.
BARRY MANILOW; "Singin' with the Big Bands" (Arista Records). * * *From balladeer to band leader, Barry Manilow never ceases to amaze.
In the 1970s, he became a teen idol with hits like "Mandy," "It's a Miracle," "Bandstand Boogie" and "Copacabana." He's always had hits with "I Write the Songs," "Weekend in New England" and "New York City Rhythm."
During the 1980s, Manilow gave his tribute to jazz with "2:00 a.m. Paradise Cafe." The next obvious step was a tribute to the roots of jazz - swing.
The album opens and closes with Manilow originals "Singin' With the Big Bands" and "Where Does the Time Go?" but between these cuts are timeless gems that were popular during World War II.
Manilow, backed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, sings the duet "Green Eyes" with Rosemary Clooney. He also boogies with the Glenn Miller Orchestra on "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
While Manilow's voice is a little too pop for these tunes, he puts all his heart into it. Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade," Tommy Dorsey's "I'll Never Smile Again" and Benny Goodman's "And the Angels Sing" are all here.
Put this one in and swing.
- Scott Iwasaki
LONE KENT; "Granite & Sand" (Relativity Records). * * 1/2
Dubbed as the next Joe Satriani, Lone Kent looks more like a Stevie Ray Vaughn protege - complete with a black leather cowboy hat and a flowing black riding duster.
But once the music starts, there's no doubt that a Satriani he would like to be. But he ain't. That doesn't mean he's not good. He is. "Granite & Sand" is an admirable debut. Techno-guitar hooks, Leonard Cohen-like vocals and emotion are mixed together in the title song, "What I Got," "Bears and Pearls," "See What I Mean" and seven other tracks.
Kent's sound transforms a lot of blues into pop-noteworthy arrangements. "Waterfall" has him cascading note over note, creating a lucid image of flowing liquid. And in "Social Situation," Kent pulls out notes from a sitar-like effect that turns into a wallowing wail.
Fans of Satriani may admire Kent for taking on the master, but die-hards might find it a little too close for comfort.
- Scott Iwasaki
THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES, "Brother Sister" (Delicious Vinyl). * * * *
Get ready, hip-hop fans: coming at you on phat tracks is a healthy serving of peace, love and understanding to carry you through those dog-trying days.
But this disc, by far one of 1994's best, has appeal far and beyond the disaffected Generation X set. It's inspirational and downright charming. "Brother Sister" teaches, questions and confirms our humanity, while at the same time gauging the listener's satisfaction - or dissatisfaction - with life, love and relationships in general.
Hip hop, jazz and soul have never had it so good. And here, the Heavies - a three-man, one-woman outfit based in London - mix it up and dish it out in ways you never dreamed possible. Singer N'Dea Davenport has a range that could kill an assassin, and her accomplices, three able musician-songwriters, give the group its glue. Most of the 14 tracks are co-authored by the band.
"Dream on Dreamer," the first U.S. single, is an inspirational ditty about the joys of looking onward. Infectious grooves on the instrumental "Snake Hips" make you get up and move those hips. "Keep Together" and "Back To Love" offer simple, ready solutions to trying times, while "People Giving Love" begs the question, in a sexy, reggae-flavored composition: Are we giving and getting the love we need to survive?
"Mind Trips" and "Fake" signal the end of love, while "Forever" is a straightforward ballad of devotion. In all, 14 tracks of good, socially conscious grooves, all guaranteed to make you snap your fingers, tap your toes and think.
The Heavies are delightfully versatile and wonderfully talented. In an age where style continues to overshadow substance, the Brand New Heavies have been steadfast at grooming both. They're heavy.
- Dion M. Harris
GREEN JELLY; "333" (BMG Records). *
After listening to Green Jelly's new release "333," it is obvious this deranged metal-farce band is actually a poor, unimaginative White Zombie.
Not only is the cover a day-glow, horror-schlock White Zombie copy, the music features the same hooks, cliches and arrangements that put Zombie where it stands today. This whole release, with the exception of "Slave Boy," can be seen as a White Zombie sample. Also note the beastly takeoff of the infamous evil number from which the album is named.
Is it possible Zombie's producer, Andy Wallace, gave a couple of tips to Jelly while mixing its album? Could be. Mixers nowadays have quite a bit of pull. Especially when the outcome could bring some big cash profits.
In 1993, the band released a thrash version of the "Three Little Pigs" tale (now seen on MTV.) This time, they take on "The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see . . . ."
While thrashing nursery rhymes is a cool concept, the band doesn't quite pull it off. The growling vocals sound like a bear who just ate a porcupine. It just sounds stupid. (I'm sure it was meant to sound that way, but it just grinds on the nerves.)
And there is another band rip-off. The aforementioned "Slave Boy" is nothing more than a B-52's parody. The nerdy voice of Fred Schneider III whoops and hollers as Kate Pierson's nasal-tone soprano yells with glee. Oh, gee.
Green Jelly might be a novelty among the college crowd, but that's all it can be.
- Scott Iwasaki