Most of us probably first heard Eve’s vocals when she rhymed on the 1999 Grammy-winning Roots hit “You Got Me.” However, it was her debut single, “What Ya Want” on Ruff Ryders Ryde or Die Vol. 1 that catapulted Eve into superstar hip-hop artist status.
Now, the lone lady Ruff Ryder has dropped her second solo album, Scorpion. The album sticks to the tried and true Ruff Ryders formula of collaborations and infectious music provided by producer Swizz Beatz, and should keep Eve in the hip-hop spotlight.
Eve’s sophomore effort includes the many collaborations typical of a Ruff Ryders album, as nine of the thirteen tracks feature other artists. Many of these collaborations are with Ruff Ryder members, and some artists rhyme so long on the tracks that for a while it seems as if Scorpion should be renamed Ruff Ryders Ryde or Die Vol. 3. (Vol. 2 was released last year). In fact, on the track “Thug in the Street,” The Lox and Drag-on rhyme more than Eve.
The album’s collaboration with non-Ruff Ryders include everyone from No Doubt’s Gwen Stephani to Da Brat, Trina, Stephen Marley and Teena Marie.
Eve’s joint “Gangsta B’s,” featuring Da Brat and Trina is one of the best collaborations, as the three dynamic female rappers team up to produce a track that will be sure to blow up the pop charts and make for a video that will probably be a mainstay on MTV and BET’s music countdowns.
The Ruff Ryders’ first lady also tries her hand, rather successfully, at singing on Scorpion in a remake of the 1994 Dawn Penn hit “No, No, No,” featuring Damian and Stephen Marley.
Though Eve’s vocals and collaborations help make Scorpion a solid effort, the album is clearly made by Swizz Beatz, whose contagious beats keep the album’s momentum flowing. Tracks such as the already released “Who’s That Girl,” and “Got What You Need” should keep the floors of hip-hop clubs filled and provide for the all important radio air time.
All in all, Eve’s second album is a safe Ruff Ryder effort that should keep her and the label riding high on the hip-hop and pop charts. No one should be disappointed with Scorpion, but for future reference Eve might need a change.
Luna possesses all the elements of the perfect rock band — heavily reverbed guitars a la Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison, a handsome frontman in Dean Wareham and a cool mid-tempo sound that sounds great in the summer.
While Luna certainly sounds proficient on their new live album, Live, there’s absolutely no sense of spontaneity that characterizes the best live recordings. No notes are out of place, Wareham nails all his solos as if he’d been practicing alone in his room for weeks and all the songs sound exactly like they do on Luna’s albums.
Live starts with two of Luna’s best songs, “Bewitched” and “Chinatown.” Their album sound is completely translated into the live performance, as the sound levels are perfect and Wareham’s wispy voice is easily audible above the Velvet Underground-style jangle.
Despite occasionally brainless lyrics like “I have seen the chimpanzees/In the afternoon sun/It’s quiet in the steakhouse/And my legs have turned to jelly” on “Friendly Advice,” the crowd sounds engaged throughout, squealing loudly and making incomprehensible requests.
Disappointingly, the only song Luna struggles with — “Anesthesia” — is also their best. The tempo is never quite right, alternately too fast, then much too slow and Wareham’s vocals sound unsure and forced.
While the set list is generally decent — they play a lot of their best songs — “Anesthesia” is the only track from Lunapark, by far their best album.
Another disappointment is the lack of covers, often the best and most unpredictable moments of Luna’s live performances. While they’ve become notorious for ending shows with Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer,” they only play Wareham’s songs. They do play one cover — if it can be called that — in “Fourth of July,” the last single by Wareham’s former band, Galaxie 500. Still, they play it so accurately that it’s easy to forget Luna, not Galaxie 500, is the band behind the instruments.
For Luna diehards, this is a nice addition to the discography but for those seeking to hear a different and more adventurous side of Luna, Live isn’t the place to find it.
Rebirth Brass Band
What do you get when you combine jazz, New Orleans big band, funk, hip-hop and some good old rock n’ roll attitude? You get something very much like the Rebirth Brass Band. Hailing from the jazz mecca of New Orleans, the Rebirth boys bring some risqué vibes to the old jazz formula with their infectious grooves and hilarious one-line choruses. A total of eight members compose this famous local group that combines their own material with other well-known tunes of multiple genres. Though strictly a party album, the Rebirth Brass Band’s fifth studio album, Hot Venom, takes jazz out of the conservatory and into the streets with impressive results
First of all, this ain’t no sunglass wearing, smoky jazz experience. The Rebirth Brass Band mixes the tradition and sophistication that seasoned jazz musicians like these bring to the table with the debauchery of Mardi Gras and the confidence and swagger of hip-hop. “You Don’t Want To Go To War” features a genuine rap verse, and in “Rebirth Melody/Casanova,” the boys shout “You don’t wanna fuck with me/Rolling with the RBB!” — an attitude formally relegated only to the likes of hip-hop and rap/metal acts.
Song titles like “Rockin’ On Your Stinkin’ Ass” and “Pop that Pussy,” display both in their lyrical content and their musical form the group’s “dirty” image. But despite the low-brow side of the band’s message, their party atmosphere is absolutely invigorating. Tracks like “New Orleans Music” and “Thinking About Ya” are party tunes worthy of any drunken, bead-wearing excursion on Bourbon Street. The tune “Let’s Do It Again,” though, is especially expressive of the band’s ability to combine their care-free message with one of peace and community. The lively track features near its end the famous first verse of Snoop Dogg’s song “Lodi Dodi” from his first album, Doggystyle, while a minute after we’re graced with the chorus to Bob Marley’s immortal “One Love.” These verses sung a cappella push this track above the rest on Hot Venom.
Admittedly, a listener new to sitting through 73 minutes of straight jazz may find some of these tracks repetitive and without much nuance. Hot Venom’s mood range only really spans mild excitement to sloppy drunkenness, but the tunes are perfect for parties of the latter sort.
But what is so magical about Hot Venom is how effortlessly it captures the band’s sound. For their kind of music which deserves to be experienced live, Hot Venom’s production allows the listener to hear all the grunts, shouts, and exclamations of every one of the boys in the band. The recording sounds “live” in every sense of the word. All this spontaneous energy is wrapped up in a message of peace and love despite the ever-present sexual imagery.
“Blacks and whites/We need to all get along/And do our thang,” a message found in the last track, expresses much of this belief in understanding, and it is this message that fills in the gaps left by the band’s catchy but simple-minded shouts and bellows. It is the album’s sense of togetherness that proves it to be worthwhile, and makes it okay for you to go home from the party with someone you just met or an old friend.
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