Kyle Vincent
Kyle Vincent
(Carport/Hollywood)
½


This is an album that's been kicking in the wings all summer, and finally has started to break into people's living rooms thanks to the upbeat rock single "Wake Me Up (When The World's Worth Waking Up For)."

It shouldn't have been such a struggle for Vincent to break through to the top; this self-titled album is a treasure trove of pure pop ear candy. From the Richard Marx sweetness of the piano ballad "Next Time We Go Crazy" to the Monkees' "Now I'm A Believer" guitar vibe of "I Used to Love The Girl" and the Gin Blossoms rock chime of "It Wasn't Supposed to Happen," Vincent proves himself a sure and clever hand with the pop hook.

It all leads off with the smooth croons and arpeggiated guitar of the ballad "Arianne," a song that finds as many vocal nods to the lush styles of '70s hitmakers David and Shaun Cassidy as to the softer side of '90s groups like Savage Garden. And that's the key to Vincent's charm. While a note or a phrase here and there brings to mind oldies from The Monkees, The Beatles and The Byrds, he makes it all feel fresh and current. And personal. Like Lindsey Buckingham and Illinois' own Adam Schmitt, Vincent is a singer-songwriter who knows how to use the studio to wrap his inciteful, personal lyrics in a blanket of warm oohs, ahhs, and instruments to deliver a perfect pop song. By the final song, a spiralling bittersweet acoustic yearn for youth called "Young Again," you're liable to be ready to join the Kyle Vincent fan club.

This is one of the best albums of 1997. Don't miss it.

 


Kim Fox
Moon Hut
(Dreamworks)
½


Hailing these days from the heartlands, Kim Fox offers a quirky solo debut that is endearingly offbeat, fun and quite often, thought provoking. It's not an album you'd expect to hear coming out of the corn country of Indiana. Well, Fox is actually a New York transplant to the Midwest — as her bio describes, "a city-slick snob who once made fun of people from New Jersey" who suddenly walked away from a college major in classical voice and opera to a write "weird little pop songs" in a small town.

In Moon Hut's charmingly moody opening track, "I Wanna Be A Witch," Fox meanders conversationally over a thrumming piano beat talking about the vagaries of life and concluding:

"That's why I wanna be a witch
travel the world upon my broomstick
'cause baby this life is a bitch
but it's the only life I know."

Fox's tunes are all about strange imagery mixed in with tales of everyday life. In "Found a Penny" she opines "Honey, you've not been the same since we pawned your gold molar." She rhymes this horrible image offhandedly with "an hour of makeup to go to the grocery store."

But if "Found A Penny" and much of the rest of the album is deceptively low key, with droning strings and often dark lyrics, "Could Have Been A Saint" is an unabashed throwback rock song. Like the others, it's a little out there in the words department ("oh saint Genevieve - I'm your daughter/but I'm like a fish out of water/could have been a queen if it were my scene") but it's hard not to bop to handclaps, guitars and piano. And while it's not exactly a rocker, "Sweetest Revenge" is certainly a bouncy tune — if I'd heard it blindly, I'd have guessed it to be a new Frente single. The whimsical bells of "I'm Discovered" also bring that Australian band to mind.

Fox follows in the female singer-songwriter tradition that seems to have become the norm since the coronation of Tori Amos. She uses the piano as her main instrument, sings in a waifish, often whispery voice, and drops low drones of strings in for mood whenever she can. And in addition to piano, Fox plays organ, vibraphone, glockenspiel, mellotron and concertina on the disc, texturing the songs in a just left-of-center wall of sound. Sometimes, as in "Could Have Been A Saint" she's undeniably naval-gazing, but in the melancholy gem "Bleed a Little, Allison," she spoons up some good advice in telling the title character to let loose a little. From exploring her own sensuality to spinning dreams of pure escapism, listening to Moon Hut is like listening to a strangely poetic diary set to music. It's an auspicious, adventurous debut.

 

Miscellaneous


Oldies Collections: The Right Stuff has also reissued Gladys Knight and the Pips successful 1974 album I Feel a Song which includes the hits "I Feel A Song (In My Heart)" and "The Way We Were." ...Rhino Records has dipped into the salsa pool to assemble the best of Cuban Queen of Salsa Celia Cruz. The Best of Celia Cruz Con La Sonora Matancera includes 19 of her horn-punctuated Spanish songs recorded between 1950 and 1965. On the same circuit, Rhino also offers The Best of Tito Puente: El Rey Del Timbal which includes 18 songs from "the king of salsa" recorded from 1949-1961...Fans of Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead can pick up some long lost outtakes those groups did while recording the soundtrack to the 1970 film Zabriske Point. The Rhino Records/ Turner Classic Movies reissued soundtrack to the film includes an entire disc of outtakes by those two artists, as well as the regular soundtrack from the film which includes The Youngbloods, Patti Page and The Kaleidoscope, in addition to Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead.

For The Kids: For the kids, Rhino offers the Cartoon Network's Space Ghost, hosting 38 tracks on Space Ghost's Musical Bar-B-Que. The album includes talking bits from the "Space Ghost" show as well as bizarre songs like "Smells like Cartoon Planet" and "Put Your Sox on Mama," the latter a brand new Space Ghost track for this collection. Another nice set for younger listeners comes from K-Tel. The Clasic Pooh Treasury is a series of audio cassettes of readings of the 10 unabridged A.A. Milne Winnie The Pooh stories. Each set includes small hardcover copies of the stories as well as the recordings. '80s hits repackaged...again: Arista has gotten into the game of "mine the '80s" with Ultimate New Wave Party 1998. The disc includes 18 hits from the likes of Berlin, Duran Duran, Haircut 100, Madness and Thompson Twins. Included are The Romantics' "What I Like About You," Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself," Modern English's "I Melt With You," Blondie's "Heart of Glass," David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and B-52s' "Rock Lobster," among others. If you've bought any of the other Greatest Hits of the '80s compilations of the past couple years, you probably have most of these hits already.