A Kid Called Roots (10/12/2001)
Res, How I Do (MCA 2001) - How I Do is a tasty slice of urban pop, with catchy grooves and crossover appeal. All told, an appealing concoction.
Res (Shareese Rene Ballard) was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The 23-year-old singer has a classical training, and studied at Temple University. According to Res, the album "is about being young, energetic, carefree, just loving life and appreciating it for what I have and what I'm doing."
How I Do was created by Res (pronounced "Reese") and Minneapolis-bred multi-instrumentalist Doc. Doc previously worked with Canadian trip-pop pixie Esthero on her 1998, Breath From Another.
Doc provides guitars, bass, keyboards, and programming, and is joined by Chuck Treece on drums, and Soul Fingaz on keyboards. Providing the instrumentation for the title track is A Kid Called Roots, while Mr. Khaliyl provides drums, bass, and keyboards on three tracks, including the catchy, "Ice King."
Res can be heard providing guest vocals on GZA's "Beneath the Surface" and Talib Kweli's "Too Late." Yet when asked, "Do you rap?", she answers, "No, I sing. People look at me and they think 'Oh, you're going to make an R&B record.' Not so. My shit's more based out of rock and reggae influences."
How I Do is smooth urban pop, with plenty of beats and the infectious voice of Res. Standout cuts include "Let Love" and "Sittin' Back." The album concludes with a hidden bonus track, "Say It Anyway," with a full-on guitar lead. Funky, catchy, fun - that's Res.
k.d. lang, Live by Request (Warner Bros. 2001) - Live by Request is a 14-song collection recorded on December 14, 2000, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. Certainly an unusual venue, but one that finds the big voiced crooner drawing from her deep catalog.
lang is now on tour with Tony Bennett, which reflects her growing stature as a pop crooner, with roots in the standards. Her finest hour was Ingenue (1992), which is represented by the lovely "Miss Chateleine" and the hit, "Constant Craving."
k.d. was initially reluctant to release a live recording, but remarks, "I listened back to the show, and I was so totally pleased . . . you have to respect your audience. Without them, you're essentially standing alone, singing to yourself." The concert was recorded for the popular A&E television series of the same name.
The album opens with a new song ("Summerfling"), then quickly shifts into her more country-oriented ballads, such as "Big Boned Gal," "Black Coffee," and "Trail of Broken Hearts."
Live by Request is a clean live album. Yet lang is such a perfectionist that her studio work tops this effort, especially the glorious Ingenue.
Lest you think k.d. has strayed too far from her roots, the album also includes the standard, "Three Cigarettes in An Ashtray." Adds k.d., "Every career has its triumphs and disappointments. I'm a lucky woman. I've been blessed with a wonderfully satisfying career. It's full of surprises and I love that."
Yet I still hold a grudge against lang. I had tickets - good tickets - to see her on this tour last fall in Los Angeles. And she canceled out on me two times, after I'd made special travel arrangements. That's a good way to insult your audience, and I'm still dissatisfied.
For an homogenized version of k.d. lang, look for Live by Request.
Soundtrack to The Anniversary Party (RCA Victor 2001) - The Anniversary Party is the new film written and directed by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming. If it played in Fresno, I blinked and missed it.
The film is said to take place over the course of one night, as a married couple invites a group of friends to celebrate their sixth anniversary. According to the notes, "an unexpected gift sends the party spiraling out of control and unleashes an explosion of painful confessions. The celebration becomes a scorching dissection of a marriage on the brink."
That's pretty blunt. The music catches this tension, as the early songs, such as "Far East Blues" by Henry Mancini and "I May Never Go Home Anymore" by Marlene Dietrich, underscore the festive arrival of the guests.
The atmosphere becomes less festive with Lulu's "Stealing My Love From Me" and Petula Clark's "I Know a Place." Finally, the group busts into a funky groove, with a pair of songs from Eels: the guitar fuzz of "Flyswatter," which leads into the somber strings of "It's a Mother F#&!@r."
Soundtrack producer Michael Penn (who also provided the music for two films by Paul Thomas Anderson, including his 1997 debut, Hard Eight, and the acclaimed Boogie Nights) contributes three tracks from the score, including the piano sadness of "A Perfect Sky/Harry Called/Nothing Like Us."
For a challenging soundtrack, look to The Anniversary Party.
Kansas, Masque (Epic Legacy 1975/2001) - Masque is a reissue of the third LP from Kansas, the predecessor to their breakthrough Left Overture. Masque shows the band developing its prog-rock sound, which would soon explode to pop success.
Masque is filled with strings and things and big guitars, all leading to a lush sound. The album was recorded in Bogallusa, Louisiana - across Lake Ponchertrain from New Orleans way out in the bayou.
Recalls drummer Phil Ehart, "It was a brand new multi-million dollar studio that producer Jeff Glixman had read about. They hadn't had any big names so they cut us a great deal . . . Assorted alligators and armadillos actually found their way to the studio as Masque was being made, yet all the assorted potential dangers of those days - the gators, the record executives, somehow kept Kansas together."
Songs like "All the World" and "It's You" show the band worked toward a sound that would explode on 70's FM radio. Comments guitarist Kerri Livgrin, "Ironically, the thing that made us drift apart was success. Once you arrive, you don't have a goal any more." Or, as keyboardist Steve Walsh recalls, "I have much more fond memories of us being hungry than of us being satisfied."
Also included are two demo tracks located by producer Jeff Glixman - a band rehearsal of "Child of Innocence" recorded in a Topeka home studio in the summer of 1975 and "It's You," recorded after a gig in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Complete your rock history with Masque.
- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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