- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 11, 2000

DWIGHT YOAKAMTomorrow's Sounds Today(Reprise)

You won't hear much fat or gristle when you pop in a Dwight Yoakam CD. The Kentucky native's music strips away all unnecessary strings, cymbals and pretense to reveal songs that prick the heart as easily as the ears.

His latest offering serves up another lean, luxurious collection of country tunes. But this time 'round, the singer-songwriter follows a more cautious path. Though fitfully compelling, the album fails to match 1998's stunning "A Long Way Home," Mr. Yoakam's last batch of originals.

The opener, "Love Caught Up to Me," just misses being a slam-bang kickoff. Its unconventional structure, something more than a few other songs here can't boast, does lend its tale of a stubborn lover emotional heft.

"What Do You Know About Love," the first single, is vintage Mr. Yoakam — playful with a twist of lip-puckering bitterness. "Free to Go" and "For Love's Sake" both shine despite disparate tempos, and "A Place to Cry" comes off as a reasonably rockabilly tune. But "Time Spent Missing You" lacks the poignancy of his previous ballads.

Listeners will have to wade through 10 tracks before finding the album's golden nugget, the superlative "A World of Blue." Simple, with elegiac wordplay, "Blue" wallows in Mr. Yoakam's honeysuckle vocals. A prettier country tune would be hard to find.

Mr. Yoakam's knack for cover material still rings true as he wraps that golden voice around Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." New life flows into the rock chestnut with every steel guitar lick, even if the band's long-maned fans might decry Mr. Yoakam's country caterwauling.

The album wraps with two "Bonus Bucks," a pair of duets with Mr. Yoakam's idol, Buck Owens. The breezy tracks find Mr. Yoakam overpowering his 71-year-old mentor, but the songs' playfulness makes such sins forgivable.

At times, "Tomorrow's Sounds Today" comes off too much like Mr. Yoakam coasting on his copious musical gifts. Perhaps his upcoming "South of Heaven, West of Hell" film, which he directed, co-wrote and stars in, drained a bit of energy from the album's songwriting sessions.

— Christian Toto

CHANGING FACESVisit Me (Atlantic Records)

History has shown us that the women of Changing Faces are not the type to bite their tongues — and the two don't disappoint on this, their third CD.

The album opens with the title track, "Visit Me," and is followed by the single "That Other Woman." Both songs are hot. As mentioned, Cassandra Lucas and Charisse Rose speak their minds. "Baby U Ain't Got Me" demonstrates this perfectly. The two sing, "I'm not impressed with all those things you own/Save that for some chick who don't know/I want a man who's got it going on up top."

The pair also have included songs such as "That Ain't Me" and "More Than a Friend." These two tracks display the singers' vocal skills and show that the duo really can harmonize.

Well-known rhythm-and-blues singers R. Kelly and Joe contribute to the album by being part of the writing staff, which almost guarantees that the CD will be successful. In addition, rappers Queen Pen and Lil' Mo are heard as they each lay down a couple of verses.

"Visit Me" is filled with those clublike, up-tempo songs that will have you singing along in no time. Fans of Changing Faces will be happy to know that the group hasn't changed much at all.

— Quintin J. Simmons

VARIOUS ARTISTSThe Best of International Hip-Hop (Hip-O Records)

Like jazz and blues before it, hip-hop started as a black American art form but has found wide acceptance in the culture. But only recently did hip-hop follow its cultural ancestors to become a worldwide phenomenon.

The results are quite fascinating, if somewhat erratic.

Hip-O Records' new collection of hip-hop from all over the world is a terrific snapshot of how this music has spread across the globe, from Portugal to Israel to Japan. The 14 tracks from 14 countries in 12 languages is a wonderful curiosity and a must-have for fans of rap and hip-hop.

Rapping is not a skill that translates into every language. French — in the form of Switzerland's Sens Unik and the French IPM — and Hebrew — from Israel's Shabak Samech — sound a little odd but grow on you. Arabic's guttural fast pace forces singers into a raging and staccato delivery reminiscent of Mad Cobra's manic, reggae-inflected work.

Some of this work is breathtakingly good. The languid and haunting "Agite" by El Sindicato Argentino del Hip-Hop deserves to be a stateside hit. Mr. Mann & Pointblank, from South Africa, create an instant classic with a ferocious old-school rap over a haunting vocal version of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Fur Elise."

The only flat-out flop on the disc is the only other English-language piece, "Feline Forces," by Australia's Trey & Beats-R-Us. It sounds like amateur night at the hip-hop karaoke club. Skip track 12 at all costs.

— Sean Scully

TOMAS SVOBODAPiano Trios(North Pacific Music)

Recorded in Prague, this album is a mixture of traditional and contemporary music. Composed by Czech-American Tomas Svoboda and performed along with Lubomir Havlak on violin and Jitka Vlasankova on cello, "Piano Trios" is an easy listen.

Track one, "Trio, Op. 116," is a tribute to the late artist Vincent van Gogh. Mr. Svoboda says he felt the suffering of Van Gogh when he read at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City the artist's letters to Van Gogh's brother Theo. The first movement of this piece begins with the slow haunting sounds of the violin and cello. In the second movement, the eerie sounds of the piano turn into a fast and furious pace as Van Gogh's brush strokes must have done when they hit the canvas. The third movement again slows the pace down, while the fourth movement picks up the tempo and ends on a dramatic note as Van Gogh's life did when he shot himself.

"Phantasy, Op. 120" is a one-movement piece that begins fast and airy. This piece in particular shows off Mr. Svoboda's skillful hands on the piano. "Passacaglia and Fugue, Op. 87" offers a moderate tempo and is a more traditional classical piece that listeners will like.

Mr. Svoboda began his piano training at age 3 and went on to compose his first symphony at 16. His work is deeply intense and takes the listener on a memorable, enjoyable musical journey.— Amy Baskerville


Glo (Sparrow Records)

This may be the best CD yet from this British rock group, whose music has provided some of the more creative contemporary Christian music of the past decade. Packaged in trendy light orange and chartreuse wrappings, "Glo" just keeps getting better and better. Opening with Benedictine monks chanting, it morphs into the rock Christian anthem "God, You Are My God" and flows into the lyrical "God's Romance." Very cool.

Delirious' appeal is heightened by a classic rock sound that attracts the over-30 set as well as the Gen-X'ers, at whom this is aimed. The group is known for writing songs people can sing to and worship to. Case in point is "Awaken the Dawn," which ends with bagpipes, a quasi-exotic touch. "The Years Go By," another nice song, sounds as if it could have been written by a 60-year-old, with its wistful look at years spent following the Lord.

The last cut, "Jesus' Blood," is a thoughtful meditation on the blood of Jesus, ending with an orchestral meditation that has a Japanese flavor. So many songs on this album are good. — Julia Duin

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