Randy Jackson's Music Club|
3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
Dawg! Randy Jackson, the nice (and coherent) “American Idol” judge has gathered together semi-successful alumni from the show along with established artists and produced “Music Club Vol. 1,” the debut collection in what promises to be a series of eclectic showcases to come.
Paula Abdul, Randy’s often confused cohort on the show, is electrifying in “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow.” Paula’s voice has been processed -- no problem, she’s been accused of this her entire career. She’s less chipmunky than in her million-selling heyday, which makes for a refreshing listen. Her vocal is mechanical, staccato, and the heavy footed bass drum dominates, but it’s all a calculated fit. Welcome back to the hit factory, Paula. “All I wanna do is stay right here on the floor get lost in the night and dance like there’s no tomorrow.”
Michael says: I like it Paula, I like it a lot.
British soul singer Joss Stone has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and has sung with the likes of Stevie Wonder, the Stones and the late James Brown. She shows she’s got a grasp of da funk in “Just Walk On By.” The keyboards take on the role of a horn section and there’s programmed syncopated clapping to inspire the feet. Despite her yute (she’s 19), Stone’s throaty voice has a healthy dose of Mariah Carey’s sexy come on with attitude. This borrows part of “Walk on By,” made famous by Dionne Warwick -- is that legal? Guess it is, as long as composers Burt Bacharach and Hal David get paid.
Michael says: Joss is gutsy and sounds confident and seasoned. I like it Joss, I like it very much.
“What Am I So Afraid Of,” featuring one hit wonder Trisha Covington (“Why You Wanna Play Me Out?”), Keke Wyatt and Kiley Dean is part hip hop country with percussion straight from a bug zapper. Wyatt and Dean have made more headlines away from the mike than singing into it. “Soul Sista” Wyatt once tried to fillet her husband, and Dean has more cancelled albums on her resume than actual releases. That doesn’t bode well for this collaboration. Just when you’ve gotten used to the supercharged hillbilly hokum, you get a flourish of heavy-footed drums and a blast of Heavy metal guitar from the Winger school of obnoxious avalanche guitar. The singers may have R & B roots, but can’t navigate this forced mating of styles.
Michael says: Be very afraid, because this is very, very wrong.
The Crunk Squad (featuring Ghostface Killah!) raps out “Like A.” Good God ya’ll, I just found out who Peter Frampton sold his talk box to. “Like AAAAAAA…Like AAAAA…” The talk box is a widespread guitar gizmo used by everyone from Jeff Beck to Foghat, but why mimic a voice when you can supposedly rap? And let’s get a ghost buster for Mr. Face, who speaks like he’s got a mouth full of Jello Pudding pops. I don’t expect a rapper to actually say something that makes sense, and Ghostface keeps the streak alive: “Yo’s a greedy chick…Now you out doin’ your thing, youse a greasy witch…I’m Ritchie Rich, I keep mad dollars runnin’ around.”
Michael says: I know now what the “A” stands for – asinine.
Kelli Love is a modern day torch singer. If you want to know what Trish Covington could have sounded like if she had the right material, Love’s “Who’s Gonna Love You Now” is it (and I’m sure the title is pure coincidence). Kelli doesn’t do much to distinguish herself from the thousands of current pop singers that warble theme songs for CW Television. “Who’s Gonna Love You Now” is pleasant and non descript, but in Kelli’s defense, she doesn’t reach for vocal heights she can’t attain and he keeps the Mariah Carey-isms at a minimum.
Michael says: Can the forced grunts Kelli, and I’ll give you more love.
“We’re gonna do this the Louisiana way,” Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame) proclaims in “Wang Dang Doodle,” a take on the old blues chestnut he sings with Keb Mo’ and Angie Stone. Keb Mo’ whips out his slide and cuts his guitar into melodic ribbons. Sly Sam still has the chops of a bedroom boogeyman and Angie Stone’s pleasingly soulful. When Keb gets his turn at the mike, his vocal is meaty and on point; he’s obviously the most at home of the trio and his modern blues packs a punch. Except for the strangled back up singers, this is a smooth, slick version as polished as simonized glass.
Michael says: You can’t go wrong with Uncle Sam. Stick with the pros.
Van Hunt, John McLaughlin and Jason Mraz team up for “Something To Believe In.”
This ain’t Patrick Moraz (too bad) or John McLaughlin (thank the Gods of music). This does, however, have a wall of guitars that nearly drowns out the singers during the chorus. Mraz has a warm set of pipes, although the cornball material doesn’t do it justice. This is Bryan Adams for the 21st Century, extravagant boy toy pop. Get out the syrup for these flapjacks.
Michael says: One slick teen idol would have been enough. I want something to believe in, but it ain’t you guys.
