If you want some modern reggae "sunsplash" music for your backyard barbecues this year, grab a copy of the new CD by Elan, Together As One, on Kingsbury/Interscope Records. The reggae singer's debut solo CD, features modern reggae flavored strolls and techno-imbued toasts and ballads alongside a mix of Bob Marley & the Wailers-flavored old-school steel drum reggae rhythms.
The Marley comparison will come as no surprise to those in the know — Elan served as the lead singer for the Wailers after Marley's death for more than three years in the late '90s, which is also when he became friends with the members of No Doubt (who have always had reggae/ska influences).
Together As One was produced by No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal and not surprisingly, No Doubt's Gwen Stefani offers guest vocals on one song ("Allnighter"). It's the second track she's worked with Elan on; she also covered Roxy Music's "Slave to Love" with him for the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler film "50 First Dates."
In addition to the No Doubt connection, the disc offers guest appearances by reggae names Assassin, Cutty Ranks and Sly & Robbie. The best track in my book spotlights Elan on his own, punching up the suggestively urgent "Feel My Pressure," co-written by Kanal.
Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman maintained a sporadic but inventive and varied solo career for 20 years while still a member of the ultimate rock 'n' roll band. While the Stones albums were completely dominated by the Jagger/Richards three-chord riff writing team, Wyman enjoyed toying with a number of styles and even managed to score the highest charting solo hit by a Stone — 1981's quirky "(Si, Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star."
Ultimately, he left the Stones in the early '90s to enjoy his family and eventually to pursue his own muse exclusively — in the swingin' '50s rock review ensemble Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings. Now fans can get a healthy dose of Wyman's solo, in A Stone Alone: The Solo Anthology 1974-2002.
The first CD offers 20 songs, with a mix that runs the gamut from from Ringo Starr-ish barrelhouse piano rock ("Monkey Grip Glue") to tracks with disco and New Wave hooks ("Stuff"). The second disc features several tracks from his appearances with the all-star ensemble Willie & The Poor Boys and a healthy dose of live tracks from work with the Rhythm Kings.
Paula Cole released three critically acclaimed albums in the '90s, starting with her quietly folksy yet ethereal debut, Harbinger (which included the achingly honest melancholia of "I Am So Ordinary" and "Happy Home"). She followed that with her smash breakout disc This Fire (featuring the hits "I Don't Want To Wait" and "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?") and seems to have sealed her career with 1999's instrospective and spiritual Amen, which yielded the strong title track and anthemic "I Believe in Love." While Cole has been silent ever since, all those songs and more are now collected on the Warner Bros/Rhino CD Paula Cole: Postcards from East Oceanside * Greatest Hits.
Madonna has released I'm Going to Tell You a Secret on Warner Bros., the first live CD of her career. The CD comes paired with a two-hour DVD featuring both documentary and concert footage from her 2004 Reinvention tour.
While much of Madonna's music is too filled with electronics and pre-recorded bits to get too excited about hearing a live edition, she does change aspects and arrangements of some of the songs included on the CD, including stepping up the distortion factor and rappishness of "American Life." She also includes a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine." Other tracks on the CD include "Vogue" "Nobody Knows Me," "Die Another Day," "Into the Groove," "Music," and "Holiday."
The disc is marred a bit by the inclusion of interludes like helicopter/war noises which serve no real purpose other than to have allowed a costume change during the tour. But if you're a big Madonna fan and want a record of her last tour, grab it for the DVD. It's more of a behind-the-scenes document than a concert film — the live footage is incidental to the backstage interviews with Madonna, her dancers and her father, among others. But it does give a flavor of what it's like to be on the crew of a Madonna tour.