"Ooh la, la, la"s abound on this techno-pop album of ear candy. Opening with the current hard-to-resist single "On My Own" (which features singer Lisa Lamb professing with innocent earnestness, "I've got to make it on my own" against the aforementioned backdrop of synthesizers and "oooh la, la, la"s), the disc continues through a bevy of bouncy, danceable, bubblegum-based synthpop.
But this is a deeper production than your average B96-FM single; sound effects, chunky basslines, rhythmic piano chording and a wall of electronic beats and other sonic ambience pervade these tracks to create a warm, complex mix of sound and color. Fans of late '80s/early '90s synth acts Book of Love and Anything Box will not want to miss this CD. It's filled with hooky, chimey, chirpy, easy listening songs that go down sweet and keep the toes, elbows, head and fingers unconsciously tapping.
Speaking of bubblegum earcandy...it's been years since a girl group stirred up the public consciousness as much as Spice Girls have over the past year. And their sophomore release is an even happier mix of pop and dance schmaltz than their 19-million selling debut.
The songs on Spiceworld won't win any awards for deep thought, but they are smart in their combination of sexy sass and swing. The opener, "Spice Up Your Life" gives Miami Sound Machine's party standards a run for their money in its addictive mix of salsa and Spice Girl rappishness. "Too Much" offers a timeless ballad with swirling strings and a slow dancing bassline. "Never Give Up On The Good Times" would have been a #1 disco hit two decades ago. And "Saturday Night Divas," which may prove to offer the dancefloor epithet of 1998 ("get down, get deeper and down, Saturday Night"), mixes those smooth strings with a staccato call-out chorus.
It's all musical whipped cream, but it goes down light and easy (unless you're prone to gagging). And there's even a wildly inventive changeup (for the Spice Girls, anyway). The album ends with "The Lady Is A Vamp," a full-blown '20s style swing number a la Joe Jackson's classic Jumpin' Jive LP. Depending on your tastes, you'll either lick this one up or spit it out.
The Bacon Brothers
Michael Bacon and "kid brother" Kevin (yep, that Kevin Bacon) have been playing acoustic rock together for more than 25 years (the album liner notes feature a review clip of a 1972 performance by the duo), and this collection of songs listens, in some ways, like a time capsule back to the early '70s. The "do de de, do de, de, de" backgrounds of "Old Guitars," which tries to outdo "American Pie" in its musical hero references, bring to mind Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl." And the acoustic rock/country performances on the rest of the disc return the listener to the days of popular "easy listening" artists who crossed back and forth across the rock and country line; artists like James Taylor, Paul Simon, Jim Croce and Don McLean.
Michael and Kevin take songwriting credit for all but one track, James Taylor's "Rainy Day Man." I have to admit, I was skeptical when I first saw this disc appear on my review pile. Another movie star trying to cash in on his success and steal some more fame as pop singer, I thought. Well, actually, the focus is more on brother Michael with this disc, and the album is a smooth, relaxing, enjoyable listen with smart wordplay and catchy acoustic guitar strummed melodies. There's a song about "K9 Love" and a Simon & Garfunkel-esque mountain ode in "Adirondack Blue." And the nostalgic look back at the freewheeling clubbing of disco days in "Boys and Bars" features an unobtrusive guest appearance by Jon Bon Jovi.
In "Only a Good Woman," the albums's most blatantly country moment, the Bacon Brothers have a good bit of fun listing all the things that "won't make you a man" in the context of a father talking to a son:
"drugs won't do it
hugs won't do it
and hanging on the corner with the thugs won't do it...
look at your mama and you'll understand
get a good woman and she'll make you a man."
This is an harmony rich album worth seeking out for Sunday afternoon listening. Want more information? The Bacons also have a web page at http://www.baconbros.com.