Chris Rock scored a major coup as the host of the Academy Awards a couple of weeks ago. For fans who rediscovered how much fun his edgy, racially charged comedy can be thanks to that telecast, he has also delivered a new CD. His disc Never Scared is now out on Geffen.
Better Than Ezra scored its biggest hit 10 years ago with "Good," but since then the band has continued to tour and release adventurous pop-rock records. The best of its material is now available on Better Than Ezra: Greatest Hits, via Elektra/Rhino. The disc offers 16 tracks, including one new song and two remixes that previously have never been released. It includes the effervescent "Good," as well as its other Top 40 hit from 1996, "Desperately Wanting," and favorites "In the Blood," "King of New Orleans" and "Rosealia," among others.
If you were a big Eagles fan in the '70s and never converted your scratchy vinyl LPs to pristine-sounding silver CDs, now's the time. Warner has packaged the band's albums from 1972 to 1980 in a single-box set, simply titled Eagles. Included are the albums Eagles, Desperado, On the Border, One of These Nights, Hotel California, The Long Run and Eagles Live, along with their 1978 holiday single, "Please Come Home for Christmas."
The package looks good, but is apparently a low-budget affair; there is no "comprehensive" booklet included detailing the ups and downs of the band, and Desperado, One of These Nights and On the Border are presented in thin sleeves, rather than full cardboard fold-out cases, as the other discs are.
But for the Eagles fan without CDs of these albums, it's a treasure trove of hits that defined a decade — from "Take It Easy," "Witchy Woman," "One of These Nights," "Take It to the Limit," "Desperado," "Tequila Sunrise," "The Best of My Love" "Hotel California," "Life in the Fast Lane," "New Kid in Town," "Heartache Tonight," "The Long Run," "I Can't Tell You Why" and more.
Tori Amos' emotional and musical bite has been steadily dulling over the past few years and, sadly, The Beekeeper doesn't have enough sting to slow the trend. Supposedly another "concept" album following a character's life journey (akin to her last CD, Scarlet's Walk), whatever threads there are that bind these songs are too indistinct to have any impact on the listener.
At 19 tracks, The Beekeeper suffers from the same bloated flaw as her third CD, Boys for Pele — too much meandering filler and not enough power or truly inventive polish. If Sade had delivered this album, it would be a wakeup revelation. For Tori, though, it feels like lackadaisical dreaming.
In between the yawns are some worthy additions to the Amos canon. The opener, "Parasol," will thrill fans of her early work with its somber piano sound, and the cool funky wah-wah guitar slides of "Sweet the Sting" will work their way under your skin. "Jamaica Inn" is a sugary piano and light percussion track that, while not particularly adventurous, features a simple lilt that sets a positive mood.
And "Sleeps With Butterflies" is so smoothly produced, it sounds like Amos was deliberately trying to write a song for LITE-FM. Fans might scratch their heads and ask "When did Tori become an adult contemporary artist?" It is gently catchy, however.
The quirky, repetitive duet of "Orange Knickers," with Damien Rice, will put off most, and the wandering piano of "Original Sinsuality" is clearly designed to sound like Little Earthquakes-era Tori, but has virtually nothing musically or lyrically interesting to say.
Likewise, the stark piano staccato rhythms of "Barons of Suburbia" sounds like a Little Earthquakes-era B-side. Then there's the "sha-na-na" R&B funk-lite of "Ireland," where Amos celebrates the Saab and the green isle with a hymnal organ.
"Hoochie Woman" is another coffeehouse-ready bit of cool R&B rhythm (with bongos and "hoo-hoo-hoos") that harks back to pieces like "Happy Phantom" and "Father Lucifer." Despite a great subject for the biting side of Amos, this "you cheatin' jerk" song is not as sharp as those earlier tracks. The ohh-ooh-woos sound like they want to break out into real soulful belts, but they never quite do … it's all a very locked down exercise in bass piano-accented blues-pop.
The Beekeeper certainly is a fine disc to put on the stereo to fall asleep to, and perhaps Amos intended this as a "lullabye" record. But "lullabyes" needn't be boring; none of these songs pack the emotional punch of her past, highly charged "soft" material, such as "Silent All These Years," "Past the Mission," "Baker Baker," "Northern Lad" or "1000 Oceans."
If you're a listener just discovering Amos with this disc, you may be entranced by her still-endearing, seductively personal style. For long-time listeners, though, this may sound like an intermission album.
Hopefully, her next release will prove to be a worthy main feature.