Soar with the Spirit (03/12/99)
Jewel, Spirit (Atlantic 1998) - Spirit is just the second CD from Jewel Kilcher, yet comes with lofty expectations. Spirit features 13 new songs, delivered in Jewel's tender and compassionate style. Backed by bigger arrangements (the 8-million-selling Pieces of You was more acoustic oriented), Spirit has a mature and well-rounded sound.
For the new album, Jewel enlisted long-time Madonna collaborator, Patrick Leonard. In addition to Jewel's guitar and Leonard's piano and keyboards, the backing group includes Jude Cole on acoustic guitar, Edna Swap bassist Paul Bushnell, electric guitarist Josh Clayton (ex-School of Fish), and drummer, Brian Macleod (who has worked with Sheryl Crowe).
Yet the core remains Jewel and her delicate songwriting. (In addition to her musical skills, Jewel's first book of poems, "A Knight Without Armor," reached the New York Times best seller list since its debut in May 1998.)
Explains Jewel, "We're all basically the same - we all yearn for love, and the more I've traveled the world, the more I've seen how lonely people feel and what tremendous longing everybody has to be loved."
It took me more than one listening to get into Spirit: the album does not include any full-out audio assaults. Yet, once you give Jewel a chance to spin her magic, Spirit reveals its charms on songs like "What's Simple is True."
The highlight is the lovely "Hands," in which Jewel sings, "My hands are small, I know/But they're not yours, they are my own." (Backing vocals on "Hands" are contributed by Jewel's mother and manager, Nedra Carroll.)
Explains Jewel, "I wrote 'Hands' because I think a lot about my own hands. I look at the world and see such big problems, and my hands feel so small. Sometimes I have to remind myself that one person can make all the difference. People's hands burn churches. People's hands hold their children. We make choices every day, and we can use our hands to make to make the world a better, safer place."
Jewel has a subtle and remarkable talent. Give Spirit a chance to flow through you.
Steely Dan, Can't Buy a Thrill (MCA 1972/1998) - Steely Dan was one of the most respected groups of the 1970's. Founded by Donald Fagen (keyboards and vocals) and Walter Becker (bass and vocals), Steely Dan enjoyed great pop success, culminating in the jazz-oriented, Aja (1977).
The band's first two albums, Can't Buy a Thrill (1972) and Countdown to Ecstasy (1973), remain classics, with innovative songwriting and adventurous arrangements. Can't Buy a Thrill yielded radio hits with "Reelin' in the Years" and the top 10 single, "Do It Again," while Countdown to Ecstasy included such FM favorites as "My Old School" and "Razor Boy."
In addition to Becker and Fagen (who had been transplanted from New York), the recording sessions for Can't Buy a Thrill included guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, guitarist Denny Dias, and the late Jim Hodder on drums, with singer David Palmer joining toward the end. Palmer proved a quick learner, delivering great versions of "Dirty Work" and "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)."
Digitally remastered by Becker and Fagen, with help from engineer, Roger Nichols, the reissues sound better than ever, with the mix made more "lively," in keeping with current CD standards. The reissues contain all the original LP's music, lyrics and artwork, together with new "beat style" liner notes penned by Becker and Fagen, which recall the recording sessions.
Steely Dan made some great rock and raised the bar for bands that followed. Enjoy these groundbreaking recordings anew.
Energipsy, Tamborea (Alula Records 1999) - Add Energipsy to your collection of world music. With a fusion of Spanish flamenco guitar and gypsy rumba, set amid pop melodies, Tamborea has a rich and dynamic sound.
Energipsy consists of lead guitarist and group leader Francesco Grant, accompanied by vocalists and guitarists Bastian Contreras, Melchor Munoz, and Jose Moreno (all of Andalusian gypsy origin). The group works out of Camargue, and enjoyed radio success in Italy with its first album, Chica Bam (1996).
On Tamborea, the four guitarists are accompanied by keyboards, drums, and bass, which gives them a fuller sound. Some tracks (such as "Quisiera") feature vocals: others (such as "Joselito" and "Space Flamenco") are instrumentals.
Like Willie & Lobo, Energipsy stretches the boundary of world music by drawing in disparate elements. Enjoy the distinctive and accessible Tamborea.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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