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Reviews of CDs by Spin Doctors, Jesse Winchester and Percy Hill

CD Reviews

Spin Doctors, "Here Comes the Bride"Jesse Winchester, "Gentleman of Leisure"Percy Hill, "Color In Bloom"(Click on a CD title or cover to order that CD from These Songs"Narcolepsy""Don't Change Your Plans""Mess"

Real Audio Required -->Spin Doctors, "Here Comes the Bride" (DAS/Universal) — I first heard the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" around 1990 on a college music sampler CD and was immediately taken with the band's infectious boppy sound. I caught the group live about a year later and was further impressed by lead singer Chris Barron's joyful energy — a welcome departure from the grunge angst that was so popular at that time. Then the group's 1991 album "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" hit the airwaves and suddenly the Spin Doctors were inescapable. The record sold seven million copies and "Two Princes" received the most airplay of any song in 1993. Suddenly, I never wanted to hear the Spin Doctors again. And apparently neither did anyone else. The band recorded two more albums, neither of which lived up the high expectations of its first. Its third album, "You've Got to Believe in Something" tanked, selling a paltry 75,000 copies. The group lost its record contract and disappeared.

But the Doctors are back, this time with a new lineup save for Barron and drummer Aaron Comess. Their latest should please fans of their first album as well as aficionados of the Dave Matthews/Phish/Blues Traveler jam-band genre. Comess lays down a jazzy groove on most of these tunes, the most successful of which employ a Latin- or island-inflected rhythm such as "Vampires in the Sun" and "Wow." Barron seems to have grown up a bit as well both in his lyricism and delivery. The album's first single "The Bigger I Laugh, The Harder I Cry," deserves some airplay, but for the Spin Doctors' sake, let's hope we're not saturated with it.

— Jessica Ronky Haddad

Play These Songs"Tiger In Your Tank""The Wild One""Cry Like A Man"

Real Audio Required -->Jesse Winchester, "Gentleman of Leisure" (Sugar Hill) — Jesse Winchester may still live in the Montreal town that gave him safe haven during the Vietnam War but "Gentleman of Leisure" nonetheless exudes bounties of gentle Delta soul. Mixing gospel, R&B, folk and even a little pop-rock, Winchester shows once more why he's been a critics' favorite for 30 years. Maybe he doesn't exactly crank 'em out (this is his first new recording in 11 years), but Winchester's easy-going Memphis roots style is well worth any wait.

A peaceful yet deeply grooved grace infects each cut whether he's waxing philosophical about the human condition, singing about Elvis' Cadillac or bidding a loved one farewell. Recorded in Nashville with session players Steve Cropper, Jerry Douglas, Jonell Mosser and Michael Henderson, among others, this funky and slow-rolling effort delightfully meanders like a lazy barge adrift on the Mississippi. Sung in his husky choirboy baritone, Winchester's songs of love and strength are just the stuff for which quiet, steamy Southern evenings were created.

— Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"A Place In The Shade""Half The Time""Big Sweet Life"

Real Audio Required -->Percy Hill, "Color In Bloom" What was once simply a run-of-the-mill jam band has undergone major line-up changes and produced an energized collection of original tunes on this fourth independent release.

Percy Hill's sound combines elements of jazz, pop, funk and rock with four-part harmonies and meaty songwriting. The opening track, "Slave (self promoted)" features creative keyboarding from band founder Nathan Wilson, highlighted by Sting-like vocals from Aaron Katz, which result in a jazzy, Jamiroquai-like sound. The catchy centerpiece on the album, "Ammonium Maze" features Katz sounding like Seal as he abstractly sings, "so soon we end alone again for a lifetime twisted around" with the rest of the band joining in to create pleasing four-part harmonies. The album's mostly mellow vibe is pleasantly punctuated by guitarist Joseph Farrell's falsetto, while it bops along to Wilson's flute and catchy chorus on "Fallen."

Witness Percy Hill's live performance and on-the-spot experimenting at The Garage in Washington July 15.

— Carrie Nieman

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