- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

DULCIE TAYLOR
Diamond & Glass
(Black Iris Records)
Washington-based singer-songwriter Dulcie Taylor uses her fragile voice and deeply personal lyrics to their best advantage on the title track of "Diamond & Glass." She is able to sustain the spell through 12 new songs on her follow-up to her self-produced and Washington Area Music Association-award-winning 2000 disc, "Other Side of the Bed."
Highlights of the record include the edgy electric guitar of Michael Landau and nice guitar flourishes by producer George Nauful, who co-wrote the title track with Miss Taylor. Throughout the record, Miss Taylor's quavering, jazz-tinged voice combines with the tremolo guitar to great effect.
Miss Taylor explores various aspects of love in her lyrics. In "Easy for You," her song forgives a lover for ending a relationship but asks how he could walk away so easily. "I Have a Ring" is a coming-of-age story about how, in maturity, a person comes to understand why relationships just don't work out. These same themes of relationships, pain and loss come through in "You and Me" and "Sometimes Love Ain't Enough."
On "It Ain't Love" and "Spirit of Love," Miss Taylor evokes a timelessness with the sound of her dulcimer playing.
A finalist in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2001 and winner of five awards in the 2000 Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest, Miss Taylor is making eight appearances in the Washington area between the final days of June and the end of July in support of her new release. Jay Votel

SONIC YOUTH
Murray Street
(DGC Records)
Two of the best albums this year have one man in common: Jim O'Rourke, who is known for avant-garde improvisation. Mr. O'Rourke mixed Wilco's experimental "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," and he adds focus and clarity to Sonic Youth's work in his second collaboration with the band (his first as a full-time member).
The result is "Murray Street," named for Sonic Youth's longtime studio in the shadow of Ground Zero. It's a collection of straightforward rock songs punctuated by long guitar passages that amount to some of the most beautiful noise Sonic Youth has ever produced. Although only seven songs long, the disc clocks in at 45 minutes. The sonic excesses that often have marked the group are largely absent.
"Rain on Tin" is a perfect example of the album's style. The seven-minute tune begins with a short sung verse before breaking away midsong into a sublime instrumental interlude. Kim Gordon's bass anchors the rhythm while guitarists-singers Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo play two jangly melodies. This continues until the piece dissolves into a burst of distortion, only to return to the clean-guitar sound with which it began, and it ends on a passage that almost sounds classical in nature.
Both vocalists sound as jaded and rough as they did on their classic "Daydream Nation," with voices that prefer strained croons to sweet harmonies.
"Been through a million kicks/ looking for the one that sticks I might not see her again," Mr. Ranaldo sings wearily on "Karen Revisited," a bittersweet song that uses distortion and noise clips to symbolize the pain of memory. Long after the song appears to be over, the tune continues into the 11-minute mark with a barely recognizable guitar part under a wall of static and foreboding noise. This is one of the few times the group sacrifices musicality for experimentation, but it's tame compared with some of the band's earlier works.
This is by no means an easy listen, but it is one of Sonic Youth's most accessible efforts.
Derek Simmonsen

DAVID BOWIE
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars 30th Anniversary Edition
(Virgin Records)
As good as David Bowie's latest release, "Heathen," is, it just can't compare with the glam rocker at his 1970s peak. "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" one of the longest-winded titles in rock put Mr. Bowie on a three-album winning streak (which included "Hunky Dory" and "Aladdin Sane") and made him a star.
Although it's nominally a concept album about an ambiguously gendered alien rock star, the strength of the record lies in its execution and songwriting. It ultimately uses its alien theme to explore the outsider status of artists and the vagaries of fame.
When the strings swell on the opening track, "Five Years," and Mr. Bowie shout-sings "Your face/ your race/ the way that you talk/ I kiss you/ You're beautiful/ I want you to walk," it's one of the more passionate performances of his career.
Many moments help set the album apart: the surprising, understated sax solo that emerges on "Soul Love," the simple piano melody that ends abruptly in a two-chord fuzzy guitar burst on the chorus of "Moonage Daydream" and the distinct electric guitar riff that propels the opening of "Ziggy Stardust" as Mr. Bowie's voice slowly fades in with "Yeaaah."
"Suffragette City" remains a staple on classic-rock stations, with its driving electric guitar rhythm, a weird synthesizer backdrop and a catchy chorus that shows Mr. Bowie was well-versed not only in folk traditions, but in classic Chuck Berry-style rockers.
The final song, "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," is one of the best album closers ever, with its rather poignant acoustic opening that gives way to a triumphant climax of strings, piano, guitars and even sax as he shouts, "Give me your hands."
Even non-Bowie fans would do well to add "Ziggy Stardust" to their record collections because there isn't a clunker in the 11-song bunch. With good reason, "Ziggy" is routinely named one of the best rock albums of all time.
A second disc includes early versions of many of the album's best tracks, including takes of "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang on to Yourself," which were released under the name Arnold Corns.
Demos of "Lady Stardust" and "Ziggy Stardust" show that even before the songs were given a lush production, the creative melodies were there. Mr. Bowie sings with only a piano for accompaniment in "Lady Stardust" and an acoustic guitar on "Ziggy," palming the guitar to give the tune the percussive flair it would have in the final version. D.S.

THE OSBOURNES
The Osbourne Family Album
(Epic Records)
If you think the "Osbourne Family Album" might be just a slapdash affair created to cash in on Ozzy Osbourne's rekindled celebrity, you're right. The best part of this record is that John Lennon, melancholy Brits Starsailor, heavy-metal rockers Dillusion and crooner Pat Boone are together on one disc. Not that anyone has been waiting for this bizarre mix-tape.
The gimmick is that each family member picked several songs for inclusion. Most of the buzz has centered on Kelly Osbourne's rendition of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," which speeds up the pace somewhat and adds distortion pedals to the guitars and a hollow sheen to Miss Osbourne's voice. She sings well enough, but it's hard to tell in one song whether she has her father's talent.
The 12 songs are punctuated by sound clips from the show, with both "clean" and unedited versions that take off the bleeps so rampant in the television program. In case you're curious: Ozzy chooses the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" because it was one of the first rock songs with which he fell in love, in addition to his own "Dreamer" and "Crazy Train."
Young Jack Osbourne picks the Black Sabbath tune "Snowblind," as performed by System of a Down, and "Mirror," a song by Dillusion, a band he's promoting (how convenient). Mother Sharon Osbourne is the sentimental one in the family. She selects John Lennon's "Imagine" because it was the song she and Ozzy fell in love to (believe it or not) and Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" for similar romantic reasons. She also picks "Mama, I'm Coming Home," a song Ozzy wrote for her while on the road.
Hard-core fans of the show may want to pick up this souvenir, but its gimmicky nature wears thin pretty quickly. D.S.


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