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3rdeadly3rd (Brisbane, Queensland Australia)

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V1 Jazzmatazz
V1 Jazzmatazz
Price: CDN$ 16.56
48 used & new from CDN$ 2.23

5.0 out of 5 stars My God this is good, June 1 2001
This review is from: V1 Jazzmatazz (Audio CD)
This is quite simply an inspired album. The rapping from Guru is sharp, lyrical and creative while the jazzmen are as musical as they ever have been.
I've heard a lot of different stories about how this album was recorded (who performed over what, what was improvised etc.) but as far as I'm concerned - that doesn't matter. The point is that this album is a real high-water mark in hip-hop, one that doesn't seem under any real threat of being surpassed just yet.
As Guru says in the liner notes, the album is "jeep ready" as far as the music is concerned and yet it's also the sort of music that your parents would enjoy. Both of those statements (as contradictory as they may seem) are 100% true. Tracks like "Slicker Than Most" and "Le Bien Le Mal" feature one of hip-hop's finest lyricists doing his job the way only he can. "Le Bien" is also noteworty for being one of the first introductions that France's MC Solaar had to the wider world of hip-hop.
As for the jazz credentials of the album - these aren't in doubt at all. A friend of mine who plays jazz trumpet was stunned when he heard the list of jazz artists who were involved on this project. After I'd taped it for him, he played it for his trumpet teacher who was equally stunned. Every single performer excells themselves on this album.
Donald Byrd's trumpet makes Guru's lyrics have a different cadence in "Loungin'" - while this is one of the standout tracks, it is somewhat hampered by the spoken sample at the end. Ronny Jordan's guitar is truly superb and will move you - either head or feet depending on how you're feeling at the time. The pianos of Lonnie Liston Smith provide a perfect backing to "Down The Back Streets", while Roy Ayers' vibraphones give a reat feel to "Take A Look At Yourself".
As far as I'm concerned, it is the 2 saxophone tracks that really make the album great. Branford Marsalis' work on "Transit Line" is that rare kind of instrumentalism which actually makes the listener experience what is being sung about (in this case, the feel of a New York subway). Courtney Pine is simply heavenly on "Sights In The City" playing both sax and flute. The track winds up being carried by an amazing sax solo at the end - the kind of solo which would not be worth hearing were it played by a performer of inferior class - as it is, the sax solo becomes yet another of this album's many highlights.
Of course, the other vocalists are superb as well. N'Dea Davenport and the other woman whose name has completely slipped my mind are both current or past members of the Brand New Heavies and they really bring that feel to their performances. Davenport richly justifies her inclusion on 2 tracks by sounding almost like a different singer from one to the next.
This CD has rarely left my changer sice I got it - let it stay in yours as well. You deserve it.

Paris Combo
Paris Combo
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.95
8 used & new from CDN$ 9.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Just Incredible, May 30 2001
This review is from: Paris Combo (Audio CD)
I'd tried to find this album for about 2 1/2 years before seeing it in the "rock" section of my local CD store (yes, I know that says something about the store but who cares?).
It was definitely worth the wait to hear this delightful blend of jazz, gypsy music and old-style (pre-war) French nightclub music. This is probably a better albm than their second release "Living Room" - and it also allows you to see the beginnings of their sound before listening to the more evolved version on "Living Room".
The best track here is probably "Moi, Mon Ame et ma Conscience" (if someone has the English translation of the lyrics PLEASE Email them to me, no one who I know can translate them). The track features a sprightly upbeat vocal from Belle, along with superlative playing by all the musicians concerned - Potzi's guitar solo and David Lewis' horn work are truly amazing. The song will really put you in the mood for dancing.
Two of the other standout tracks here are the instrumentals "Interlude Potzi" and "Obliques". The former is Potzi's gypsy/jazz guitar for about a minute (superb playing again - impossible really to fault him) and the latter features the whole band with the exception of Belle's vocals. To some extent "Obliques" is let down by the fact that it is long enough to warrant voals but doesn't have them - but then again it is the only real opportunity in the band's discography to experience the instruments without interference.
"Le Roie De La Foret" and "St Exuberant" are also great tracks - although the latter does go for a bit too long in my opinion.
This album also features a large number of tracks which are really excuses for Belle to demonstrate her vocal range (which is considerable and evokes memories - for those I've played it for who were there - of 1930s-1940s France). While these by no means detract from the whole, it is a considerable relief to see that by "Living Room" Belle was content just to voice jazz songs rather than do a whole lot of Edith Piaf impressions.
The gypsy influence which a lot of reviewers have mentioned is a lot more pronounced here than on "Living Room". Potzi's guitar is often played in a distinctly non-French way and there are some other arrangements throughout which have that sort of sound. It is most noticable, however, on te final cut "Berry-Bouy" which features Belle singing in a language with which I'm not familiar. The lyrics in the liner notes appear to be Turkish but if anyone could Email me and set me right on this I'd be much obliged.
Overall - a superlative listen and richly deserving of all the praise anyone can give it. These musicians need more exposure everywhere, so buy this album and help them out.

