On 2002's Twisted Angel
, LeAnn Rimes moved away from country and toward the kind of musical territory occupied by Britney, Hilary and Lindsay. Her follow-up, This Woman
, isn't the pure country album Nashville fans might have preferred, but it is a first-rate pop-rock-flavored disc, slickly produced and artfully executed. "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense," for instance, is a classic pop tune, witty without being crass, vigorous without being noisy. Not that Rimes has completely forgotten her country roots. "Something's Gotta Give," with its bluegrass shadings, is an invigorating track that will please the majority of Rimes's hardcore country fans, while "Won't Be Lonely Long" combines the rhythmic energy of rock with the more melody-oriented sensibility of country music. Rimes cowrote 3 of 12 songs, including the ingratiating "I Got It Bad," which she penned with songwriter-husband Dean Sheremet. But veteran producer Dann Huff knew enough not to depend on her songwriting skills, which are still not her strength. As a transitional effort at a critical point in the 22-year-old singer's career, this is terrific stuff that broadens Rimes's appeal while still maintaining her standing as a major singing talent who should be talked about in the same sentences as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and even the revered Patsy Cline. The same certainly can't be said for Britney, Hilary and Lindsay.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense"
All of Me
It's a happy development that established country stars such as Crystal Gayle, Suzy Bogguss and now Anne Murray are recording the pop standards from the great American songbook. This unusual—and unusually entertaining—two-disc set includes one CD of classics newly interpreted by Murray and one CD of the singer's own greatest hits. While it's always a pleasure to hear her sing "Snowbird," "Could I Have This Dance" and "Daydream Believer," the real delight is Murray wrapping her warm, rich and character-filled voice around old gems like "As Time Goes By," "I'll Be Seeing You," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "We'll Meet Again," the poignant World War II song most famously sung by Vera Lynn on the Dr. Strangelove
soundtrack. Murray even sings "Dream a Little Dream of Me," the 1968 Mamas and Papas hit, evoking Mama Cass Elliott's tangy, beautifully pitched vocals. Vigorously backing Murray are some musicians who sound as if they have just been waiting for this opportunity to flex their traditional jazz chops. All in all, this excellent album makes for an ideal companion piece to Murray's 2002 collection of country standards, Country Croonin'. —R.N.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "After You've Gone"
With a band name like theirs, you might expect this Austin, Texas, trio to be the next big thing in death metal. Despite the morbid moniker, however, these former church choirboys are much more arty than angry on their fourth disc. In fact, they employ an orchestra and 12-member choir for this adventurous set, which, along with Green Day's American Idiot
, may just bring the rock opera back. Opening with a dramatic overture, the CD bridges the gap between the classical and rock worlds on tracks like the piano-driven "The Summer of '91," the whimsical waltz "Russia My Homeland" (featuring a solo by accomplished violinist Hilary Hahn) and the Queen-like "All White." The latter underscores the classical connection: "The curtain thins/Violins announce the score is over/The symphony clears the folded chairs/And walk towards the snack bar/And I've forgot what the libretto was all about." Balancing out the baroque touches, though, is a melodic punk-pop sensibility found on cuts like the politically charged title tune, which sharply addresses the American dream and terrorism: "How they laugh as we shovel the ashes/Of the Twin Towers/Blood and death, we will pay back the debt/Of this candy store of ours."
DOWN LOAD THIS: "Worlds Apart"
Good luck trying to figure out what Tori Amos's latest concept album is about. Even after reading a two-page press release about it, I'm still not quite sure (although apparently it has something to do with a beekeeper, six gardens and some kind of imminent storm). Like 2002's meandering Scarlet's Walk
, The Beekeeper
lacks real sting. With its confounding concept and often oblique lyrics—some of which feature religious references—it can be a difficult listen and, at almost 80 minutes long, a draining one. Still, Amos achieves an ethereal beauty on songs like the airy first single, "Sleeps with Butterflies," the gently lilting "The Power of Orange Knickers" (with guest vocals by Damien Rice) and the lovely "Ribbons Undone," an ode to her 4-year-old daughter Natashya. The London Community Gospel Choir helps uplift four tracks, including the sexy, bluesy "Sweet the Sting," on which Amos switches from her trademark piano to organ.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Sleeps with Butterflies"
You might not be able to distinguish 3 Doors Down from matchbox twenty, Third Eye Blind and the Foo Fighters. But this quartet, which hit it big in 2000 with "Kryptonite," makes radio-friendly pop-rock that will have you humming along even if you can't name the band. This follow-up to 2002's triple-platinum Away from the Sun
finds 3 Doors Down piling on the hooks, if not the heart of a group with a real vision. Serviceable but unspectacular cuts like the first single, "Let Me Go," reveal them to be solid craftsmen who know how to build a four-minute pop song. And while the CD has its share of generic rockers, some of 3 Doors Down's ballads do stand out. The folk-tinged "Landing in London" benefits from the husky guest vocals of Bob Seger. "Here by Me" is a love song guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings of anybody going through a breakup. And "Be Somebody" is an affecting coming-of-age tale: "I'm tryin' to be somebody/I'm not trying to be somebody else." One can't help but wish, though, that 3 Doors Down would likewise strike out with its own sound. —C.A.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Here by Me"
Surviving a boy-band past and becoming a solo star can be a tricky proposition. For every Justin Timberlake
, there's a Nick Carter. But Omarion shows there's life after B2K, the R&B vocal group best known for the hit "Bump Bump Bump," on his promising solo debut. The disc, with its BET-ready mix of smooth ballads, cool mid-tempo numbers and funky club tracks, portrays 20-year-old Omarion as the missing link between Mario and Usher. Omarion effectively flaunts his more grown-up sound on sexy slow jams like "In the Dark" and the title tune, on which, in PG-13 lyrics that won't turn off his B2K fans, he tells his girl all the things he will do to make her say, "O." Elsewhere, Omarion gets the party pumping with the smoking "Drop That Heater" and "Take It Off," a crunk cut in the vein of Usher's "Yeah!" He goes old-school for "Never Gonna Let You Go (She's a Keepa)," which evokes the Jackson 5 and features a guest rap from OutKast's Big Boi. On "Growing Pains," the CD's most personal song, he addresses the dissolution of B2K, alluding to some conflict in the group: "So how to explain what went wrong/After we were together for too long/Never be the same again." But with O
, Omarion stands strong on his own.—C.A.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Drop That Heater"
KEANE hooks up with DJ Shadow for a cool remix of the Brit band's woe-filled "We Might as Well Be Strangers," giving: the song a jazzier, hip-hop-tinged vibe, available at iTunes.
ROB THOMAS delivers more smooth pop hooks on "Lonely No More," the first single off the matchbox twenty frontman's upcoming solo debut, at AOL Music First Listen.
GAVIN DEGRAW shows why it's worth catching him on his current U.S. tour with the EP Live @ 7000 Marina Boulevard 7/2/2004
, featuring the hit "I Don't Want to Be," at Walmart.com.
DESTINY'S CHILD will have you jumpin' jumpin' with a five-song EP featuring dance remixes of the girl group's recent Top 10 hits "Lose My Breath" and "Soldier," at iTunes.
For information on where to find our Download This picks, go to www.people.com/downloadthis or AOL (Keyword: People)
- Ralph Novak,
- Chuck Arnold.