Love and Mercy (11/20/98)
Brian Wilson, Imagination (Giant/Paladin 1998) - Back in the studio for the first time in a decade is Brian Wilson, the longtime leader of the Beach Boys. While the new album is not Brian's bellwether effort, it remains a pleasant serving.
Brian's last solo outing was his rewarding 1988 self-titled release (which is now out of print). For the new album, Brian worked with co-producer Joe Thomas, the founder of River North Records.
Imagination was recorded at Brian's new home studio in Illinois, where he lives with his wife Melinda and two daughters, Daria and Delanie, both toddlers. Various songwriters assisted Brian, including Carole Bayer Sager, J. D. Souther, and Jimmie Buffett (on the out-of-kilter "South American").
Brian's strongest efforts are those that reach from the heart, including "Your Imagination" and the introspective, "Happy Days." Brian's wizardry in the studio also comes through on such tracks as "She Says that She Needs Me," with light touches of clarinets, flutes, and sax.
Overall, Imagination is not Brian's shining moment. Yet we're always glad to see him back in the studio, as Brian needs the creative outlet to stay attuned to life. Thanks for sharing with us, Brian.
Ace of Base, Cool Summer (Arista 1998) - The Swedish quartet known as Ace of Base return with their third CD, the enjoyable Cool Summer. With a light pop style that brings to mind such acts as the Bangles, Ace of Base delivers a steady product.
Ace of Base hails from Gothenberg, Sweden, and consists of sisters Jenny and Lynn Berggren, brother Jonas Berggren and friend Ulf Eckberg. Their debut album, The Sign, featured chart-topping singles including, "All That She Wants."
For the new album, Ace of Base continues their format of pop hooks and infectious melodies. In addition to the sweet title track (a remake of the Bananarama song), the album also includes other radio-friendly songs, including the pop ballad, "Don't Go Away."
With their steady pop sensibilities, Ace of Base could be a long player. Don't let the summer end, get Cool Summer.
Various Artists, Rare on Air: Vol. 4 (Mammoth 1998) - Rare on Air is the fourth CD compilation released by radio station KCRW (the Los Angeles flagship station for National Public Radio).
Drawing from live performances recorded during the influential weekday show, Morning Becomes Eclectic, Volume 4 highlights a mix of established artists and underground favorites, including Soul Coughing, Gus Gus, Radiohead, and Mazzy Star (featuring lead singer Hope Sandoval).
According to the liner notes, "Each of these performances was recorded in KCRW's basement performance studio directly to a two-track DAT machine. The way you hear them is pretty much the way they were heard on the air, including the occasional throat-clearing, chair creak, or technical failure. Nothing has been re-recorded, remixed, or overdubbed."
Don't be fooled by that false modesty. The recordings on Rare on Air are first-rate, particularly by those performers who thrive in an acoustic format. Thus, the highlights include "Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman, "St. Teresa" by alternative favorite Joan Osborne, and a great version of "Good Enough" by Sarah McLachlan.
Rare on Air saves the best for last, concluding with Tom Waits' touching, "The Fall of Troy." Written about two brothers killed in senseless acts of teenage violence, "The Fall of Troy" shows Tom Waits at his storytelling best.
Rare on Air is a worthy cause, and deserves support. Look for this diverse collection of performances.
Dreamhouse, Dreamhouse (Trauma Record 1998) - Dreamhouse is a trio from London consisting of Paul Barry, David Riley, and Jules Tulley. With their likeable, reggae-spiked numbers, Dreamhouse is an enjoyable diversion.
Dreamhouse was formed when Paul Barry and David Riley were working in separate recording sessions at the same studio. During a break, the duo began singing the classic Maurice William hit, "Stay" (also made into a hit by Jackson Browne). When the other musicians flipped for their Jamaican-influenced stylings, the foundation for Dreamhouse was laid.
In addition to "Stay," the album also includes covers of "Live for Today" (originally recorded by the Grass Roots) and a smooth take on the Four Seasons' "Sherry." Also included is "Baby I Need Your Loving" by Holland\Dozier\Holland.
An upbeat trio, Dreamhouse mixes London club sensibilities with Jamaican overtones.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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