Cool Spins

The Mix Staff Members Pick Their Current Favorites Les Nubians: One Step Forward (OmTown) Playing off some of the same energy they projected on their debut album, African/French 8/01/2003 8:00 AM Eastern

The Mix Staff Members Pick Their CurrentFavorites

Les Nubians: One Step Forward (OmTown)

Playing off some of the same energy they projected on their debutalbum, African/French sisters Celia and Helene Faussart have taken somecreative risks and made great musical strides during the past fiveyears. Their sophomore release — aptly named One StepForward — is not only beautiful to listen to, but it divulgesportraits of their lives and comments on the larger political andphilosophical issues that motivate their music. If you happened to missout on their well-received Les Princesses Nubians CD in 1998,this is the perfect chance to get acquainted with them. The sisterssing primarily in French and are backed by sensuous R&B, jazz andhip hop rhythms. The new release demonstrates the duo's evolvingartistic sensibilities by infusing reggae, soul and rap into theirrepertoire, including Spanish and English vocals; and bringing in ahost of guests, such as Talib Kweli and I.G. Culture. Sometimes, thelayers of vocals overtake the track's focus and rawness, but I find thedistraction muse-worthy. I have to wonder what kind of clarity willcome to their next venture because of their currentexperimentation.

Producers: Mounir Belkhir, I.G. Culture, Les Nubians. Engineers:Belkhir, Dave Dar, Tkae Mendez, Demus. Mixer: Demus, Lee Hamblin.
Breean Lingle

Punk Jazz: The Jaco Pastorius Anthology (Rhino)

Supremely gifted, but also troubled, Jaco Pastorius came onto themusic scene in the '70s like a ball of fire. His unique approach tobass influenced generations that followed him and colored every song heplayed on; he was truly one of a kind. This superb two-CD set bringstogether tracks from every phase of his career and amply demonstratesjust what was so magical about Pastorius: not just the jaw-droppingpyrotechnics (though there's plenty of that), but also his intenselyricism and his considerable gifts as a composer. The anthology givesonly a cursory nod to his best-known period — as member ofWeather Report — in favor of showcasing songs from his soloalbums, most notably the classic Word of Mouth, represented bysix tracks. There are also fine tunes from collaborations with PatMetheny, Flora Purim, Airto, Joni Mitchell and others, and a number ofsizzling live tracks that showcase his skill (and his bombast). Thisguy had chops and attitude to spare. Too bad he flamed out soearly.

Many producers, engineers, studios. Compilation produced by BarryBenson, Ricky Schultz, Nick Sahakian. Remastering: Steve Pokorny andDon Hersh/Digiprep.
Blair Jackson

It'll Come to You: The Songs of John Hiatt(Vanguard)

Even though he's a compelling performer on his own, John Hiatt hasalways enjoyed greater success as a songwriter, and this CD, stuffedwith some of his best songs done by a great cross section of artists,shows his sheer brilliance in a way that few of his own solo albumshave. Hiatt personally selected the 13 tracks, each by a differentartist, and all but three previously recorded. Of the new tracks, PattyGriffin's gorgeous acoustic version of the heart-rending “Take ItDown” is the strongest. The rest is an eclectic melange of actualhits and songs that deserved to be hits, including BonnieRaitt's sensual “Thing Called Love,” Rosanne Cash's“The Way We Make a Broken Heart,” Freddy Fender's moving“Across the Borderline,” Eric Clapton and B.B. King's“Riding With the King,” Emmylou Harris' “Icy BlueHeart,” Linda Ronstadt's exquisite “When We Ran” andBuddy Guy's searing “Feels Like Rain,” to name a handful. Agreat listen from beginning to end and a fitting tribute to truesongwriting genius.

Executive producer: Steve Buckingham. Different producers, engineersand studios on every track.
Blair Jackson

The Crusaders: Rural Renewal (PRA/Verve)

Pianist Joe Sample, sax man Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooperhave been making music together on and off for nearly half-a-century,much of it as the driving forces behind The Crusaders (nee the JazzCrusaders). The Crusaders have had a million different incarnations andfloated from style to style often, as commercial pressures dictated,but they've always retained a funky R&B edge that goes back totheir days coming up in Houston. On this reunion album, they dive backinto that world with gusto. This is, indeed, a “renewal.”The mostly instrumental affair has a breezy looseness that belies theevident mastery of the players, which besides the core three includesstalwarts such as Dean Parks, Ray Parker Jr. and Arthur Adams onguitars; Freddie Washington on bass; trombonist Steve Baxter; and LennyCastro on percussion. There are some great grooves here, frompercolating funk to deep blues to gospel-soul to easy jazz excursions,all of it tasteful and very well-performed. Guests include guitaristEric Clapton on a pair of tracks, and singers Donnie McClurkin and theSounds of Blackness. A welcome return to form.

Producer: Stewart Levine. Engineer: Rik Pekkonen. Studios: Ocean Way(Hollywood), Cello (Hollywood), Record One (Sherman Oaks, CA), MasterMix (Minneapolis). Mastering: Bernie Grundman/Bernie Grundman Mastering(Hollywood).
Blair Jacksonn

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