Running With Scissors
Running With Scissors
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.95
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars What Happened Al?, April 28 2001
This review is from: Running With Scissors (Audio CD)
It seems like only yesterday that I was laughing my head off listening to "Smells Like Nirvana" and the other hits Al had in the early 90s...wait a second, that WAS only yesterday. The Al goes and releases this album - what a turnaround!
The first major problem with this album is the lead-off single. Sure, doing the plot of the "Star Wars" prequel to "American Pie" is a clever idea (but Al, "Yoda" was your Star Wars bit wasn't it?) - what gets really annoying is when the radio and TV play the song over and over again and say that it's his best track ever. The album was released in 1999 and here in 2001 I still don't want to listen to "The Saga Begins" because of the saturation-play.
A lot of the other tracks are pretty clever, but they don't really put another perspective on the tracks. "It's All About The Pentiums" is a good contender for Al's worst parody ever - he didn't even seem to care where Puff Daddy got the "Benjamins" music from, he just played something which sounded good.
That could actually be the reason for my dislike of the album. In his past albums, Al has got almost the same music that the original track was made from and then done his own take on it - here it just seems to be a "near enough is good enough" philosophy. The same goes for the originals, at the very worst they used to be able to poke fun at something musically as well as lyrically (check out "Trigger Happy" from "Off The Deep End" if you don't believe me), but here they just seem to be almost interchangable for each other.
Of course, it might be that I'm missing the point of this album entirely. Al may have consciously made an album to be almost disposable musically in order to reflect the musical climate of the time - however this really doesn't hold true. The main evidence I have to prove that Al is losing his touch is the fact that there are still many cultural icons being put forward in music which could have been sent up and Al hasn't done this.
For example, where is Al's take on "Macarena" - surely there would be some food for comedy in a song that mindless. Beyond that we have the rise of boy- and girl- groups and the Britney Spears clones - again unparodied here. Even the excesses of "gangsta rap" could be parodied - the only rap he's ever done any justice to was "U Can't Touch This/I Can't Watch This" and that was back in the early 90s.
Anyways, this really isn't Al's best album - it seems like he's run into MTV and decided to join it rather than send it up any more. Those of you who want to get an Al album would do better either to buy one of his early 90s gems ("Off The Deep End", "Alapalooza" etc) or wait until his next album and pray that it is halfway decent - if he doesn't do anything with the Eminem business, the man's completely out of touch.

Los Grandes Exitos En Espanol
Los Grandes Exitos En Espanol
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.62
9 used & new from CDN$ 2.94

4.0 out of 5 stars A few misfires but a very potent arsenal, April 24 2001
I don't speak a word of Spanish but I am a fan of Cypress Hill and Control Machete. After I heard that this was coming out I thought it would be interesting to listen to and after I heard "No Entiendes La Onda" ("How I Could Just Kill A Man" en espanol) that really decided me.
The sound of this album is roughly equivalent to the sound of each song in English, mostly. Because of the problems of translating between the two languages, there are often some beats which should (or, in the English versions, do) have lyrics on them or lyrics without beats - however the "homeless syllble syndrome", as a friend christened it - is hardly terminal.
The thing which is particularly interesting for students of cross-cultural linguistics is how rapping in a different language really puts a different tone on a familiar track. "How I Could Just Kill A Man" becomes a lot more menacing when performed in Spanish, while the emphasis on "Insane In The Brain" changes from the infamous sample to the elastic-tongued rapping when the song becomes "Loco En El Coco". In a purely subjective sense, it is very entertaining to listen to Real and Sen rapping "Medio loco en el coco/ido de la mente" over the "Insane" sample - although the song does lose the "Don't you know I'm loco?" intro and the sampled outro.
One rather bored afternoon I had the brainwave of translating these Spanish lyrics into English. I am still unsure whether it was due to Babelfish's inability to understand idiom or whether that is actually what the words were, but it is now almost impossible to take "Loco En El Coco" seriously again. This is due to the comic frequency of a word translated as "frog" in the version given to me by Babelfish. I still can't quite work out what the word replaced in the English version.
One of the problems with Cypress Hill is that their albums generally have a fair number of tracks on which it is clear that B-Real, Sen and co didn't work for enough time. Here it can be seen again, there are some tracks (especially the ones written especially for the album) which do have a distinct sound of not having been really taken notice of.
The only other downside for me on this album is the fact that my copy of the CD doesn't work on my CD player - so I have to borrow my parents' to enjoy the idiosyncratic delights of this album. This is made up by the fun of playing "Loco" at a party and being told to take it off - before the listener's face gets a puzzled expression at the reams of Spanish coming out of the speakers.
On the whole, a great CD for Cypress Hill fans (especially those who speak Spanish) or fans of Spanish music. If you want a good fun album which is certainly something different, this is the way to go.

