Joe, a smooth R&B bedroom balladeer, writes and sings so many songs about takin' it off and gettin' it on that it's enough to make his Pentecostal minister parents blush. Joe lacks vocal range—his dial is permanently set on "croon"—but he makes up for his limits with polished material on such hypnotic jams as "What If a Woman," which flips the script on players with the question, "What if a woman had a man on the side and never spent time with you?" Joe keeps the come-ons coming throughout, shifting gears occasionally to up-tempo fluff. He opens and closes with slow and dance versions of "Let's Stay Home Tonight," a song to go with those smoked oysters and a bottle of Cristal ("I am just going to love you baby all night long/ I want to rub your back and kiss your feet romantically"). Is there a way to do that unromantically?
Bottom Line: The sultan of suave
Various Artists (Columbia)
Album of the week
The great thing about rock standards is that they ache and ooze with so much primal feeling that they can be dusted off for any intense occasion. The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," delivered in vintage bone-cracking style at this Paul McCartney-organized Oct. 20 benefit, could be the motto for the U.S. Marines—or for Hillary Clinton, who was sucker-punched by a rude reception at Madison Square Garden.
For every odd choice (Melissa Etheridge howling "Born to Run") there is an inspired one: David Bowie is a cockney carnival barker in a fresh look at Paul Simon's "America"; Destiny's Child harmonize sweetly on the Bee Gees' "Emotion"; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards summon the Stones' beer-belter "Salt of the Earth" ("Say a prayer for the common foot soldier/ Spare a thought for his backbreaking work"). In two discs that veer from patriotism to pacifism to Adam Sandler (yes, Operaman is in the house), leaving McCartney's "Let It Be" for near the end still seems elegantly, innocently correct.
Bottom Line: Keep on rockin' in the free world
No Doubt (Interscope)
After moonlighting gigs duetting with Moby (on his 2000 hit "South Side") and rapper Eve (on another chart-topper, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"), Gwen Stefani
has returned to her day job as lead singer for No Doubt. Only this time Prince drops in on her to sing backup on the lusty standout track "Waiting Room." The rest of No Doubt's fifth disc is party-ready too. With its layers of synth and speedy reggae beats, Rock Steady could be the soundtrack for a "Come to Jamaica" commercial, though those punky guitars buzz in for the tongue-in-cheek "In My Head." The album is a reminder of what this talented songwriter is capable of, if only she'll stay put.
Bottom Line: Undoubtedly enjoyable
- Ericka Sóuter,
- Kyle Smith,
- Sona Charaipotra.