- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2002

The Crossing
Prepare for a lovely cruise of 62 minutes and 51 seconds with nine tunes all composed by Mr. Brubeck. (The album cover features the prow of an ocean liner from a sea-level perspective.)
Even my wife, Mary Ann, who's not especially fond of jazz, remarked on what beautiful music provided background for a recent Saturday evening meal at home.
The album cuts are "The Crossing," "Day After Day," "Mariel," "All My Love," "Por Que No? (Why Not?)," "Chasin' Yourself," "Bessie," "Randy Jones" and "Hold Fast to Dreams." Backing up Mr. Brubeck on the piano are Bobby Militello on the alto sax and flute, Alec Dankworth on bass and Randy Jones on drums.
In an interview with Bob Blumenthal for the liner notes Mr. Brubeck, who has been making music for five decades and constantly composes on the go, says that "'The Crossing' is a metaphor for the influences that have come into jazz from various cultures and, in turn, jazz's impact on other music, so that there is a constant exchange and 'crossover.'"
The album, the octogenarian says, combines two great passions jazz and travel. Most of the selections also have personal touches. "Day After Day" was composed on Mr. Militello's 50th birthday, and "Mariel" is dedicated to one of Mr. Brubeck's grandchildren. "All My Love" honors his wife of 59 years, Iola, and was composed on a vacation in Maui, Hawaii. "Bessie" is dedicated to his mother and "Chasin' Yourself" to Mr. Dankworth. "Randy Jones," of course, refers to his drummer. Merle F. Jacobsen

Natural Man/Classical Lou
(Universal Records)
It's hard to beat the introduction of the cover notes by Bill Dahl in conveying the essence of Mr. Rawl's singing. "No R&B-rooted; singer of the 1960s and '70s presented more of a suave, velvet-smooth persona than Lou Rawls," he writes.
This album contains 15 songs. The last, "Dead End Street," probably Mr. Rawls signature tune, refers to the city of his birth Chicago where he was born Dec. 1, 1935. He got his start at age 7 singing gospel in a Baptist church and recalls going as part of a teen-age quartet, among other places, "to Detroit, like to Aretha Franklin's father's church." He also cites Sam Cooke, for whom he sang background and backup, as playing an important role in his career.
The 14 other cuts include "A Natural Man," a Grammy winner; "When I Fall in Love"; "I'm a King Bee," filled with double-entendres; "Got to Get You Into My Life," a Beatles tune; "His Song Shall Be Sung"; and "Watch What Happens," by Michel Legrand. The others are "Sophisticated Lady," by Duke Elliington; "Walk On In," by Carole King; "A Song for You," by Leon Russell; "Evil," by Stevie Wonder; "Morning Comes Around"; "Tobacco Road"; "Down Here on the Ground"; and "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing."
This is smooth listening. Mr. Rawls croons with the ease and effortlessness of the late Dean Martin.M.F.J.

(Riddim House Productions)
(Kid Arnold Records)
Fowl Records is fast emerging as one of the leading record-label distributors in the mid-Atlantic region and a quick look at its stable of artists shows why. Signed to the label are Laughing Colors, the Kelly Bell Band, Live Alien Broadcast and label founders Jimmie's Chicken Shack; among the bands distributed are Margret Heater, Buzz Poets and Cactus Patch all hot acts in the Baltimore-D.C. area.
Two of the latest bands to gain distribution through Fowl show why it's at the top of its game. Jah Works and Doug Segree may self-produce their own albums (on their own labels), but Fowl Records gets the records in stores and makes sure people know about them.
Jah Works, one of the best reggae acts in the country, adds to its growing legend with its fifth album "Bassmentality," a mix of party rhythms, socially conscious lyrics and deep grooves that could easily win more converts to the merits of reggae.
The eight-piece Baltimore band demonstrates that a band can give homage to God, moan over heartbreak and still get a party kickin'. Scott Paynter's vocals roll easily over Mike Hamilton's bass lines, combined with Kevin Gorman's sunny guitar licks and the skillful keys of Brian Gorman.
Highlights are the soulful "Kneel and Pray," the celebratory "Happy Days" and "Dancefloor," a club-ready track that shows how far the band can stray from its "reggae" niche.
Not only are Jah Works and Doug Segree distributed through Fowl, but both share the same producer, Steve Wright. Mr. Wright's ear for catchy pop hooks certainly serves Mr. Segree well on his sophomore effort, "Turn." While not nearly as confident as Jah Works, Mr. Segree still shows he can craft a good rock song, as the Annapolis native moves away from his acoustic roots into the realm of alternative rock.
The highlight is the radio-friendly "Christine," a simple, power-chord-heavy pop anthem that makes it hard not to bob your head along by the second verse. Unfortunately, not every track matches that song's sheer fun, with low notes being the unremarkable ballad "Are You With Me Now?" and the grungy "Better Side."
Derek Simmonsen