The Marshall Mathers LP
The Marshall Mathers LP
Price: CDN$ 8.00
67 used & new from CDN$ 3.16

1.0 out of 5 stars How The Mighty Have Fallen, April 20 2001
This review is from: The Marshall Mathers LP (Audio CD)
I got this album before anyone else who I know and man I was pleased. The one impression I wound up with from "Slim Shady" was that Eminem was a talented rapper who needed to release another album before I could form an opinion of him - well, here goes.
Eminem has seriously deteriorated from the potential he showed on his first album. On "Slim Shady" he was an angry young man with reasons to be angry and the ability to rap about it to a decent standrd. On "Marshall Mathers" he is an angry young man who seems to be angry at absolutely everything and instead of rapping about it he prefers to shout about it.
From what I've been able to find out, Eminem came to Dre's attention through his work at the Freestyle Olympics. I mention this because on this album there are several tracks which appear to have been freestyles - at least to begin with. Some parts of "The Real Slim Shady" and "Kill You" I'm certain started life this way and other parts probably did likewise. These verses - the songs don't continue their potential - are far and away the best parts of the album.
The tracks on this album can be roughly divided into three sections: those which sound good the first couple of times but then get annoying; those which start off annoying; and those which simply should never have been put out in the first place.
Surprisingly enough, the singles - apart from "Stan" - fit into the first category. "The Real Slim Shady" and "What I Am" are great the first few times you hear them, then you hear them all the time and get sick of them (same goes for tracks like "Kill You" and "Criminal").
The tracks with D-12 or members of it are quite interesting - they generally display the worst side of Eminem (the side which involves repeated strangled shouts), along with the terribly lacklustre rapping of the members of D-12. They round out the second category.
The third category contains tracks like "Stan" and "Kim". "Stan"'s only redeeming feature is the chorus - and even that is sampled from Dido - the reast of the song is profanity laced and generally repulsive (even for me, a listener of ICP). "Kim" is even worse - it borders on industrial music with its lack of melody, beat, rhythm or anything much else.
There are moments on this album which are quite interesting. Some of the humor hidden in "The Real Slim Shady" and "Criminal" is quite clever - but it is hardly worth the price of the album to get a few jokes here and there (there are cheaper ways of getting those songs).
It seems that either Eminem has discovered the world of fame and pop music or it has discovered him - either way the results are not enjoyable they just turn into another example of boring late-90s rap aimed squarely at youth and the pop charts.
After I bought "Slim Shady" I couldn't wait for the next Eminem release. After buying "Marshall Mathers" I don't think I'l be buying anything more from this guy.

311
311
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 34.70
9 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Just a bit away from top form, April 20 2001
This review is from: 311 (Audio CD)
I first got put onto 311 through their track "Down" but when I was in CD shops I could never remember the band who played it - just that chorus. Eventually - after buying "Soundsystem" as well - I stumbled on this gem of early rap-metal.
To a vast extent, it does need to be remembered that at the time this album was released, the rap-metal explosion hadn't happened yet and the idea of having frantic metal drumming and guitars with a rapper going over the top was still quite new. Without bagging this album - it can quite easily be seen that 311 are trying to work out the boundaries of the genre.
This has the effect of making the album slightly more of a grab-bag than it needed to be. On some tracks - especially "Down" - the ingredients come together perfectly and form a very potent mix of rap-metal with just a hint of dancehall reggae. On many other tracks - "DLMD" for example - it seems that the band has started with a great idea for a song but unfortunately the mix of styles has prevented the song from going anywhere much.
One of the biggest problems with this album is that none of the songs seems long enough. This isn't just due to the speed at which they are played - barely any make the 3 minute mark. This really makes the ideas seem a bit undeveloped and wanting.
That said, on each track there are elements which really foreshadow what 311 and rap-metal as a whole would eventually become in the years after this album was released. Listening to many groups now (Linkin Park being a good example), it is plain to see that 311 were onto something big with this album.
This makes a pretty interesting album if you're interested in seeing the early evolution of one of the biggest-selling styles of music today - the rabid 311 fan would also (obviously) love it. For someone just getting into rap-metal or 311, check out more recent stuff such as "Soundsystem" first.

