Hallelujah Here She Comes (12/25/98)
Cake, Prolonging the Magic (Capricorn 1998) - Back with their third album is Sacramento's favorite sons, Cake. Led by singer John McCrea, the band continues down its idiosyncratic, rock-and-kitsch path.
Cake's prior releases include their terrific self-produced debut, Motorcade of Generosity, and 1996's Fashion Nugget, which included the modern rock hit, "The Distance." Recorded in Sacramento, the new album features all original songs (although Cake has recorded deliciously deadpan covers of such songs as Gloria Gaynor's disco anthem, "I Will Survive").
With Prolonging the Magic, two founding members (Greg Brown, guitars/organ, and Victor Damian, bass) have left the group. The current lineup consists of McCrea on vocals and guitar, Vince Di Fiore on trumpet, Todd Roper on drums, and new members Gabe Nelson (bass) and Xan McCurdy (guitar).
The resulting sound is similar to Cake's prior efforts, with McCrea's laconic delivery and De Fiore's tasty trumpet solos. Yet I miss the edgy guitar work of departed member Greg Brown, which played perfectly against Vince Di Fiore's trumpet.
While McCrea maintains his wry wit on Prolonging the Magic, he says he's reining himself back. Explains McCrea, "irony is a really good coping mechanism, but it prevents you from having a complete human experience when there's always a part of you that's snickering. Irony is something in which you recline - it's not something you do out of strength."
With songs like "Satan is My Motor," "Sheep Go to Heaven," and "Alpha Beta Parking Lot," Cake continues its lo-fi trajectory, aiming at slacker targets while developing a country-tinged rock sound. Welcome these Central Valley favorites on Prolonging the Magic.
U2, Best of 1980-1990 (Island 1998) - With record sales totaling 75 million albums, U2 will be remembered as one of the most significant bands of the last 20 years. On their first-ever greatest hits collection, U2 delivers 14 tracks from such albums as October (1981), The Unforgettable Fire (1984), and The Joshua Tree (1987).
Founded in Dublin in 1978, U2 consists of Bono (vocals and guitars), The Edge (guitar and keyboards), Adam Clayton (bass), and Larry Mullin, Jr. (drums). Now known for their elaborate stage shows, The tracks on Best of include "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Desire," and "When Love Comes To Town" (with B.B. King on vocals). The real treat is the second disc, which features 15 B-sides recorded by U2 has long delighted fans by releasing outstanding B-sides, and Best of is worth buying just for this 15-track compilation. Yet in an odd marketing move, the second disc is only available with the early releases: It will not be included with later pressings. Too bad, as there is no reason to break-up this terrific compilation. Look for the two-disc version of Best of.
Music from the motion picture, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (143 Record/Warner Bros. 1998) - The follow-up to last year's box office hit, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer stars Jennifer Love Hewitt as Julie, the beleaguered heroine in the second installment of this teen-horror series. I didn't see the flick, and can only comment on the soundtrack, which is an enjoyable 12-song compilation from cutting edge artists.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is the first soundtrack release from 143 Records, the label recently formed by Grammy-winning producer and performer David Foster. The album's first single, "How Do I Deal," is performed by Hewitt, the star of the Fox TV series "Party of Five" and an accomplished vocalist in her own right, with two solo albums on Atlantic Records to her credit.
Also included are songs by Orgy ("Blue Monday"), Reel Tight ("Do You Wanna Ride"), and Grant Lee Buffalo ("Testimony," taken from their recent album, Jubilee). Other tracks include "Hey Now Now" from Swirl 360 and "Sugar is Sweeter," by C.J. Bolland, with a remix by Justin Warfield.
My favorite cut is "Relax" by Deetah, which is built off the guitar part from "Why Worry?" (performed by Dire Straits), with an uptempo vocal. After repeated listenings, I'm still astonished at how well this song holds together.
For a good sampling of contemporary music, try I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.
Joe Pesci, Sings Just For You (Columbia 1998) - On Sings Just For You, actor Joe Pesci dons the character "Vincent Laguardia Gambini" to deliver a series of lounge-oriented songs from the Bronx. With allusions to his roles in "My Cousin Vinny" and "Casino," Sings Just For You is a semi-comic trip into the world of nightclubs and the Mob.
Thus, songs like "Wise Guy" (based on a Blondie track) and "Robbi Hood" are directed to the East Coast gangster crowd. And Pesci's "Take Your Love and Shove It" even made me cringe, with its harsh, four-letter language.
Yet Pesci delivers credible lounge numbers on songs like "What a Wonderful World" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," with horns and a smokey background.
One of the stranger albums in recent memory, Sings Just For You is worth hearing for its place in the hall of oddities.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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