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Take it Easy (02/11/2000) Write to CD Shakedown
PeaceEurythmics, Peace (Arista 1999) - Fueled by videos during the early days of MTV, the Eurythmics were one of the 1980s biggest acts.

After a ten-year-break, singer Annie Lennox and musician/arranger Dave Stewart have returned with Peace. The album is more subdued than prior Eurythmics' offerings: for starters, Annie Lennox came up with the album title after meeting with her spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Annie LennoxExplains Annie, "I'm not a manic-depressive, but I'm almost there. So many highs and lows. My way of coping is to write about it and sing it out: catharsis." Yet Annie adds, "I'm less volatile now. Our relationship is less angst-ridden. I don't need to burden Dave with my anxieties, and we don't go down those roads which inevitably lead to bad-mouthing and upsetting each other."

Dave StewartFor the new album, Annie provides all vocals, with Stewart handling instrumentation and arrangements, along with help from Andy Wright on keyboards and programming, Chucho Mecharn and Dave Catlin-Birch on bass, Pete Lewison on drums and Chris Sharrock on strings and orchestration.

The Scottish-born Lennox and Englishman Stewart met in 1976, and soon clicked, both as lovers and as musicians. Her first band, the Tourists, recorded three albums before disbanding when Lennox and Stewart broke up as a couple.

At the topTheir incredible success followed when they reorganized in Germany in 1980 as the Eurythmics, resulting in big hits like "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," "Would I Lie to You?" and the 1985 duet with Aretha Franklin, "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves."

Yet the success eventually tore the pair apart. Recalls Annie, "Those were not happy times. We were really cooked. We had raced around the world and kept the whole momentum going. And we were warring so much with each other."

Dave StewartStewart is more philosophical. "We'd cope with the pressure in different ways. I started to go haywire, and Annie became more and more insular." Yet Stewart adds, "When we stopped it, it was nothing to do with our arguments over music. It was the bombardment of recordings, touring, filming. We were never out of each other's company. In the end, we couldn't bear to be in the same room together."

Says Annie, "Dave and I had burned each other's bridges." As a result, the two didn't speak for four years, during which Annie recorded her two hugely successful solo albums, Diva (1992) and Medusa (1995), while also concentrating on her daughters (ages 6 and 8) and husband Uri Fruchtmann, an Israeli film director.

Annie LennoxThe reunion wasn't fueled by money, as Annie's worth has been estimated at $40 million. Instead, the pair reunited privately at a party. Says Stewart, "It was kind of a shock for the people at this party. Imagine you're at this small gathering and out of nowhere someone says, 'And now, the Eurythmics.' People were crying. It was very moving, and we realized there was something there."

That something there eventually developed into Peace. The new album features 11 tracks, with a much more reflective sound than the old Eurythmics: The glam-pop is replaced by a smooth sheen on such winning tracks as "17 Again" and "I Saved the World Today." (The latter being a gorgeous song).

EurythmicsYet the album also contains more brooding elements, reflecting a continuing tension: Professional jealousy (not the old sexual sparks). While Annie Lennox has enjoyed big solo success, gadfly Stewart (who has worked with such high-profile acts such as Tom Petty and Mick Jagger) has flopped with his solo projects, including his band, "The Spiritual Cowboys." Admits Stewart, "I'd get like $8,000 to promote a record, while there would be $1 million to promote Annie."

While Peace runs out of steam in the second half, the opening section is a winner. Stewart sums it up best. "When we come together as Eurythmics, that's a special thing. It's like when two famous dancers dance together. But if you dance together all the time and never dance with anybody else, it's not as special."

Enjoy the chemistry on Peace.

Royal ScamSteely Dan Reissues (MCA 1999) - The Steely Dan Reissues continue with The Royal Scam (1976) and the seven-song classic, Aja (1977). Both albums have been digitally remastered and include the original artwork with complete lyrics and liner notes.

The reissues include new liner notes penned by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who will be releasing a new album in early 2000. Unfortunately, the liner notes are mostly stream-of-consciousness gibberish with little additional value.

AjaBut the music still shines. The Royal Scam reached number 15 on the Billboard pop album chart, and boasts such fan favorites as "Green Earrings," and "Haitian Divorce." Among the album's guest artists are guitarist Larry Carlton (who provided the riff on "Kid Charlemagne"), saxophonist John Klemmer, and singer Michael McDonald.

Walter BeckerThe change came with the watershed Aja, which featured a more jazz-oriented sound, and which became the group's biggest selling album. A trio of singles hit the top 30: "Peg" (number 11), "Deacon Blues" (number 19) and "Josie" (number 26).

Donald FagenAja itself reached number 3 on the album charts, with such musicians as Rich Marotta and Bernard Purdie on drums, Dean Parks and Denny Dias on guitars, and Victor Feldman on keyboards and vibes. Behind all were Walter Becker on bass and Donald Fagen on synthesizer and lead vocals.

Both classic albums (though The Royal Scam boasts one of the 70s worst album covers), Steely Dan lives on with clean sound.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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