Supernatural
Supernatural
Price: CDN$ 8.00
113 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars The Great (Unnecessary) Comeback, April 19 2001
This review is from: Supernatural (Audio CD)
Some artists never die - Santana among them. It is quite easy to listen to his work on albums from the 60s and think that they are as recent as last week. Unfortunately, Santana doesn't seem to think that this is enough - he actually wants to record an album which sounds and is as recent as last week.
A few weeks after I'd bought this album (I too enjoyed the guitar solos on "Smooth" and thought that the potential of the album was high) my teacher was talking about Carlos Santana - he actually said that if we hadn't already got this album, don't get it. The reasoning behind this being that in a few years time it wouldn't sound as fresh as it did - while his early work always will.
I didn't think that this was quite going to be the case but it is. My parents have some of the early work and I find myself listening to it and being amazed on an almost weekly basis - there is always something which I've missed - but I barely give "Supernatural" a run anymore.
That said, there are some marvellous moments on this album. The instrumentals and songs not featuring anyone are superb in parts - although they tend to get a bit boring after a while. Even some of the collaborations have their moments - Everlast's vocals, Mana's work and even the emotion that Product G&B (uncredited on my CD - I don't know why) bring to "Maria Maria" are probably worth a look. Even Dave Matthews (an artist who I generally dislike) puts in a good performance on "Love Of My Life". Of course, the Eric Clapton duet is justifiably great.
The problem that Santana has encountered here is that he can't decide whether to rest on his laurels and perform electrifying guitar solos or expand and perform with rappers and so on. This indecision shows through when he tries to perform with Lauryn Hill and Cee-Lo Goodie (the track really grates and should have been cut) - even Wyclef's comments on "Maria Maria" are unwarranted.
To sum up - there are some great things on this album, just not enough to make it worthwhile.

Devil Without a Cause
Devil Without a Cause
Price: CDN$ 10.00
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars So Much Potential - so little of it actually realised, April 18 2001
This review is from: Devil Without a Cause (Audio CD)
Firstly, a confession, yes I did buy this album because I'd heard "Bawitdaba" about 1000 times - yes that was pretty much the only reason why I bought it. Now onwards with the review.
On the surface of it, this album should be one of the better rap-metal cash cows of the late 90s - all the ingredients are here; Kid Rock (contrary to popular belief, a rapper from the 80s) with his justified anger, Twisted Brown Trucker - a band perfectly capable of keeping pace and volume with the louder metal groups of the era, and some very loud (possibly overplayed) riffs. The only problem is that Rock and friends seem more than content to rest on these credententials rather than using them as the basis of their music.
Kid Rock's delivery is generally superb, however one of the attractions of rap-metal is having the rapper actually rap - on many tracks, Rock just shouts his lyrics. Another problem is the fact that Rock consistently raps in an old school style - not a problem for most tracks but when taken over the length of the entire album the predictability of rhythm, cadence and subject matter (sample couplet: "I don't like small cars or real big women/but somehow I always find myself in 'em" - sentiments continued throughout the album) do wind up grating somewhat.
Twisted Brown Trucker seem to be suffering from a split personality problem on many of the tracks. It might be simply due to Rock's desire to cover so many musical bases (old school party rap to funk to metal to country and everything in between) but quite often the backing music is not as dynamic as perhaps it could be - even going some way to sounding derivative.
The memorable riffs might have gone some way to making the album the sales success it was (and still is) but there's really only so much you can do with them. Even the riffs on "Bawitdaba" get annoying after a while - even worse are the tracks which seem to have been built around a riff, they get to the "skip this track" stage far too quickly.
The last culprit here is Joe C. I fail to see what logic there is in putting him onto the tracks at all. The effect might be to beef up Rock's work on the title track but this doesn't work. What the actual effect of Joe's performance is can be summed up like this: "What on earth is a rapper even more profane than Rock doing on this track?". The other problem is that he sounds like he's about 5 years old - no matter how many fan sites say that he's 27 and a midget it isn't going to sway my view that Joe C should be at home in front of the Playstation.
That said, there are some tracks where everything seems to have come together (most of "Bawitdaba", "Welcome 2 Tha Party" and "Only God Knows Why" being the most obvious examples). These moments of brilliance hopefully point to a more cohesive album the next time these guys get together and record some new material - not "History Of Rock", I mean a proper release - hopefully sooner rather than later.

