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CD reviews on Pat McGee, Robert Lighthouse and No Doubt

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Pat McGee, "Shine" (Giant) — On this major-label debut Richmond's Pat McGee Band hits the ground running. The group's three indie recordings have sold 100,000 copies and they've been on the road since 1996. "Shine" presents a seasoned ensemble with mature songwriting abilities.

Many have likened PMB to another Virginia-based group, the Dave Matthews Band. Both built up loyal fan bases through constant touring and quality live shows. But unlike Matthews, McGee's sound is built not on quirky jazz-rock jams and world-beat touches, but on solid pop structures and vibrant harmonies.

Led by McGee's journeyman pop voice, the sextet's percussive/acoustic guitar sound shines. Produced by former Talking Head Jerry Harrison, the recording comes off as deceptively simple and crisp, a result of the band's 250-plus gigs a year.

"Fine" and a fan favorite "Rebecca" sparkle with three-part harmonies, while "Hero," and "Drivin'" offer solid grooves and rock rhythms. "Shine" lives up to its name, giving us a glance at a band that just may match its Charlottesville cousins in popularity.
— Eric Feber, The Virginian-Pilot

Robert Lighthouse, "Drive-Thru Love," (Right On Rhythm) — Those who enjoy the keepers of the traditional blues flame should give Lighthouse a listen. This Swedish-born, Washington-based, one-man band plays down-home rural blues and boogie with a respect and honesty that's often missing in flashier types. Recorded live in two D.C. clubs, "Drive-Thru" captures Lighthouse as he rolls through a largely original repertoire, his lonesome vocals accompanied by passionate slide guitar and harp. He also tackles tunes by Dr. Isaiah Ross, Elmore James and Willie Dixon, and he turns in a funky yet restrained version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads." Lighthouse also shows he can handle songs removed from the rural tradition with an acoustic version of the Jimi Hendrix jam, "Voodoo Chile." Lighthouse's finger-picking style adds a dimension to the tune that the master of psychedelic rock probably never imagined in his most inspired hour. Lighthouse does wander into a diverse and more directly Hendrix-inspired electric mode for the CD's last three cuts. But despite this stylistic shift, "Drive-Thru" is not for fans of wailing blues rock. Lovers of intimate front-porch blues played with a Delta feel will enjoy Lighthouse's compelling style.
— Ames Arnold

No Doubt, "Return of Saturn"(Trauma/Interscope) — It's not always a bad thing to take something out of context. Consider this: "We go so far/And then it just starts rewinding/And the same old song/We're playing it again."

No Doubt's follow-up to "Tragic Kingdom" finds Gwen Stefani hung up on Gwen Stefani. See, she likes her independence, but, darn it, she'd like to get married, and maybe have a baby. Too bad good girls attract bad boys. Gwen's dilemma, which rears its tedious head on almost every track, might not be so bad if her writing weren't so one-dimensional and her voice the most affected and irritating this side of Stevie Nicks.

"Return to Saturn," which is all over the board stylistically, doesn't offer one "Spiderwebs" or "Just a Girl," though "Bathwater" and "Staring Problem" come closest.

While the horns are underused, the trade-off is Tom Dumont's guitar. Surf, psychedelic or New Wave, he knows no bounds.

A review in a Connecticut paper likened "Return to Saturn" to cotton candy: A little bit is a sweet treat; too much will make you sick. Wish I'd though of that.
— C.A. Shapiro, The Virginian-Pilot

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