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A Woman's Touch (08/27/99) Write to CD Shakedown

Eleanor McEvoyEleanor McEvoy, Snapshots (Columbia 1999) - Irish singer Eleanor McEvoy returns with her third LP, Snapshots. With her rich voice and strong musical background, Eleanor continues to make smart women's music.

By way of background, Eleanor played violin in the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland before achieving star status in the Emerald Isle in 1992 when her song, "Only a Woman's Heart," inspired the title for, and appeared on, the A Woman's Heart anthology album, which has gone on to become the biggest-selling album in Irish history (even bigger than albums by Van Morrison and U2).

EleanorThere's something about Eleanor that brings to mind Joni Mitchell: maybe it's the timbre of her voice, or her timing. Eleanor has since released two solo albums: Eleanor McEvoy (a delight from 1994) and her Columbia debut, What's Following Me? (1996).

Snapshots is an album made from a woman's perspective, with a woman's intelligence and attraction. Explains Eleanor, "A great record is like a good friend. It's like somebody you can talk to, who understands you when you're down. Maybe that 'friend' is Loudon Wainwright III, Edith Piaf, or R.E.M., but it's someone who can heal the hurt, and that's what is really important."

The new album was produced by Rupert Hine, (hitmaster for Tina Turner, Howard Jones, and The Fixx), who also provides programming and keyboards. Other players include Eleanor on vocals, guitar, keyboards, and string arrangements, Ian Thomas on drums, Pino Paladino on bass, Phil Palmer on electric and acoustic guitars, Snake Davis on saxophone, and strings by the London Session Orchestra.

Eleanor and bandWith tracks like "All I Have," "Did You Tell Him?" and the radio-friendly "Please, Heart, You're Killing Me" (the standout cut on the album), Snapshots weaves a delicate spell. While Eleanor has worked to avoid being tagged as a folkie after the success of "Only a Woman's Heart," her strongest suit is the acoustic pop of "Please, Heart, You're Killing Me."

If Columbia can market Sophie B. Hawkins with success, then Snapshots can also find a receptive audience on adult Top 40. While the album is not entirely steady (bringing to mind the genre-bending albums from Brenda Kahn, with their flashes of brilliance), the strong tracks from Eleanor are transcendent. Give Snapshots a chance to grow on you: you will be rewarded.

Austin PowersVarious Artists, Soundtrack to Austin Powers (Maverick Records 1999) - Hot on the heels of the successful soundtracks to The Wedding Singer and Matrix comes the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. With a contemporary yet retro feel, the soundtrack is a success.

The follow-up to the first "Austin Powers" film (with a box office gross of more than $50 million), the "The Spy Who Shagged Me" opens with Austin honeymooning in the French Riviera where he's unable to shag! It seems the nefarious Dr. Evil has time-traveled back to the 60's and stolen Austin's "mojo," the secret power behind his libido.

Mike Myers Luckily, Austin gets a time machine of his own (a psychedelic Volkswagen beetle) and teams up with Felicity Shagwell (played by Heather Graham, the memorable Roller Girl from "Boogie Nights"). The duo travels back to the swinging 60's, intent on regaining Austin's mojo and thwarting Dr. Evil's plot to destroy the world.

Explains soundtrack producer Danny Bramson, "Our goal was two-fold - to put together a collection of artists and songs that captures and represents the period, color, and spirit of Austin Powers, as well as producing a soundtrack that's fun to listen to as a whole."

Madonna (who else?)And the soundtrack clicks on all counts. Like all successful soundtracks, The Spy Who Shagged Me starts with a standout single, in this case "Beautiful Stranger" by Madonna. With production assistance by U.K. beat master William Orbit (who also worked on the successful, Ray of Light), "Beautiful Stranger" has a 60's sound that harkens straight back to Love.

Also included is a never-before-released BBC version of the Who's "My Generation," an instrumental track ("Espionage" by Green Day), and one of the album's most pleasant surprises, a cover of Tommy James' "Draggin' the Line" by R.E.M.

Austin & FelicityTrailing behind are new tracks by Lenny Kravitz (a forgettable cover of the Guess Who's classic, "American Woman"), Melanie G. (aka Scary Spice), and Big Blue Missile (featuring heroin-ridden vocalist Scott Weiland) with walk-thru of the Zombies' "Time of the Season."

The Spy Who Shagged Me captures the spirit and feel of the movie with by including a duet between Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach and a cover of Bill Withers' "Just the Two of Us," as performed by Dr. Evil and "Mini-Me." Enjoy the good vibes from Austin Powers.

Tom BrowneTom Browne, R'N' Browne (Hip Bop 1999) - Trumpet player Tom Browne, now a member of the music faculty at North Carolina Central University, continues his 20-year recording career on R'N' Browne. With elements of funk, urban, and jazz (bringing to mind George Benson), Browne has solid chops.

Browne released his first album, Browne Sugar in 1979, and scored a hit single in the early 80s with "Funkin' for Jamaica." Browne's backing band for the new album includes John Hart on guitar and Bob Belden on keyboards.

Tom BrowneR'N' Browne is a return to Browne's R&B roots, with guest appearances from Dianne Reeves and Sybil on vocals, Christian McBridge on bass, KCB on rap vocals, and Chieli Minucci on acoustic guitar. Hailed for his "warm tones," Browne delivers the goods on songs like "Back to Life" and "Never Stop."

In a sad trend, horn-based instrumental bands have been relegated to the slag heap of jazz bore-o-rama. R'N' Browne shows that contemporary jazz can be exciting and interesting. Look for Tom Browne.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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