Panique Celtique
Panique Celtique
Price: CDN$ 16.50
21 used & new from CDN$ 4.79

5.0 out of 5 stars I Wish I Knew French, April 8 2001
This review is from: Panique Celtique (Audio CD)
Let me begin by being quite frank (OK, you be Frank, I'll be 3rdeadly3rd). While being a big fan of international music, I only have 1 or 2 French CDs - a disability which I should really up - and none of them (none of my CDs at all) come CLOSE to this in terms of sheer emotion.
I'm sure some of you are thinking: "French rap with Celtic instruments, how stupid can you get?" To those people I say listen to one or two of the tracks from this album however you can - and then see what you think. Without knowing much about what they're rapping about (the only French I know is the French I can pick up with linguistics knowledge) this sort of music can transport the listener to almost anywhere.
The opening track "La Tribu De Dana" is beautifully done. The hip-hop beats are marvellously downplayed in favour of cellos, violins and celtic instruments. By the time the second chorus comes up, I'm always singing as much as I can - sometimes even crying.
There are many other tracks like that on the album (the remix of "L'Avenir Et Un Long Passe", "Le Chien Du Forgeron" and "La Confession"). The first of these three has a subtle guitar part that works its way to the front as the rapper gets more worked up about famous people in the French resistance (well...that's what I translate it as), the second one has rapping over a harp - yes, I know that's crazy but it comes out as an absolutely spellbinding thing, the third has a lovely RnB/choir chorus in it.
As well as this, the album earns its hip-hop credentials with tracks like "Panique Celtique" which features some very hard edged rapping over what is possibly the only overt sample on the album. "Faux Pas Tiser En Bretagne" is another track with real hip-hop cred to it, this time with a call-and-response chorus which would probably work well live. The original version of "L'Avenir" provides an interesting counterpoint to the calm, celtic nature of the remix - the original being a straight, down-tempo assault-rap.
One of the best tracks on the album is "Mais Qui Est La Belette?" which is present in two mixes. Both are very up-beat with a lovely chorus (inspired by the traditional "La Joument De Michao"), however one version has a distinct taste of funk in it.
There is really no reason not to buy this album - unless you already have it.

Stankonia
Stankonia
Price: CDN$ 8.74
58 used & new from CDN$ 2.28

5.0 out of 5 stars From Start to Finish - A Real Experience, April 7 2001
This review is from: Stankonia (Audio CD)
I stayed off buying this album for a long time because all the music reviewers I read here in Australia were saying that it overreached itself and fell short on most of the tracks. After I heard "Ms Jackson" I couldn't stop myself from buying the album - even if just for that song.
"Stankonia" is completely different to most hip-hop albums around at the moment because it has lyrics which mean something - even if you can't tell what they mean, you know they mean something - and has essentially disposed of all the cliches of the genre. I don't quite know how they've done it, but the effect of listening to this is that hip-hop ceased to exist and Dre and Big Boi have built it up again from scratch.
If this is the case, they've done a very good job of creating it. The lyrics are top notch on all tracks and the music - where it matters - backs up the rapping perfectly.
On the subject of the lyrics, most of the tracks are purely there for lyrics rather than beats. "Ms Jackson" is a prime example of this - an incredibly minimal backing track with marvellously intricate lyrics flowing over the top. In the light of the music which has dominated the airwaves over the past decade - in which vocals almost seem an afterthought - it is a really refreshing change.
The only thing which does need work on this album is cutting down the skits. According to a few reviews I've read in the newspapers over here, they serve to give the listener time to catch up with what's going on - as far as I'm concerned, the listener doesn't need time to catch up until after the album is finished.
All the tracks on the album have moments which will stick in your mind for a long time. Among them are; the choruses of "Ms Jackson" and "Gasoline Dreams"; J Sweet's toasting; and the marvellous flow of lyrics on "Humble Mumble". That last song also has the interesting feature of having a pounding beat and also some of the most intelligent lyrics on the album ("do ya wanna live/or do ya wanna exist?" being the best example).
Regardless of what you think of hip-hop, buy this album. It will expand your mind while working your body.

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