Most rock singers act like kids; Dan Zanes has made a record for them. Formerly the hell-raising lead singer of the 1980s alt-rock group the Del Fuegos, Zanes, 39, went solo after the Boston band's 1989 breakup and began entertaining tykes in his Brooklyn nabe. With contributions from friends like Sheryl Crow
, who duets with Zanes on a rousing rendition of "Polly Wolly Doodle," Simon Kirke of Bad Company on "All My Friends Live in the Woods" and Suzanne Vega, who offers a typically straightforward take on "Erie Canal," Zanes outbops Barney. His harmonies with banjo player (and brother-in-law) Donald Saaf on "Over the Rainbow" are sweetly stunning. Zanes recruits the Sandy Girls, a sextet of West Indian babysitters, on "Go Down Emmanuel Road." But his most charming work on this homespun disc—the first of at least three children's records to be released on his own label—is the medley "Father Goose," which costars the Rocket Ship Singers, a chorus of kids including his 6-year-old daughter Anna.
Bottom Line: Foot-stomping kid rock
Sunshine Anderson (Soulife/Atlantic)
Album of the week
If they gave out Grammys for Best Song with a Soap Opera Theme, the single "Heard It All Before," from this impressive debut effort, would win hands-down. With a slurred, slightly off-key voice that recalls Mary J. Blige, Sunshine Anderson lets fly with a vivid, bluesy lament about bad men happening to good women.
Anchored by a swampy wah-wah guitar and steered by Anderson's no-nonsense finger-wagging, the song puts cads on notice: Fool around and she'll shop around—for another man. On a funky Memphis-style grits-and-gravy workout like "Lunch or Dinner" and the hard-driving "He Said, She Said," a pitch-perfect dialogue between battling lovers, Anderson dishes up the sort of old-school soul that even philandering men will groove to. As well those no-good so-and-sos should: Anderson (who is managed by neosoul songstress Macy Gray) sounds fiercely righteous when she is wronged.
Bottom Line: The sun shines on a rising soul star
On his first two multiplatinum albums, 1996's Ginuwine: The Bachelor and 1999's predictably titled 100% Ginuwine, the acetylene-hot torch singer (genuine name: Elgin Lumpkin) hitchhiked a ride to the top of the charts with R&B producer Timbaland (Aaliyah). Ginuwine's silky, seductive vocals purred beside Timbaland's jagged, hyper-kinetic beats to create a uniquely edgy R&B sound. On his third CD Ginuwine remains in excellent voice, but there's something missing—and its name is Timbaland. Here, Ginuwine also collaborates with the more pedestrian (albeit highly successful) producers behind recent hits by Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez
. The result is as solid as a brick wall but only slightly more exciting. There are flashes of the old sass and sexiness (notably on the single "There It Is" and the grinding "That's How I Get Down"). But in an apparent attempt to win an even wider audience, some of The Life has gone out of his act.
Bottom Line: Ginuwinely commercial
American Hi-Fi (Island)
Rock drummers are supposed to be mute, muscular types, toiling in a group's rumbling engine room and leaving the helm to their more telegenic band-mates. Following in the foot pedals of such timekeepers turned lead singers as Don Henley and Dave Grohl, though, former Veruca Salt skinsman Stacy Jones makes the leap from drum riser to spotlight with this witty, jumping batch of power-pop tunes. Jones and his Boston-based crew have already scored a hit with their first single, "Flavor of the Week," a hook-laden ditty as irresistible as two scoops of Baskin-Robbins's pink bubblegum ice cream. Jones, who sings and plays guitar on all 13 tracks—which he also wrote—leaves the drumming to Brian Nolan, who wields the sticks nicely.
Bottom Line: Gets a high five
A singer-songwriter so hot in the '60s that the Beatles clamored to have her on the same bill, DeShannon ("What the World Needs Now Is Love," "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"), now 60, has just released her first album in 15 years, You Know Me (Varèse Sarabande/JAG).
How have things changed since you began recording?
I came up at a time when women had no leverage or control. I really was the only one on the West Coast who was writing, singing and producing.
Why an album now?
I thought it would be good for my son to see that Mom was doing it before Paula Cole, Sheryl Crow
and Sarah McLachlan. There was life before Britney and Christina.
How were the Beatles gigs?
Great, great times. It was a thankless job, though. The audience was screaming, "Get off the stage!"
- Sona Charaipotra,
- Amy Linden,
- Steve Dougherty,
- Randy Vest.
Dan Zanes + Friends (Festival Five)