Share this article

print logo

CD LISTENING POST
BRIEF REVIEWS OF SELECT RELEASES

Hip-Hop

Will Smith, "Lost and Found" (Interscope). Here's a rap album you can feel good about your kids listening to. Though "Lost and Found" is, in a sense, Will Smith's "angry" album -- he's taken some beatings from the angry-rap set, who see him as a clean and neat, innocuous pop-rapper, and on several tracks here, Smith strikes back, politely -- but what Smith does best is make lighthearted, fun pop-rap for kids. "Lost and Found" continues that tradition, blending mild boasting with straight-up pop. Review: 3 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Miers)

Soul

The Rev. Al Green, "Everything is OK" (Blue Note). You can't keep a good man down (but why would you want to?). A few decades after his prime, his falsetto can be even more moving than it used to be. (It costs so much more now.) Are you ready for the Rev. Al's "You Are So Beautiful"? He decided to make his secular comeback in 2002. You can argue larynx profit and loss from now to Kingdom Come. But, at this stage, he's in the category of singers who ought to be welcome whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it. Review: 3 stars (J.S.)

Pop

Fisher, "The Lovely Years" (Iris Records). Fisher, the husband and wife team of singer Kathy Fisher and songwriter Ron Wasserman, has earned a place in history for being the first band signed to a major label based not on touring success or independent retail sales, but on the basis of its Internet download numbers. The duo's "I Will Love You" notched 3 million downloads and earned them high-profile press in Time, Entertainment Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. Now comes the full-length debut, "The Lovely Years," a seriously middle-class adult-pop record dedicated to the joys of love relationships and parenthood. It's all nicely done and pleasant, if not particularly deep. Picture Tori Amos with none of her edge or penchant for left-of-center composition. Review: 2 1/2 stars. (J.M.)

Jazz

Billie Holiday, "The Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O, two discs and DVD). Let's not kid ourselves here. Ever since Ken Burns' "Jazz," the world has not exactly been deficient in great, all-era Billie Holiday anthologies. But, so help me, this one may be the ideal, the unquestioned all-time best -- two discs of her very best work from "Miss Brown to You" to "I'm a Fool to Want You" from "Lady in Satin" (with everything from "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" to "Strange Fruit" in between) and an added terrific DVD of Lady Day in rehearsal, live per formance and interview. The insert book is exemplary, and the package is as beautiful and stylish as jazz's most artful song stylist deserves. Review: 4 stars (Jeff Simon)

Michael Wolff and Impure Thoughts, "Dangerous Vision" (Artemis). What can you say about a jazz pianist who'd rather thunder the bejabbers out of his own puerile ostinato riff for Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" than Rollins' merry tune itself? You can't call him "subtle," that's for sure. Wolff is best-known for "getting busy" as Arsenio Hall's TV music director ("Woof! Woof!"), but he has done meaningful time with the likes of Rollins and Cannonball Adderly, too. He doesn't have much to say on ballads, but in a jazz world where acoustic piano is increasingly paired with rock rhythms, Wolff is doing it every bit as adventurously and infectiously as the next generation's Bad Plus. But then he has no less than Badal Roy and Airto Moreira in his rhythm section. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)

Classical

Rachmaninoff, All-Night Vigil (also sometimes known as Rachmaninoff's "Vespers"), performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Paul Hillier (Harmonia Mundi). Some think it the greatest masterpiece of Orthodox church music; others would call it one of Rachmaninoff's two or three great masterworks (he chose it and "The Bells" as his favorites). In ideal disc performance, the creamy sound of the Russian basso profundo should be unique. It isn't here, but so apt is Hillier a conductor for this and so superb are both singers and acoustics that it's one of the best recordings you'll find of one of the great spiritual masterpieces. Review: 4 stars (J.S.)