Music News

And the Winners Are ...

Page 7 of 8

R&B/SOUL

Erykah Badu
Baduism
(Universal)

Badu has such an individualistic look that some people can't see past her headwrap to the artist within. That's a pity, because she is one of the true sensations of 1997, a performer who has a slinky way with a song, a beguiling vision, and a set of pipes for the ages. The antidote to the Whitney and Mariah blues.

God's Property
God's Property, From Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation
(B-Rite Music)

The blandness of the contemporary-Christian genre in general only makes God's Property seem like that much more of an achievement by comparison. Franklin's use of hip-hop and soul elements is so canny that both fellow disciples and unrepentant sinners will enjoy walking with him on the road to heaven.

The Holmes Brothers
Promised Land
(Rounder)

It's no insult to say that Promised Land sounds as if it could have been made during the Sixties. Like the vintage shouters who no doubt inspired them, Sherman and Wendell Holmes, along with Popsy Dixon, get to the meat of every song with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of unadulterated soul power.

Kyle Jason
Generations
(Columbia)

Jason has a sure knowledge of rhythm and blues and funk; his collaborations with Bootsy Collins offer confirmation of that. But instead of pouring this wisdom into smooch songs, as do many of his colleagues, he's whipped up a musical suite that takes the pulse of the city without collapsing under the usual stereotypes.

Mark Morrison
Return of the Mack
(Atlantic)

There's plenty of posturing on Return of the Mack, but Morrison pulls it off. Since he's a man who obviously thinks with his pelvis, he concentrates on seduction, and his one-dimensionality pays dividends: "Let's Get Down," "Moan and Groan" and "Horny" could probably inspire even Tipper Gore to make a booty call.

REGGAE/WORLDBEAT

Susana Baca
Susana Baca
(Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.)

Recorded in Peru, Baca's songs are very much a product of South America. But her poetic lyrics travel well: The opener, whose title translates to "Pretentious Black Girl," embodies the tricky balance she strikes between the cosmopolitan and the eternal.

Vinicius Cantuaria
Sol Na Cara
(Gramavision)

Brazilian music can be extremely raucous or it can be as tender as a mother's kiss. Cantuaria takes the latter tack, wrapping sambas and the like in pristine guitar strums. His gentle vocalizing is so spellbindingly voluptuous that you don't need the English translations the CD jacket provides to understand what he means.

Susu Bilibi
Dziwo Nefa
(CrossCurrents Music)

This group hails from the West African nation of Togo, but its sound exhibits enough European influence to make it immediately accessible to virtually anyone. The sextet specializes in sunny melodies, bottomless harmonies and percussion that will shoo away every dark spirit in your life.

Alfredo Rodriguez
Cuba Linda
(Hannibal/Root Jazz)

The vigorous musical traits that echo through the aforementioned I Am Time box can also be found in smaller packages--like, for instance, this brassy rouser. Rodriguez is a Cuban exile who returned to his homeland for the first time in many years to make Cuba Linda, and his joy at doing so can be heard in every note.

Michael Rose
Dance Wicked
(Heartbeat)

Rose has had difficulty making music on his own that's as indelible as his work with Black Uhuru, but he's been getting closer over the past several years. Dance Wicked is a big step in the right direction; it recalls his Black Uhuru days without aping them. A companion disc, Dub Wicked, pairs up nicely with it.

REISSUES

John Coltrane
The Ultimate Blue Train
(Blue Note)

Blue Train, one of saxophonist Coltrane's underrated masterworks, has been given a stellar makeover. With the addition of two alternate takes, a supplementary monograph and intriguing material that can be viewed by computer users, this Train shuttles down the rails under a full head of steam.

Serge Gainsbourg
du jazz dans le ravin
coleur, cafe
comic strip
(Philips/Mercury)

Gainsbourg was among France's biggest stars during the Sixties, but only a few Americans partook of his musical savoir faire. This trio of discs helps make up for lost time. On du jazz, he presents vocal jazz that's as sophisticated as it gets; on coleur, he goes Latin with the likes of "mambo miam miam (mambo yummy)"; and on comic strip, he rocks in a very continental way. Cynics may regard this as camp, but it's actually the ultimate in Franco-cool.

Curtis Mayfield
Superfly: The 25th Anniversary Edition
(Rhino)

There's more to say about Superfly than can fit in this space: A separate article on it will appear in an early January issue of Westword. In the meantime, add it to your music library immediately--you'll be glad you did.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts