Watch Out for Yellow Snow 7/17/98)
Pee Shy, Don't Get Too Comfortable (Blue Gorilla/Mercury 1998) - With their second CD, Pee Shy (terrible name!) expand on the sound that made the group a thinking woman's favorite. Mixing intelligent lyrics, pop melodies, and a rich palette of instruments (ranging from vibraphone to marimba to moog to guitar muscle), Don't Get Too Comfortable should be a summer favorite.
The band has Southern roots, as Mary Guidera-Bass (moog vibes, slide guitar, ebo and vocals) grew up in Mississippi and Cindy Wheeler (guitar, accordion and vocalist) was born in Virginia and raised in Nashville. Rounding out the foursome are Jenny Juristo Morrison (keyboards, according, guitar, clarinet, and vocals) and newcomer Billy Orrico (drums, loops and vocals).
The Southern connection continues, as Don't Get Too Comfortable was recorded in Nashville in the studio of Brad Jones. Jones helped make Happy Town by Jill Sobule one of 1997's brightest releases, and encouraged Pee Shy to employ a broad array of instruments in a disarming pop setting. (In addition to his production work, Jones has played bass for such artists as Marshal Crenshaw, Matthew Sweet, and Ron Sexsmith).
Don't Get Too Comfortable features 11 spritely pop numbers, including "Mister Whisper" and "Bathroom Floor" (which opens with a clarinet). Other solid cuts include the wry, "Some Day Soon," and the sparkling, "Much Obliged."
Pee Shy continues the trend of slacker generation, off-the-cuff (and sometimes in-your-face) pop. Enjoyable and challenging (though not at the level of Natalie Merchant's lyricism), Don't Get Too Comfortable deserves a spin.
Lenny Kravitz, 5 (Virgin 1998) - Back with his fifth release (and the follow-up to 1995's Circus) is the soulful Lenny Kravitz. The multi-instrumentalist continues to develop his soulful funk on the new album.
A child of two cultures, Kravitz grew up half-Bahamian, half-Jewish in Manhattan and Brooklyn. His first release was 1989's acclaimed, Let Love Rule. On the new album, Kravitz continues to explore his horizons. Says the artist, "Even though I've been making records professionally for nine years, this time I'm making music again as if it's my first album. No preconceptions. No expectations. I'm just flowing."
The result is such smooth cuts as "Thinking of You" and "Supersoulfire." Kravitz also indulges his rocking side on such cuts as, "It's Your Life." For 5, Kravitz is again joined by Craig Ross on guitar and horn players Michael Hunter and Harold Todd.
A skilled soulmeister, Lenny Kravitz has proven his chops. Fans will enjoy 5.
A.J. Croce, Fit to Serve (Ruff Records/House of Blues 1998) - Piano-playing A. J. Croce is the 26-year-old son of the late pop balladeer, Jim Croce (known for such radio favorites as "Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown"). With his third solo release, Croce the Younger shows that he is still seeking his musical identity.
Which is a shame, because Croce has an engaging vocal style, and a solid circle of musical connections. His self-titled debut was a jazz-piano-oriented effort, with production by T-Bone Burnett.
For his outstanding second release, That's Me at the Bar (1995), Croce enlisted noted session man, Jim Keltner and host of renowned L. A. session men (including Waddy Watchell and guitarist Ry Cooder) for a smokey, soulful release that never got the press it deserved.
Seeking a change, Croce recorded Fit to Serve at Ardent Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Building on a barrelhouse piano style, Croce enlisted such Memphis studio hands as percussionist Paul Kimbarow, bassist Dave Curtis, and guitar player, Jack Holder.
Fit to Serve pulls in several directions. Thus, songs like "Texas Ruby" and "Too Late" have an up tempo, playful feel, while "Uncommon Sense" and "Lover's Serenade" build on the contemplative, piano-orientated previously embraced by Croce. Croce also embraces the swinging Memphis sound on such tracks as the horn-flavored "I Don't Mind."
A. J. Croce is a talented fellow, but finds himself without a musical rudder. With better guidance, Croce could have a successful career.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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