- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

AMY GRANT
Legacy Hymns and Faith
(Word Records)
Amy Grant has a legacy she wants to leave for generations to come.
With the release of her 17th album, Miss Grant presents wonderful arrangements of several classic hymns, such as "This is My Father's World," "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "Holy, Holy, Holy." This project precedes the release of a pop album, "Simple Things," which is due out this fall or early next year.
On "Legacy," Miss Grant includes three original songs, "What You Already Own," "The River's Gonna Keep on Rolling" and "Do You Remember the Time?" The recording, which was made in 29 days, also features the Dove Award-winning song, "I Can Only Imagine," written by Bart Millard of the contemporary Christian band, Mercy Me.
After several hits on mainstream radio, such as "Baby, Baby" and "Every Heartbeat," Miss Grant is hailing this album as a return to her musical roots. In the linear notes, she dedicates the project to her parents, Burton and Gloria Grant, who provided her with a "rich heritage," and to her great-grandmother, Lillie Armstrong Burton, "Great Mimi," who "loved these hymns dearly."
The album, which is produced by longtime friend, Brown Bannister, and Miss Grant's husband, Vince Gill, contains musical allusions to folk projects such as "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" The songs are arranged with intimate acoustic instrumentation. "My Jesus I Love Thee," with a fiddle, mandolin and pennywhistle, sounds as though it should be played on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
"Softly and Tenderly," which says, "Come home, Come home, Ye who are weary come home," has a haunting feeling provided by drummer Chad Cromwell. "Nothing But the Blood," a duet with Mr. Gill, is the most soulful of the tracks, featuring a horn section.
The most beautiful song on the album is "Be Still My Soul," which Miss Grant mostly performs a cappella.
The arrangement of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," with its electric guitar solo and vocal harmony, sounds as though it was inspired by the Eagles. "Marching to Zion," which features bagpipes, is the last track on the project. It begins with Miss Grant's father praying before the choir, in which he takes part.
Since Miss Grant's last studio album, "Behind the Eyes," was released in 1997, the only complaint is that she should not wait so long to create new material. Jen Waters
WEEZER
Maladroit
(Interscope)
When Weezer mounted its comeback last year, the band wasn't sure that it could still write a hit single or get MTV play. When both happened, it seemed to give moody front man Rivers Cuomo a newfound confidence that shines throughout the band's fourth album, "Maladroit."
With the members of Weezer behind the studio controls this time around, the album has an edgier sound that reflects the band's love of 1980s heavy metal. The first fuzzy, crushing riffs during "American Gigolo" indicate that the band wants to return to an era when rock was a bit more fun.
The highlight of the record is clearly "Dope Nose." The first single, it begins with the band singing "Whoa, oh, oh, oh" before the power chords kick in and Mr. Cuomo sings the nonsensical chorus, "For the times/that you wanna go and/bust rhymes real slow." Brian Bell seems to take full delight in providing the over-the-top guitar fills and solos that used to dominate rock music.
The lyrics are not quite as personal as those of the band's second album, "Pinkerton," but they do show Mr. Cuomo's ability to write good pop hooks. He's not afraid to let the album's middle sag, with a spate of moody, distortion-filled ballads, including "Take Control," the sublimely beautiful "Death and Destruction" and the bittersweet "Slob." On "Slob," he sings, "Leave me alone/I won't pick up the phone/and I won't listen to messages."
This foray away from the uptempo pop that dominated the band's third record ("Weezer") is a bold, successful move. Mr. Cuomo's speedy songwriting sometimes shows cracks, as when he cribs the melody from "The Locomotion" for the chorus of "Love Explosion," but they don't happen often.
Weezer may forever be trying to match the brilliance of its debut album, but "Maladroit" is certainly a step in the right direction. Derek Simmonsen
THE MOONEY SUZUKI
Electric Sweat
(Gammon Records)
There's a definite trend in indie music right now toward "classic rock" and not the kind heard on FM radio. This is the bluesy garage rock of the Kinks and MC5, complete with catchy choruses, three-chord songs and vintage feedback, now practiced by the likes of the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Mooney Suzuki.
Gaining a lot of word-of-mouth praise based on its chaotic live show, the New York band Mooney Suzuki has released its second album just as the music public seems willing to return to the roots of rock. Harking back to the days of vinyl, the group even divides its album into side one and side two, with a glam-rock style composite photo of itself on the cover.
The record kicks into gear with the first track, "Electric Sweat," which opens with a feedback drone before launching into a catchy, fuzzy guitar riff. Drummer Will Rockwell rides the cymbals hard, as guitarist-vocalist Sammy James Jr. belts out, "Get ready/get set/cause e equals electric sweat."
It's an apt forecast of things to come, as the album hardly slows through the frequent solo breaks from lead guitarist Graham Tyler and verses made more dramatic by Mr. James' smoky baritone. He's able to give rather simple lines such as "Everyone needs honey/like a bird or bee/girl I need your lovin'/like fish need the sea" an added gravity on "Natural Fact."
One of the highlights is the bluesy instrumental jam "It's Showtime Part II," which sounds remarkably like a live Rolling Stones' recording circa 1965. Fans of Rhino Records' previous "Nuggets" series, which collected one-hit wonders and rare tracks from the garage rock of the 1960s, should be pleased to find the spirit of that music still alive today. The Mooney Suzuki may rip off a hundred bands of yesteryear, but when Mr. James sings "I woke up this morning/And found myself alive," it reminds everyone why rock is here in the first place.
D.S.
PLACIDO DOMINGO
Scenes From the Ring
(EMI Classics)
"Scenes From the Ring" is a companion piece to 2000's "Wagner Love Duets," in which Placido Domingo, partnered with Deborah Voigt, sang the final scene of "Siegfried" as well as an extended excerpt from "Tristan und Isolde."
This time Mr. Domingo is supported by three excellent artists tenor David Cangelosi as Mime in the sword-forging scene that ends Act 1 of "Siegfried," coloratura David Cangelosi as the forest bird in excerpts from Act 2 of that opera, and mezzo Violeta Urmana as Bruennhilde in the duet from Act 1 of "Goetterdaemmerung." Mr. Domingo also sings the dying Siegfried's monologue, and the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, conducted by Antonio Pappano, is heard in Siegfried's "Rhine Journey" and "Funeral March."
It's sad to realize that the great tenor, now 61, never will appear as Siegfried on stage. His performances as that hero's father, Siegmund, in "Die Walkuere" have been a revelation for audiences lucky enough to hear them.
But it's still wonderful to have this document of his full-throated lyrical interpretation of music that so often is shouted or only approximated.
A couple of quibbles. He sounds too mature to be believable as the young Siegfried musing in the forest, and Urmana is an odd partner for the "Goetterdaemmerung" duet. Though a fine artist, she is a mezzo, and top notes aren't where the glory of her voice lies. Associated Press


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