- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2001


The Dave Matthews Band never seemed to aim to write traditional pop songs, but its tunes always made their way onto the radio and up the charts.

The group's melding of jazz, rock and folk put it squarely into the jam-band genre, usually celebrated by nouveau hippies.

But the band crossed over into pop territory, making it one of the few groups not formed in the 1960s (such as the Rolling Stones) able to sell out stadiums.

On the group's newest CD, "Everyday," the quintet plugs in for a more hard-edged sound than its earlier, more whimsical acoustic efforts. The early CDs married light, danceable melodies to sometimes melancholy lyrics, but the new disc's music is darker to match the words' wistfulness.

There are few pop-ready tunes on this album, few choruses to match the hum-ability of an "Ants Marching" or "Crash Into Me." The CD's strongest songs, "Angel" and "The Space Between" would fit in easily on earlier collections.

Mr. Matthews' voice remains the group's most powerful instrument, soaring with longing one moment and dipping to a plaintive growl the next. The band also remains precise even as it switches tempo and tone within the space of each song.

The music industry machine has gone into full marketing mode to push "Everyday," with the first single, "I Did It," on every radio station whose format permits. Not all the material — notably this single — matches the hype.

But good for Dave and the gang for experimenting. This CD lacks the effervescence of their other work, but shows a new facet of the band. However dubious the plugged-in path might be, this is a talented group of musicians putting out a listenable piece of work.— Julie HymanHANS ZIMMERHannibal soundtrack(Decca Records/Universal)

Composer Hans Zimmer has accomplished the envy of all fictional psychologists: He has gotten into Hannibal Lecter's head.

Mr. Zimmer, nominated this year for an Academy Award for the score for "Gladiator," creates a moody, intellectual soundtrack for "Hannibal," one that Lecter himself might have arranged with his playful calculation.

Lecter plays a big role throughout the score. Anthony Hopkins' rendition of a letter to FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore), backed by the Libera Boys Choir, brings the soundtrack to a chilling start. Mr. Hopkins lends his voice to two other tracks.

Lecter makes appearances in more subtle ways. The second track, "Aria da Capo," from Johann Sebastian Bach's "Goldberg Variations" and performed by Glenn Gould, appears because Lecter plays it on the piano. The final song, "Vide Cor Meum," includes a libretto from "La Vita Nuova," the opera Lecter attends in Italy.

Sure, this won't garner Mr. Zimmer another Oscar nod; the backlash from the movie likely took care of that. But Mr. Zimmer manages to delve into the dark heart of Lecter. Plus, who can resist the way Lecter says, "Tata," before the explosion by the orchestra at the end?— Scott SilversteinVARIOUS ARTISTSGrammy Nominees 2001, Grammy R&B;/Rap Nominees 2001 (Explicit Lyrics)(Capitol Records)

If you cannot get enough of the Grammys or just want to know what all the fuss was about on Grammy night Feb. 21, then check out these CDs.

"Grammy Nominees 2001" contains the top nominated songs in the pop categories. This eclectic mix includes Madonna's "Music," Barenaked Ladies' "Pinch Me" and Christina Aguilera's "What a Girl Wants." This Grammy compilation also contains Macy Gray's "I Try," which won for best female pop vocal performance; U2's "Beautiful Day," which won three awards, including best song; and another big Grammy winner, Steely Dan, with "Cousin Dupree."

The "Grammy R&B;/Rap Nominees 2001" album includes Toni Braxton, best female R&B; vocal performance winner, with "He Wasn't Man Enough" and rap winner Eminem with "The Real Slim Shady," which also appears on the other CD. Listeners should realize, though, this album contains the explicit lyrics for most of the rap songs.— Amy BaskervilleVITAMIN CMore Vitamin C (Elektra)

This CD will leave you wanting a glass of orange juice.

The title is misleading because you aren't getting more Vitamin C. What you're getting is something entirely different from the singer's last hit, "The Graduation Song: Friends Forever," which was so catchy it probably will be played in connection with graduations until the end of time. The lyrics to Vitamin C's latest songs are almost laughable. One song begins with the singer telling us, "Hey, you want to know something? Boys like girls." Thanks, sunshine.

The album leads off with a song called "The Itch," whose chorus goes like this: "I'm feeling the itch again/ I need to get tricked again/ I'm starting to twitch again/ I feel the itch again." Vitamin C seems more interested in proving she can sort of rhyme than in creating a song that says something.

The few tracks that work for her are the slower ones that bear a resemblance to her last hit. The song "That Was Then, This Is Now," with lyrics that actually make sense, seems like it belongs on a different CD.— Jenine ZimmersVARIOUS ARTISTSLong Strange Trip: Swingin' and Pickin' on the Grateful Dead (CMH Records)

Having a Grateful Dead tribute album chock-full of the band's songs played with mandolins, acoustic guitars and Dobros seems fitting.

The Dead — before electric guitars and mammoth drum sets became its instruments of choice — was a bluegrass band.

This is a three-disc set that has some brilliant bluegrass and folk musicians playing Dead tunes like Jerry would have liked to hear them — the late Jerry Garcia, that is.

Two of the discs are dedicated to playing songs such as "Lady With a Fan," "Casey Jones" and "Touch of Grey," with steel and wood acoustic instruments such as fiddles, pedal steel guitars, dulcimer and a Jack Daniel's cardboard box (not sure what this is, but it sounded good).

The third disc — which is the "swingin' " part of the set — is an interesting combination of sounds. Mixing jazzy horns and a big band sound with the mellowness of Dead classics, such as "Friend of the Devil," produces an image of bassist Phil Lesh and Jerry hopping around on a stage with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra or Glenn Miller at a World War II-era social dance.

Although the "Swingin' " disc is a joy to listen to, the "Pickin' " discs with their guitar flat-picking and earthy sound are more true to what the Dead was as a band.

Not surprisingly, three of the Dead's songs covered the best — "Uncle John's Band," "Box of Rain" and "Ripple" — are some of the most memorable of the band's acoustic songs.

Those songs, too, are from the Dead's earlier days in the 1960s when the group was better remembered for its smooth vocal harmonies than the guitar effects and light shows.

The musicians on this album live true to the Dead's folk and bluegrass roots, creating an album any Deadhead would be proud to have in his collection.— Dan Drummond R.L. BURNSIDEWish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down (Fat Possum)

A well-connected fan who also happened to be a popular musician named Jon Spencer brought 74-year-old R.L Burnside out of obscurity and into the consciousness of anybody with a clue and some healthy curiosity.

When Mr. Spencer played on Mr. Burnside's "… Pocket of Whiskey" in 1995, the die was cast and Mr. Burnside has been touring with a full pocket ever since.

Perhaps his biggest breakthrough was the featuring of his 1998 single "It's Bad You Know" on "The Sopranos" soundtrack.

Mr. Burnside's raw, Deep South sound is enhanced by his penchant for loops and scratching, a mastered marriage that purists will eschew. Let them, and leave Mr. Burnside for those who know better. This is his best overall effort, and for a man who started recording in 1967, it's a coup of some degree.— Steve Miller

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