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Now Hear This

Lisa Loeb, Air, Ramsey Lewis & Nancy, Nappy Roots

The album most likely hasn't caught on because Loeb presents basically the same themes and sounds that she put out five years ago. Or maybe it's punishment for lending "We Could Still Belong Together" to the "Legally Blonde" soundtrack.

It's easy to enjoy Loeb's head-bobbing confessional songs, even if occasionally they come across like pages in a teen-ager's diary. More than a few choruses will stay on the mind like cake clings to hips. And after a couple of weeks, you'll have had enough to make you a little sick.

— Deborah Markham


Air "Everybody Hertz" (Astralwerks)

Why is it that so many remix albums are just bad? It could be that most of them repackage rather that reinvent. The worst erase the reasons why you liked the music in the first place.

"Everybody Hertz" falls into the latter category.

The album has remixes of only three Air tracks: "People in the City," "Don't be Light" and "How Does it Make you Feel," from the mediocre 2001 album, "10,000 Hertz Legend."

It seems that the remixers thought Air didn't include enough bleeps the first time around. Most obliterate Air's unique retro-futurism stamp.

The normally reliable Neptunes cast "Don't Be Light" as a languid jam that mostly works but is also off-putting. The best of the bunch is The Hacker's remix of "Light," though its thumpa-thumpa-thumpa beat is hardly original for the techno genre.

In all, it's pretty head-scratching from start to finish, and not particularly listenable to boot. And when it finally does near the end, its last track, the previously unreleased Air song "The Way You Look Tonight," is a parody of Gallic romanticism a la Pepe Le Pew. A disappointment. But then again, aren't most remix albums?

— David M. Putney


Ramsey Lewis & Nancy Wilson "Meant to Be" (Narada Jazz)

There's a bit of a truth-in-advertising issue to clear up here. The cover art and equal billing notwithtanding, this is not a true duet album. It's more of a Ramsey-Lewis-Featuring-Nancy-Wilson effort considering that Wilson is heard on only five of the release's 11 tracks.

It's also a reunion of these two pop-influenced jazz artists, a follow-up to their 1984 Stanley Clarke-produced collaborative, "The Two of Us."

And a pleasant affair it is, with Wilson at her understated best on David Frischberg's "Peel Me a Grape," where Lewis' controlled playing is augmented by acoustic bassist Larry Gray and drummer Ernie Adams. Listen for Wilson's impromptu laugh at the song's end. It's a nice touch. "Did I Ever Really Live" doesn't fare as well — a victim, if you will, of Wilson's overwrought, show-tune delivery. But Van Morrison's "Moondance" honey-drips from Wilson's lips.

The Lewis tracks are less memorable. The trio (with Adams and Leon Joyce alternating on drums) never really kicks tail or breaks new ground. The players deliver pleasant (there's that word again) music. Very kind to the ear, especially on "Meant to Be," but never musically challenging. — Marvin Leon Lake


Nappy Roots "Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz" (Atlantic)

With its major-label debut, Nappy Roots has staked its claim as the vanguard of Southern rap, Rural Division. "We just some country boys," they sing in unison, and at first one is inclined to assume that and nothing more.

Unlike most hip-hop floating around the airwaves, though, Nappy Roots' worldview cannot be reduced to one or two statements. There are too many choices ("using your mind or using your nine"), too many divergent strands present to narrowly define them. What results is a fascinating attempt to address standard hip-hop concerns (cars, girls, etc.) with a decidedly down-to-earth approach.

Rap's standard consumerism-to-the-extreme is turned on its head time and again. In "Dime, Quarter, Nickel, Penny" the group inquires of its contemporaries, "Why don't you give some dollars if you got so many?"

Occasionally the beat drags, as on "Country Boyz," or sounds a little too much like it was programmed on a cheap synthesizer. But "Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz" is an ambitious and intelligent work, and an enjoyable listen.

— John Hyman

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