This week’s new albums includes Barbra Streisand’s “The Movie Album” and Edie Brickell’s first album in 10 years.
“THE MOVIE ALBUM,” BARBRA STREISAND
On screen, Barbra Streisand crooned some of film’s most memorable songs — “Evergreen,” “The Way We Were” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” to name just a few.
So one would expect her take on other classic film songs to be just as memorable. Unfortunately, her interpretation of gems such as “Smile” and “I’m in the Mood for Love” on her new “The Movie Album” is surprisingly bland.
Yes, Streisand’s voice is as perfect as ever, and yes, the music sounds lush, courtesy of a 75-piece orchestra. Yet there’s little spark or emotion from Streisand on any of these songs. The easy-listening arrangement of the music makes each song sound the same, and Streisand’s steely delivery reinforces that sound.
What Streisand intended as a loving tribute is instead a sterile treatment that is ultimately disappointing. (Columbia)
— Nekesa Mumbi Moody
“VOLCANO,” EDIE BRICKELL
Since Edie Brickell’s last solo album nearly a decade ago, she married Paul Simon, had two children and fell off the musical map.
Brickell’s back with “Volcano,” an eruption of fresh and enchanting music that more closely resembles her 1994 release, “Picture Perfect Morning,” than it does her breakthrough work with the New Bohemians. It was with that Texas band that Brickell first hit the charts in 1989 with the catchy, hippie-esque “What I Am.”
What Brickell is on “Volcano” is more mellow, motherly and jazzy than she was with the New Bohemians. Think of it as a musical lava lamp.
Fellow Texan and one-time Bob Dylan lead guitar player Charlie Sexton produced the disc and helped round out the sound.
Brickell’s effective storytelling is especially vivid on the delightful “Take a Walk” in which she urges a stroll outside in lieu of watching more television.
Like a brisk walk on a cool day, “Volcano” is a refreshing return for a distinctive voice. (Universal)
— Scott Bauer
“HARD,” JAGGED EDGE
If Jagged Edge proves anything on their latest disc, it’s that they’re remarkably consistent — that is, consistently mediocre.
Trying to get through “Hard” in its entirety is like a test of endurance. By the time the fifth song rolls around, most listeners will have to change the album, turn on the radio — anything to escape from such drivel.
Why Jagged Edge can’t deliver a quality album isn’t much of a mystery. They all have quality voices, and on rare occasions, they’ve managed to come up with a few memorable songs (such as 2000’s “Let’s Get Married”) — but that’s when they have good material — and that’s a rarity.
Typically — as “Girls Gone Wild,” “Trying to Find the Words” and other songs on this album show — they’re singing tunes that sound like retreads of some other R&B songs, filled with uninspired, vapid lyrics. Until Jagged Edge learns to pick better material, they’ll never rise from the middle of the pack. (Columbia)
— Nekesa Mumbi Moody
“12 MEMORIES,” TRAVIS
“12 Memories” could never be called a “happy” album. But the honesty that characterizes Travis’ latest disc is nothing short of uplifting.
On “Somewhere Else,” singer-songwriter Francis Healy says, “This life is so confusing, Feels like I’m always losing.” Similar sentiments pop up often, as Healy and his bandmates explore the complexity of relationships and politics with simple, direct instrumentation and engrossing lyrics.
Healy’s voice conveys the anger and resignation that exist in the abusive relationship described in “Re-Offender.” The band creates an equally convincing aura of desperation on “Happy to Hang Around,” which tackles another unhealthy liaison.
Inspired by Healy’s experiences on anti-war marches, the tick-tocking verses of “The Beautiful Occupation” are filled with frustration and sarcasm — including the biting “You don’t need an invitation, To drop in upon a nation.”
“Love Will Come Through” is a haunting appeal from one lover to another, with lyrics and guitar cascading into an urgent chorus.
In less capable hands, “12 Memories” could have easily become a dirge-like bore. But Travis turned a potential downer into something thought-provoking and enjoyable. (Epic)
— Rachel Kipp
“COMFORT WOMAN,” MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO
Meshell Ndegeocello brings a dreamy sensuality to “Comfort Woman,” an album that sounds like a continuation of her standout 1999 release, “Bitter.” But “Comfort Woman” is merely good, not great, and that may be because the album, at times, feels a little too familiar.
Ndegeocello’s latest is full of lush, multilayered mood music, caressed by the singer’s deep, rich voice. The songs all sound beautiful, but it can be difficult to tell them apart or to tell them from the offerings on “Bitter.”
One song that makes an impact is “Liliquoi Moon.” Ndegeocello ruminates on life and death as the song’s quiet orchestration and otherworldly sound effects explode into a Prince-like guitar solo.
The funkier “Good Intentions” is equally appealing. Ndegeocello uses few words, but convincingly communicates her devotion to another. The lighter, reggae-infused sounds of “Fellowship” and “Come Smoke My Herb” also provide welcome wake-up calls.
“Comfort Woman” occasionally sounds like a retread, but the album is still far better than those by many of Ndegeocello’s peers. (Maverick, $18.98)
— Rachel Kipp
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