CD reviews

BabyfaceFace2Face

Singer, songwriter, producer, ad entrepreneur Kenneth “Baby Face” Edmunds has been noted as one of the most gifted, popular and influential figures to emerge in pop music during the past two decades. With over 100 million units in solo global sales and over 10 million sales as writer and/or co-producer for such artists as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Joe, Eric Clapton, Madonna, Toni Braxton, and Aretha Franklin amongst others, it is obvious why. Babyface also heads up his own label LaFace, on which has brought such acts as Pink and Usher to stardom and his career achievements include a handful of awards, including three Grammys for producer of the year.

Babyface’s sixth full-length solo release, however, is unfortunately is not as impressive as his resum. He seems to have shifted his musical styling to a new, more mainstream audience in an obvious attempt to sell. Looking at his record sales, this approach was not successful. The 14-track, 59-minute LP features only one guest appearance: Snoop Dogg. An interesting choice for Babyface, but a good one for the track on which he appears: “Baby’s Mama.”

The remainder of the disk houses typical love ballad I-wish-I-was-your-man lyrics we’ve come to know with Babyface, but Face2Face seems less musically mature than one would expect. It does add a slightly new flavour by taking on the ‘70s funk, Marvin Gaye-type jams he’s incorporated into many of his projects. You may find yourself shaking you groove thang to tracks like “There She Goes” and “Stressed Out,” but I suggest you save the remainder for the self-loathing-why-me stage after a bad break-up. (Arista)

— Jenn Andrus

Vincent Gallo

When

Vincent Gallo is a talented actor, writer, director, a sometime CK model and now apparently he is also a musician. I must say I did not know this. It does not surprise me, however, that the man seems to do everything. He wrote, directed and starred in the critically lauded Highway 61. Now he seems to have taken this do it yourself ethic and applied it to his music as well.

Just like his movies, he has written, performed and produced this debut CD himself. Judging by the quality contained in this CD he may have just finally stretched himself a little too far. Low-key, arty, acoustic type music has never been my thing. Vincent Gallo, well, he makes low-key, arty, acoustic type music. It is slow, it is introspective and thank God it was only ten songs.

If you have never heard of Vincent Gallo and would like to experience his work, please don’t buy this album. Instead go rent Highway 61 and pray for Vincent’s music loving soul. (Warp)

— Mark Flindall

Long Beach Dub All-Stars

Wonders of the World

The Long Beach Dub All-Stars have come a long way in the last few years. Founding members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh started the band as a tribute to their dead friend and Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell. Now two albums later they and their friends are still together and making music.

The new album follows much the same formula as the first with a revolving door of guest appearances and a large core collective of seven members. It is also the welcome return of producer Paul Leary who worked on Sublime’s acclaimed self titled album shortly before Bradley Nowell’s death. His presence gives the CD a clean, crisp sound which is a big change from the DIY ethic (and sound) of the first album.

The most notable guest appearance on the album comes from Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas. He shows up on the first single, and stand out cut “Sunny Hours”, which is soon followed by the mellow reggae of “Listen to DJ’s”. The infectious melodies and positive vibe continue throughout the album while incorporating such disparate elements as punk, reggae, hip-hop, dub and dancehall.

It’s amazing to see a band filled with white and Latino guys pull off traditional black music like reggae and dancehall because of their obvious love of the music rather than doing it because it’s fashionable at the moment. This is a band doing what they want to do, doing it well, and making some amazing music.(Dreamworks/Universal)

— Mark Flindall

Nik Kershaw

To Be Frank

Commencing with a Ricky Martin-type jam, complete with salsa-style trumpets, I must admit that I was a little skeptical when I popped in Kershaw’s To Be Frank.

My first impression was some Ricky Martin meets Matchbox 20 wannabe, but upon further examination I realized how wrong I was. Kershaw’s first release was in 1984, with a disk by the name of Human Racing. Since then, Kershaw has released eight LPs and a handful of singles. To Be Frank is a nice balanced mix of bluesey ballads, and pop-rock tracks that call out to ex-girlfriends “When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Gets Going.” Songs like “Die Laughing”, and “All is Fair” are complemented by the acoustic flavour of Kershaw many years of work and experience. Calling all Blue Rodeo and Everclear fans, this one is worth a listen.

Unfortunately this may be the last time we here from Kershaw in a awhile, as last month he announced publicly that due to disappointing sales of To Be Frank along with lack of interest, he’s not going to release another LP. He may still release on his web site and he plans to continue to write and work with a few new bands. (EMI)

— Jenn Andrus

LFO

Life Is Good

This is a great album for the end of a summer car trip or unpacking back to school gear. Lyrically, LFO has never been the strongest band (“Summer Girls” was a great summer tune, but the lyrics to that song have no logic at all.) Still, this band has catchy songs that the listener can’t help but sing along to.

I’m a huge Internet geek, and as such I rarely purchase an album because I create my own CDs. When I do pay for an album, it’s for a copy of the lyrics or other artist info within the booklet. With this LFO album, there are no lyrics, only some thank you’s from the artists. How boring!

“28 Days” has a funky rework of the classic hip hop tune “Engine #9.” Generally, I dislike artists messing with my memories of classic songs, however LFO manages to create a short segment on this track that was a pleasant surprise.

“Erase Her” is a nice mellow dance track, which has some potential to cross over onto the club charts (watch for it be released and remixed for clubs shortly). “Dandelion” is reminiscent of some of Moby’s mellow material.

The pleasant surprise is MOP performing on the title track. It is impressive to hear their musical ability on a “rock” track — like “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and RUN DMC.

There are a couple strong points and some pleasant surprises, but LFO needs to hire a new lyricist. (BMG)

— Ryan McNeill

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