- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Songs in Red and Gray
For her midlife crisis, Suzanne Vega has done something altogether sane and levelheaded. She has returned to the heartfelt folk-pop of her first two CDs. "Songs in Red and Gray" makes her relevant again.
Miss Vega triumphed with her smart debut and 1987 follow-up, which made her a star with an unlikely hit about child abuse, "Luka."
After a strong third album, she ventured into adventurous territory with husband and producer Mitchell Froom. She experimented with edgy, industrial sounds and promptly faded away. After 1990, she recorded only two studio albums.
Then, at 40, she got a divorce. From that pain comes this beautiful new work.
All but a few songs are delights, with the woodsy backing of only acoustic guitar or mandolin. Her voice is crisp and earnest, exactly as it was 15 years ago.
Her lyrics are dark poetry, especially poignant when she sings of her breakup on "If I Were a Weapon": "If you were a weapon/a hammer's what you'd be/blunt and heavy at the end/and coming down on me." AP

Born to Do It
(WEA/Atlantic Recording)
The crown prince of the electronic two-step sound, Craig David, has released his first album in the United States, "Born to Do It."
The 14-track album is a blend of the two-step sound, which emphasizes the second beat instead of the fourth, and an R&B; melody. Mr. David, whose work is popular in his native England, has been credited largely with introducing the two-step sound to a wider audience in the United States.
The first single, "Fill Me In," which has received generous radio airplay, peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song, which is about a guy secretly meeting with his girlfriend while her parents attempt to keep tabs on her, has an infectious chorus and a great beat.
The album also contains a second version of the song, called "Fill Me In (Part 2)." Creating new versions of the same song within one album has become popular lately. "Fill Me In (Part 2)" is a faster-paced song with a different sound and different lyrics than the first.
Other highlights on the album include the midtempo romantic track "Rendezvous" and the song "7 Days," which has a Latin and Caribbean feel to it. The song "Time to Party" is an upbeat dance track that is sure to be a hit on the club scene. Mr. David's lyrics he wrote or co-wrote all the songs are about falling in love, staying in love or losing love.
"Born to Do It" is filled with songs that will put listeners in the mood to dance and will also have them singing along.
Amy Baskerville

(Epiphany Records)
It's hard even to say what genre this CD is, other than solo piano (John Hodian) backed by a female vocalist (Bet Williams). The shining jewel is the second cut, "Lockerbie," done in the style of an American folk lament. Ethereal harmonies describe the descent of "the burning silver bird" from the sky that fateful December day in 1988 when terrorists blew apart a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.
This Joan Baez-like composition talks of the townsfolk who come to retrieve "a scarf, a hat, a coat, a ring/to give the loved ones back something." It's very haunting in view of the recent terrorist attacks in this country. One wonders what these composers would do at the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York.
The other cuts are engaging, but "Mission Bells," for instance, does not send a clear signal as to what is being said. Ditto with "Tubwahun." Clearer is "Long Gray Line," about a soldier growing old. The lyrics are good, but the melody is indifferent. The piece is followed by a nice piano interlude, however. "Widows Walk," about women fearing the loss of their loved ones at sea, has a Judy Collins feel to it.
"Goth" is a Latin "Spiritus Sanctus" chant by what sounds like a boys choir. The CD ends with a mysterious cut recorded to sound like an old 1940s record. My advice: There's good basic stuff here, but too often, the listener gets lost trying to figure out the deep meaning behind it all.
Julia Duin

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