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Music Reviews

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April 3, 1996

On Nights Like This

Adam sandlerAdam Sandler, What the Hell Happened to Me? (Warner 1996) - Saturday Night Live alumnus Adam Sandler has released his second comedy album, the followup to 1993's big-selling They're All Gonna Laugh at You. Sandler's a very funny guy, even if his humor ranges toward the sophomoric side. And What the Hell Happened to Me?, a collection of skits, songs and explicit scatology, should be well received by sophmores everywhere.

Produced by Brooks Arthur, the new album features the radio hit "The Chanukah Song," as well as such Sandleresque curiosities as "Ode to my Car," "Steve Polychronopolous," and "Dip Doodle." The album also includes guest appearances from such comedians as Frank Coraci, Jon Rosenberg, Ellen Cleghorne, and fellow Saturday Night Live alum, Kevin Healon.

Sandler was raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, and later attended New York University, where he earned a degree in fine arts. While still in college, he performed regularly in comedy clubs and universities throughout New York, before landing a spot on SNL in 1990.

Adam SandlerSandler left the show after five years, and already has two major motion pictures under his belt: last year's Billy Madison and the newly-released, Happy Gilmore. I saw Happy Gilmore (together with a largely teenage audience) and found its slapstick humor amusing.

In Happy Gilmore, Sandler stars as a working stiff whose dreams of professional hockey stardom are derailed by his absolute inability to skate. When Happy discovers that his killer slapshot translates into a 400-yard tee shot, his life takes a 180-degree turn and lands him on the pro golf tour. But Happy doesn't fit in easily with the manicured greens of professional golf, and his outrageous antics cause an uproar with players and officials.

Which illuminates one of Sandler's weaknesses. He appears to have a terrific temper, and often engages in wildly destructive behaviour. There's no explanation for this anger, and it's not particular amusing. It's OK to be angry at the world; it's another thing to attack people and destroy things because of that anger. And Sandler appears to have a real temper control problem.

The 20 tracks on What the Hell Happened to Me are more entertaining than angry, such "The Adventures of the Cow" (and I'll leave it to your imagination as to what Sandler does to this poor cow), and "The Excited Southerner Proposes to a Woman."

In addition, Sandler and Healon join for the hilarious "The Hypnotist," in which Sandler tries to get cured of his smoking habit by a flatulent hypnotist. Sure, it's just another fart joke, but it's still funny.

Unfortunately, Sandler displays some of his temper on such tracks as "The Goat," about a talking goat that is regularly beaten by its drunken master. "The Goat" is hilarious at parts; I don't understand why Sandler included the references to the abusive owner. I also found the incest jokes on "Do It For Your Mama" to be particularly unfunny. But then, maybe I'm just too old to appreciate them.

Sandler has a bright future: "The Chanukah Song" was played on over 300 radio stations across the country during the holiday season, and topped many local request lists. (Not surprisingly, I didn't hear it here in Fresno.) Sandler's a very funny guy, but he seems to have a big chip on his shoulder. With a little therapy, Sandler could sail far.

SorayaSoraya, On Nights Like This (Island Records 1996) - Having split her formative years between the U.S. and Columbia, Soraya absorbed a wide array of cultural and musical influences, all of which contribute to the breathtaking textures on On Nights Like This. With an easy-going, easy-listening sound, Soraya also harkens to such contemporary singer/songwriters as Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones.

Initially signed to Polygram Latino (which will issue a Spanish-language version of On Nights Like This), Soraya quickly attracted the attention of Island Records because of her natural ability to convey her passion in both English and Spanish.

Soraya left the sunshine of her Miami hometown and spent several months recording On Nights Like This at Redhouse Studio and Abbey Road Studio in England. Says Soraya, "It all happened pretty quickly. I had spent so many years working on my craft and finally, through a stroke of good luck, I was able to recreate my songs the way I'd heard them in my head."

With a production team of Peter Van Hooke (who also contributes drums and percussion) and Rod Argent (who also contributes keyboards), On Nights Like This includes colorful percussion and subtle keyboard shadings.

On Nights Like This features a gentle, tender sound that is reminiscent of The Kindness of Strangers (another UK band). The album has been thoroughly produced, but avoids sounding slick or over-produced. "We could have built up a huge wall of sound," Soraya admits, "but that would have covered up the true nature of the songs."

Some of the most affecting songs on On Nights Like This deal in unabashed romanticism, as evidenced by the rich-but-hushed tones of "Suddenly," a song she wrote for her husband. "Every time I sing that song, it rekindles the emotions I felt when I realized he was the one," Soraya observes.

Similarly themed, although far more melancholy, is the spare, haunting "Ruins in my Mind," which metaphorically likens a broken relationship to a set of earthquake ruins that Soraya viewed on a trip to Guatemala. "I wrote the song on a cocktail napkin during the flight back," she says with a laugh. "I keep all of my scribblings. They always help to bring me back to the place where I first got inspired."

On Nights Like This is not for hard-rocking audience. But with her softly-seductive songs and crossover potential, Soraya could find multiple audiences. On Nights Like This is for the romantic in you, and will not let you down.

-- Randy Krbechek

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