The Soul of John Black
The Soul of John Black
No Mayo Records
The debut release from (near) duo John "JB" Bigham (formerly with Miles Davis, Fishbone) and Christopher "CT" Thomas (formerly with Betty Carter, Joshua Redman, Macy Gray) is a pleasant, soulful listen rimmed with funk, rock, folk, R & B, blues, gospel, jazz, hip-hop, spoken word ... It's a sure thing that something on this CD should strike your fancy. An appealing mesh of the good ol' soul sounds la Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone, with a tight jam approach and Beck-ish improvisational stylings, impossible to quite put your finger on, make this an extremely powerful album.
You'll be hard pressed to keep your hips from sliding and your shoulders from swaying especially on tracks like "Scandalous (No. 9)", "Carolyn (The Green Mix)" and "The Odyssey." The music is a meaningful conversation between the simple rhythm, the heartfelt guitar, the grounding bass and smooth vocals. The lyrics are poetic, down to earth and full of heartbreak, honesty and a touch of humor: "I shifted down to second gear/blinked my eyes and she/disappeared, oh no/I guess I had too many beers." A definite candidate for heavy rotation in your disc changer.
(Note: The Soul of John Black performs Friday, Jan. 16th at 10:30 p.m. at the Bluebird Theater in Denver. Call 303/322-2308 for details).
-- Carrie Simison-Bitz
This Is Not A Test!
On the tail end of the best stretch for commercial hip-hop since 1992-1994, when Dr. Dre's The Chronic, Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle and the Notorious BIG's Ready to Die took gangster rap to its logical, multi-platinum conclusion, comes Missy Elliot with the year's greatest club-hop record. While it doesn't have a single as catchy as "Work It" (from her 2002 release Under Construction) and isn't as devastatingly derrir as 50 Cent's "In Da Club," This Is Not A Test! is far and away the most complete hip-hop album since Eminem's The Eminem Show last year. More than keeping pace with The Neptunes and Dr. Dre on the production front, Timbaland delivers beats that find the cut in a balance between simple bump bass and complex lessons in staccato syncopation. "Pass That Dutch," "Wake Up," "I'm Really Hot," "Let It Bump," "Pump It Up," "Let Me Fix My Weave" and "Spelling Bee" all have the "it" that it takes to be club and radio hits. While it's not an absolutely perfect record, Missy and Timbaland have made a great album.
-- Noel Black