Columbia's Legacy label has just offered a collection from singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins that demonstrates the label's waning confidence in her material. The Best of Sophie B. Hawkins includes an anemic 14 tracks from her first two albums, 1992's Tongues and Tails and 1994's Whaler, and completely ignores her most innovative release, 1999's Timbre. While it's clearly NOT all of her best, included are her breakthrough hit "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" and her follow-up hit, the beautifully delicate ballad "As I Lay Me Down." The disc also includes a remix of the latter song and Hawkins' cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," from 1994's Spirit of '73: Rock for Choice benefit album.
Ever wonder what the Beastie Boys would sound like if they were women? Enter Northern State, whose debut CD Dying in Stereo, finds three young white female rappers (who also hail from New York) laying down the same rap as the Beasties. The girls got a write-up in Rolling Stone, thanks to a demo tape, and after recording Dying in Stereo on their own, got a record deal to re-release the album through Sony's RED label. You've heard it all before: booming low bass, a standard rap beat and shrill, fast-talking, self-referencing street rhymes about parties and "burning the candle from both ends of the wick." But they've got energy and humor, and if you like Beastie-style hip-hop, Northern State definitely is worth an ear.
Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra
A couple of years ago, former Squeeze keyboard man Jools Holland and his big band went into the studio with a slew of big names to create Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. The rollicking album of covers and original songs recaptured the energy of '50s and '60s big band soul, gospel, boogie-woogie rock and R&B. Included was the last song recorded by Beatle George Harrison, as well as inspiring tracks with Sting, Paul Weller, Mark Knopfler and many more.
The new installment from Holland and his band, More Friends, is another hit, if not quite a second home run. Sam Moore and Sam Brown pair for a Holland/Brown penned statement of positivity on "Together We Are Strong," and newcomer Norah Jones offers a torch ballad in "In the Dark."
As the last album held the last recording of Harrison, this disc offers the last recording of soul singer Edwin Starr ("War"), who died in April. Starr raises the roof with a take on Holland's "Snowflake Boogie." Bryan Ferry clocks in with a typically moody Ferry original (one of the few pieces here that doesn't really sound very R&B or big-band oriented).
Dionne Warwick brings things back to the classic '60s with the piano-driven "What Goes Around," and Tom Jones gets the boogie-woogie rock going with horns and piano on "Don't You Kiss My Cheek," co-written with Holland.
Stereophonics reprises its appearance on the first edition with a cover of "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and Robert Plant reminds us of why his one-off Honeydrippers project was so successful, with the classic Ertegun/Wexler song "Let the Boogie-Woogie Roll." Plant was born to sing "Great Balls of Fire" style boogie-woogie. Another standout is Marianne Faithfull's pounding cover of Bob Dylan's acid-tongued "You Got to Serve Somebody."
Plant, Faithfull and Starr offer the standout pieces here, but there's plenty more to hear. Holland and his orchestra perform an instrumental run-through of the classic "Tuxedo Junction" and Jeff Beck lends his guitar to "Drown in My Own Tears." Huey, from Fun Lovin' Criminals, sing-speaks his way through the old Sinatra vehicle "Fly Me to the Moon."Other artists include Ray Davies, Ruby Turner, George Benson, Jimmy Cliff, Chrissie Hynde, Bono and more.