- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2000

BOYZ II MENNathan Michael Shawn Wanya(Universal Records)Boyz II Men's new CD is a departure from two previous ballad-driven albums by the group and more reminiscent of its first album, "Motownphilly," which had danceable tracks.

The first track on this album, "Beautiful Women," is a mixture of the quartet's great harmony and a good dance beat. Although the song "Pass You By," the first single released from the album, has not done as well as expected on the charts, it is one of the better songs on the CD.

Track four, "Bounce, Shake, Move, Swing," is heavy on the dance beat and does not showcase vocal skills as much. However, the ballads "Never Go Away," "Thank You in Advance" and "I Do" are sure to please.

This new album, which all the guys in the group took part in writing, shows that their music has matured since they first broke onto the music scene.— Amy BaskervilleVARIOUS ARTISTSPicking on Shania Twain:An Instrumental Country TributeandPicking on Jimmy Buffett:A Bluegrass Tribute(CMH Records)

Whether the word "country" in the subtitle of "Picking on Shania Twain" was meant to tweak Miss Twain's brand of country-pop music for being more pop than country is not clear, but one thing's sure: "Picking On" is unabashedly country, and what a treat it is for country purists.

The disc's rousing opener — "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" — ladles generous helpings of Robby Turner's steel guitar and Joe Smith's fiddle over a shuffle beat that would be at home on a 1960s or '70s Ray Price or Johnny Bush record.

It doesn't stop there, either. Mr. Smith's mandolin gently leads listeners in on a sprightly "Dance With the One That Brought You," which then gives way to his fevered fiddling.

Indeed, from Mr. Smith's Charlie Daniels-style fiddling on "You Win My Love" to Kurt Mason's harmonica stylings reminiscent of Charlie McCoy on "Love Gets Me Every Time" and "Any Man of Mine," the playing of the 10 studio musicians performing on these 12 instrumental covers of Miss Twain's hits is superb throughout.

Most of those same instrumentalists are among the 12 who "take a trip to Margaritaville by way of Nashville" on "Picking on Jimmy Buffett." "Parrotheads" will find much to like here as a dozen of Mr. Buffett's tropical folk-rock ballads are given down-home makeovers.

Mr. Smith's mandolin and fiddle and Rob Ickes' Dobro capture the playful spirit of Mr. Buffett's signature song, "Margaritaville," which opens the disc, while Mr. Mason's loping harmonica carries along "Son of a Son of a Sailor" until David Talbot's banjo and Mr. Smith's fiddle pick up the tempo.

The longing of "Come Monday" is conveyed ably by Earl Palmer's acoustic guitar, aided and abetted by Dobro and mandolin, while on "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" — powered by Dennis Wage's piano and Pat Flynn's rhythm guitar — you can almost hear the waves washing up on Caribbean shores.

Regrettably, with the narrow, formulaic playlists of today's so-called hot country radio stations, neither disc is likely to get much airplay. For fans of real country music, both are well worth asking for at your favorite record store. — Peter ParisiBONNIE RIDEOUTAND THE CITY OFWASHINGTON PIPE BAND

Scottish Rant(Maggie's Music Inc.)

Listening to a full CD of bagpipe music can be a little numbing, which is why the City of Washington Pipe Band brought in famed Alexandria fiddler Bonnie Rideout to lighten things up.

Lighten she does. The band's rendition of "Amazing Grace" starts with Miss Rideout on solo fiddle, building up to a blowout performance by the band, which came in first last year in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Miss Rideout has been collaborating with the band since 1997. Her "Lark in the Morning," amid a jig and hornpipes number, is especially nice.

One of the best compositions on this album is "Dunblane," a lament for the 16 children and teacher killed by a crazed gunman at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, on March 13, 1996. The event, similar in impact to America's Columbine High School shootings in April 1999, fostered this melodic, graceful combination of pipes and violin.

Other cuts on this album include the old chestnut "Scotland the Brave," "The Recruits," "Stuart's Rant" and "Mist-Covered Mountains," played at President Kennedy's funeral.— Julia DuinFERNANDO ORTEGA

Home (Myrrh Records)

About every two years, this soft-spoken musician from Laguna, Calif., comes out with another thoughtful CD. "Home" is his eighth.

The artist, who plays solo piano and has just started learning accordion, sees things a bit differently from some of his glitzier counterparts in the Christian music world. "Old Girl" is about the bag ladies who haunt the steps and imagination of anyone frequenting America's cities. "Lonely Road" is about how he misses his wife while on road trips.

The balladlike "Virginia Rose" is not about a lithesome lass, but about his manager's 3-year-old daughter. Mr. Ortega subscribes to the school of thought that not all Christian music has to be about spiritual topics, which is why he writes about sunsets, human love and loneliness. He often tosses in a few hymns, however, and this set ends with "Give Me Jesus," a very nice ballad.

Mr. Ortega, who was born in New Mexico, slowly has built a following that appreciates his Spanish-flavored, often melancholy and sparse presentations, which talk of suffering, life's ambiguities and bright heaven's welcome that awaits all believers.— J.D.BOBBY BROWNGreatest Hits (MCA)

The man known as the R&B; bad boy is back. Bobby Brown has resurfaced and is doing what his wife did a few months ago. That's right, he's releasing a compilation album titled simply "Greatest Hits."

It includes all the tracks that made Mr. Brown, "Bobby" — minus New Edition. Old school fans will remember "Every Little Step," "Don't Be Cruel" and the song that arguably established him as a serious solo artist — "My Prerogative." His better half, Whitney Houston, even joins him, in the 1992 duet "Something in Common." Mr. Brown begins the song by saying, "This is dedicated to those who don't believe in real love, especially our love."

The album serves as a reminder that Mr. Brown was one of the first to rap and sing successfully on one song. This is heard on both "Girl Next Door" and "On Our Own," to name a few.

"Greatest Hits" unfortunately doesn't include any new work from Bobby B — it is common for an artist to add a few new tracks when presenting a greatest-hits collection. Nevertheless, Mr. Brown has put together a decent album.— Quintin J. SimmonsMARIA MCKEEUltimate Collection (Hip-O)

Maria McKee and Lone Justice aren't as popular as they should be. While still intact, the group was endorsed by some heavyweight bands.

"Maria McKee: Ultimate Collection" documents Miss McKee's turns as front woman for Lone Justice and as a solo singer — and might offer insight for why the group didn't gain more of a following. The songs all stand out, if only because of Miss McKee's powerful singing, but the CD is a schizophrenic mix of genres.

"Ways to Be Wicked," a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover, plays as though the original vocal track simply was lifted and Miss McKee sang over the remaining music. "Don't Toss Us Away" definitely is a by-the-book, "tear-in-my-beer" type country song. "Sweet Sweet Baby (I'm Falling)" is loud, arena-type rock, and "Shelter" is slower and synthesized. "Sweet Jane" is a live, note-for-note cover of one of Velvet Underground's signature songs.

For lack of a better word, there is no justice in neglecting the rest of the Lone Justice and Maria McKee catalog and settling on one album that tries to encompass her many voices in 17 songs.— Kate Royce

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