Hillsong Music Australia
(Integrity Inc.)
"Overwhelmed" is an apt title, considering the lavish emotionality this album exudes.
Darlene Zschech, the sweetheart of the Hillsong outpouring, models the cover of the CD with the impassioned expression that can be seen on any of at least five other albums where her face is the centerpiece.
The title track, which she sings, is slow and plaintive perhaps the only track on the CD with any real traces of freshness or originality.
The rest of the songs are predictable melodies. For the most part, they stick to over-used patterns of rhythm, chord progression, and patterns of melody and harmony. The album does not display any significant characteristics that distinguish it from any other of the other worship albums widely available in mainstream Christianity.
The songs in "Overwhelmed" leave one with the distinct impression of having just read a sappy love letter in which the writer focuses on how her lover made her feel inside. Such phrases as "My spirit soars when my heart meets yours" and "My heart burns" are scattered liberally throughout the album.
One notable exception to this self-focused emotive theme is the song "For the Lord Is Good" by Reuben Morgan. Mr. Morgan gets beyond himself and concentrates on the greatness of God as a central reality, a theme not really followed in the rest of the album.
"Overwhelmed" is a CD that may provide pleasant background listening for someone who has work to get done, but fails to earn a place on any list of exceptional worship CDs. Claire Verschoof

Greatest Hits Live
(Beyond Music)
For a band that is lodged so firmly in the footnotes of musical history, the Alarm has a surprising number of songs that are familiar and worth hearing.
Anyone old enough to remember the pre-Nirvana heyday of college rock will recall the Album's strident anthems "Strength," "The Stand" and "Sixty Eight Guns."
The Welch band made its debut in 1981 and was rightly tagged by critics as humor-challenged U2-wannabes. It sank quickly into obscurity in the late 1980s when irony trumped earnestness as the dominant force in alternative rock.
The band split for good in 1991 after lead singer Mike Peters stunned his fans and his three unsuspecting band mates by announcing during the final seconds of a live show that he was leaving the group.
So what to make of this curious live-greatest-hits recording, based on several live shows in late 2000? Well, the truth is, it isn't the Alarm. Mr. Peters, after a mid-1990s brush with cancer, tried unsuccessfully to revive the band. His fellow band mates, perhaps still smarting from his unorthodox departure, have so far refused to cooperate.
So Mr. Peters just got together a band of unrelated musicians and declared himself "The Alarm 2000" (and more recently "The Alarm 2001") and began touring. Although the liner notes don't say so, this live collection is the result of Mr. Peters' faux-Alarm effort.
For the record, Mr. Peters' voice sounds as strong as ever and his new backing band effectively re-creates the sound of the Alarm at its peak. The nearly forgotten songs also sound surprisingly vibrant and relevant 20 years later.
But let's face it this isn't an Alarm album (although, curiously, the album is dedicated to his three former Alarm colleagues). It's a solo vanity project by Mr. Peters, who seems intent on cashing in on his marginal musical legacy. Sean Scully

Death Row's Snoop Doggy Dogg Greatest Hits
(Death Row Records)
It's hard to call this a Snoop Dogg album, even if it's a good one; it's more of an exploitation.
For the second time in two years, Death Row, the rapper's original label, found another way to make money off him. Last year brought "Dead Man Walking," a collection of B-sides, while this greatest hits collection continues the greedy trend. Snoop who dropped "Doggy" from his name after leaving Death Row didn't condone the release.
Even though eight previously unreleased tracks were promised, many simply are remixes of older songs. The best of these, "Snoop Bounce (Roc N Roll Remix)" features backing by Rage Against the Machine and has been bouncing around the Internet for a while. The remixes of "Murder Was the Case" and "Doggfather," meanwhile, are inferior versions.
Despite the injustice done here to Snoop, the album does feature the rapper at his peak. Songs such as "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" and "Gin & Juice" are unmistakable classics. It's too bad it's almost impossible not to feel guilty listening to them anymore. Scott Silverstein

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