- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2000

ROSEMARY CLOONEY
Brazil, with John Pizzarelli (Concord)

For reasons I've never understood, Rosemary Clooney's immense singing talents have been largely ignored in recent years. You seldom hear her name mentioned with those of her peers such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. Perhaps that's the price she has paid for first achieving acclaim with a nonsensical ditty like "C'mon-A My House."
Nearly a half-century later at the age of 72, Miss Clooney finally should receive her due because of "Brazil," probably her best album ever and one of the year's most notable jazz offerings.
Although Miss Clooney surrounds herself with jazz superstars, the album is unmistakably hers. Despite a hint of vibrato on some notes, her smoky voice has retained most of its power and subtlety, a rare combination.
Most of the tunes were written by the late Antonio Carlos Jobim, the man who jump-started bossa nova in the 1960s, and Miss Clooney handles them as well as Mr. Sinatra did on a 1967 album of Mr. Jobim's material. She gets plenty of help, too. Diana Krall joins for a saucy duet on "The Boy From Ipanema," and Chauncy Welsch contributes a wonderful opening trombone solo on "Once I Loved." On all the tunes, Mr. Jobim's and otherwise, John Pizzarelli swings marvelously with his seven-string guitar — and even sings a couple songs very well.
The set includes two lively tunes I wasn't familiar with, "Let Go" and "Waters of March." On softer numbers such as "Quiet Nights" and "How Insensitive," Miss Clooney finds every nuance. On the irresistibly nutty "One-Note Samba," she and Mr. Pizzarelli are delightful in a vocal duet.
This is an album to be cherished by nearly everyone who appreciates good music tastefully done. If Miss Clooney has reclaimed the spotlight after years in the entertainment shadows, it's about time. — Dick Heller


CHRIS KEUP
The Subject of Some Regret (Grantham Dispatch Records)

Washingtonian Chris Keup shows his mastery of lyrical and sonic elegance on his debut album, "The Subject of Some Regret."
Mr. Keup, 25, has assembled a solid group of backing musicians, including elements from Virginia staples Dave Matthews Band and Bruce Hornsby and the Range. He also has help from jazz master John D'earth, a fixture on Charlottesville's vibrant music scene.
His album combines those musicians into a sonically complex and enigmatic tapestry that mixes well with Mr. Keup's growling delivery, indistinguishable at times from cult favorite Tom Waits.
Therein, however, lies the central problem with Mr. Keup's new album — he always sounds like someone else. In fact, an uniformed listener might reasonably conclude that he was hearing Mr. Waits singing with the Dave Matthews Band.
It's a good album — perhaps better than most debuts — but Mr. Keup needs an equally solid and even more original follow-up to prove that he is more than just a skilled and sincere imitator.— Sean Scully


SPOCK'S BEARD
V (Radiant Records)

If you are mourning the late King Crimson, or wishing Rush and Yes could return to their prog-rock heydays, you are in for some good news.
Progressive rock is not dead — it is living quietly in Los Angeles under the assumed name of Spock's Beard. The L.A. quintet's ninth release, known as "V," has all the elements of those bands at their prime — the pomp, the cryptic name (derived perhaps from a classic "Star Trek" episode known as "Mirror Mirror" — look it up), the inscrutable lyrics and even the surreal cover art.
All in all, Spock's Beard is pretty good if you're into concept albums packed with 15-minute tunes. By and large, the group hews to the classic art rock form, but once in a while it proves its modernity with an oblique reference to thrash-rock of Primus or pop-hop of Limp Bizkit.
So if the old Klaatu record is worn thin and you just can't find a replacement, grab a handful of "V." — S.S.


ULTIMATE FAKEBOOK
This Will Be Laughing Week (Epic/550 Music)

Formed by two third-cousins from Kansas, Ultimate Fakebook is the ultimate caricature of a modern indie-rock band — members play three chords, wear thrift-store clothing and sing about high school crushes.
This formula only works for so long, and on its first major label release the trio of vocalist-guitarist Bill McShane, drummer Eric Melin and bassist Nick Colby fails to stand out from the crowd of other alternative rock bands.
The album is designed as a mock high-school yearbook, and its songs sample a lot of familiar territory — the pain of being a teen-ager in love, already done better by bands such as Ben Folds Five. Even the best songs, such as the peppy, wailing rock anthem "Tell Me What You Want," and the bittersweet, emotional "A Million Hearts," feature simple and predictable hooks, such as "I'm still in love, but I'm one of a million hearts you'll someday break."
A tad more originality would have helped these three take their music out of its high school origins and into the big leagues.— Derek Simmonsen


ERICK ONASIS
Def Squad Presents Erick Onasis (DreamWorks)

Erick Sermon is all about rebirth these days.
First, the "E" from EPMD, the defunct group responsible for 1992 rap anthem "Crossover," professes to find religion on the spoken-word track "Sermon." Then he changes his surname to Onasis for this solo album, signifying his new outlook on life.
And last, through the wonders of modern technology, Mr. Sermon resurrects NWA founding member Eazy E (who died in 1995 from complications resulting from AIDS) on the track "So Sweet." Of course, Eazy E never was much as a rapper, and this sample, which mostly involves him repeating the silly line "Being a gangsta is so neat, feel the beat from the street" over and over, comes off as nothing but absurd.
Like "So Sweet," the remainder of the album doesn't benefit from Mr. Sermon's rejuvenation. Nearly every song features a guest or two, such as Slick Rick and fellow Def Squad members Redman and Keith Murray, but those friends only serve to make Mr. Sermon's flow look poor by comparison. The beats are serviceable, but that's more than can be said about the album as a whole. — Scott Silverstein


6GIG Tincan Experiment(Ultimatum Music)

Finding a group that can break out of the crowd and carve out a distinctive sound is refreshing in this era glutted with punk-flavored pop bands.
The new export form Portland, Maine, 6gig manages to combine all the elements — crunching guitars, angry loser-punk lyrics and smashing drums — into a satisfying debut album. 6gig has enough edge to satisfy the angry core of the skate-punk audience, yet it has the musicianship and ear for production that will draw in traditional heavy-metal and rock fans.
Although the band was signed to a record contract only in April, it has a couple of songs poised for mainstream success. The first three songs on the album (the best tracks, as it turns out) are making ripples in different realms: "Method" has been picked up by ESPN for its "X Games" show, "Hit the Ground" is headed for the soundtrack for the movie "Stalk," and the song "5" has become a request staple on Portland-area radio.
If any young band deserves success in this jampacked field, it is 6gig. — Sean Scully

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