“Home,” by John Rich & Anthony Hamilton is modern country pop that gets strong support from an acoustic back up and regressed pedal steel. Rich, half of the country duo Big and Rich (get it?) has Kenny Loggins’ sweeping range mixed with the quaint delivery of Dan Fogelberg. Neo soul slinger Anthony Hamilton, who made a splash in 2003 with “Comin’ Where I’m From,” comes on waaaay to strong, not loud, just dramatic. Sorry bro,’ you’re out of your element. “Rich: Another winter day has come and gone away, even in Paris and Rome. I wanna go home. Let me go home. Hamilton: And I’m surrounded by a million people I still feel alone, and I wanna go home. Oh, I miss you, you know.” A bit contrived (aren’t all songs about loneliness?), but Rich’s ease with redneck romance is tolerable.
Michael says: Send Anthony “home” John and re-do this solo.
A product of studio engineering, Barbi Esco’s “My R &B” is awash with whispered processed vocals that sound as if they’re emanating from a vacuum cleaner hose. This is chipmunk hip hop. Disguise the fact Barbi sings like a Barbie Doll, add in a phony backing track and you may have a hit. But there isn’t anything genuine about this…The guy who growls “R & B” sounds like a pirate “…Aaargh and B…” Did Barbi just say “Can we get like Scooby?” Is she singing a love song to a cartoon dog?
Michael says: Nice beat, but a real dawg.
“Real Love” by former “Idol” contestants Katharine McPhee and Elliott Yamin has plenty of bounce. Although McPhee’s been singing since she was 2, she also has about as much soul as Doris Day. Her less than limber style is a reflection of her cabaret/theater background. McPhee, an “Idol” finalist, was dropped by RCA after one album. Can’t say they were totally wrong. She’s too Broadway for this, but “Real Love” is one of those tunes that’s crammed with irresistible hooks and is impossible to wreck; it’s pop Teflon. Elliot Yamin is a dead sound-a-like for bip bopping guitar player/singer Jonathan Butler, which makes him tolerable, not memorable. I should cut Yamin some slack because he’s a serious diabetic and is 90% deaf in one ear; but I can’t resist saying he sings like he’s deaf in both. Despite Yamin’s yammering; the back ups give the chorus a gospel feel that locks in with beat. There’s a looping of the chorus at the end that makes you realize “Real Love” is real light on verses.
Michael says: Lose one half of the team (yammerin’ Yamin), and you’ve got a hit.
“Willing To Try” force feeds us the unlikely trio of Richie Sambora, Travis Tritt and Lucy Woodward. Who proposed this preposterous unholy triad? Richie must’ve still been on the sauce to agree to this. He has a full voice that’s deeper an infinitely more enjoyable than the nail-through-your-head bleating of his boss, Jon Bon Jovi, but this is still stilted country/pop. Travis is much more comfortable in the bloated proud to be an American arrangement: “When push comes to shove and you’ve had enough and you’re giving up on love, I’m willing to try.” As for Woodward, she has a heavy jazz background -- which doesn’t excuse her singing all over the map like a schizophrenic on a coffee enema. Woodward’s a singing blast furnace. At one point her voice climbs until it hits every exposed nerve in your body, then drops and goes sandy like Bonnie Tyler’s. That’s too long a trip to ask anyone to endure.
Michael says: Travis: trite. Richie: Have another. Lucy: You can’t be in the show.
The closer is “I Understand” by Kim Burrell, Rance Allen, Bebe Winans, Mariah Carey & Hezekiah Walker’s love Fellowship Tabernacle Church Choir. I’m tired reading the credits and I haven’t even heard the song yet. Praise the Lord and pass the bedpan. There’s some holy Hammond work as part of the intro, but Bebe does a lot of vocal spinning and going nowhere. This is gospel pop, the type of well sung, well prepared, uninspired pap you see on cable where one minute they’re lip-synching and the next they’re fleecing the flock. I know Bebe and the like are respected in their field, but I’d like to take them out to that field and well…I won’t be any more blasphemous than I’ve been. But there are entire church services that take less time than this, which wastes 7:01. Just when you think its over, Bebe starts prognosticating and Amen-ing. And aside from a few Minnie Ripperton glass-shattering notes, Mariah just lent her name to this and cashed the check.
Michael says: Kim Burrell influenced Jessica Simpson’s singing style. That’s really all you need to know.
Anyone who can give us back the bubbly MTV Paula Abdul pre-Prozac, can’t be all bad. If you like a range of music as wide as the disparity in age between Tony Curtis and his wife, you’ll love the variety “Music Club” offers. Nothing strays too far from formula – you just have to swallow a lot of pabulum and hope you don’t gag. But listen up, you might find something to idolize.