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This week: New discs by Elton John and Fergie; Weather Report boxed set; U2 DVD

Music reviews - 10-04-06 

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Elton John

The Captain & The Kid

Interscope

Lately Elton John has gone back to basics, and The Captain & The Kid, the “sequel” to his ’70s album Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy is as basic as it gets.

Lyrically the album is monstrous. Bernie Taupin’s use of muddled metaphors and clichés makes listening to this otherwise unassuming collection of tunes nearly a chore.

Elton, however, is in peak form. His arrangements are simple (mostly piano, limited percussion, and occasionally a guitar) and his voice is in good shape. On “Just Like Noah’s Ark” and “Old 67,” John lets loose and sounds like he’s having more fun than he’s had in years.

The title track attempts --- and fails --- to condense the last 30 years into a four-minute song. As he sings “And you can’t go back/and if you try it fails,” John shows he’s finally accepted his place in the pop lexicon.

Though his coke-induced run of genius may be forever behind him, Elton John can still put out a decent album. And after all he’s given us, shouldn’t that be enough?

--- Todd Rezsnyak

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Fergie

The Dutchess

Interscope

Black Eyed Peas principal Fergie continues her hit-making ways on this, her first solo effort.  She has a nice mix of club songs (the ubiquitous single “London Bridge”), ballads (“Glamorous,” “Girls Don’t Cry”) and even a nice throwback track, sampling the oldies tune “Get Ready” on “Here I Come.”

The songs have an eclectic feel, and that’s the problem. Fergie shows she can handle some styles, but not others. “Fergalicious,” for example, is simply ridiculous, and “Clumsy,” while good, sounds like an outtake from Gwen Stefani’s solo album.  “Velvet,” meanwhile, seems pointless.

Fergie shines when she sings; she has a great voice with an equally great range (“Mary Jane Shoes,” “Finally”), but too often on the disc she favors rapping, and sadly, her rhymes really aren’t that good (“Fergalicious”).

This disc will please her fans and it shows her growth as an artist, but she needs to focus on her strengths instead of trying to cover all her bases with so many styles. 

--- Todd Rezsnyak

 

 

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Weather Report

Forecast Tomorrow

Columbia Legacy

Many critics dismiss the jazz/fusion movement of the 1970s and 1980s, but there’s always one exception: Weather Report was in a class by itself. Capturing the group in a box set could have been a daunting task. Over 16 years there were more a dozen incarnations with four bassists and too many percussionists to count. The only constants were Wayne Shorter (sax) and Joe Zawinul (keyboards). Forecast Tomorrow (three CDs, one DVD) covers the group beautifully.

It begins with pre-history: Shorter and Zawinul in Miles Davis’ group on “In A Silent Way.” A Shorter tune and a Zawinul composition from his Cannonball Adderley days nicely illustrate the origins of the sound; then it’s on to three-dozen tracks from 15 albums (plus two previously unreleased cuts).

If the three discs are satisfying, the DVD is astounding. The greatest incarnation of the band, with Peter Erskine on drums and the incomparable Jaco Pastorius on bass, is caught in a brilliant two-hour 1978 performance in Offenbach, Germany. Zawinul is an octopus on six keyboards; Shorter weaves gorgeous melodies on tenor and soprano; Erskine is a veritable time machine on drums; and Pastorius --- Pastorius is from a different planet. On Zawinul’s “The Pursuit of the Woman With the Feathered Hat” Pastorius sets the throbbing pulse while Shorter charms snakes with his soprano. Pastorius’ “River People” comes to life in all its syncopated glory. Later, Pastorius solos on a three-song medley that shows why he was the Jimi Hendrix of the bass. Inevitably, the highlight is Zawinul’s “Birdland,” a showcase for all four musicians, as complex as it is catchy.

--- Ron Netsky

 

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U2

Zoo TV: Live from Sydney

Island DVD

Even haters have to concede that the Zoo TV tour, the last of the great stadium tours, was the right tour for its time: U2 took its newfound love of technology and created the first rest stop on the information superhighway. Spawned by the adolescence of 24-hour news channels and the immediacy of information that was illustrated by The Gulf War, U2’s vision of a cyberpunk future was at once hellish and, best of all, self-indulgent. This is a time before post-9/11, earnest Bono; here, in front of all those vidiwalls, he dons bug-eyed sunglasses and black pleather, smirking and humping video cameras, making fun of the rock star persona critics always said he had anyway. Complete with Mr. Macphisto’s phone call to an Australian taxi service, monstrous industrial versions of “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “The Fly” and some pretty sweet bonus material (including a documentary on those adorable trabants), this is the DVD for all of us who liked the nutty experimentalism of U2’s electronic ’90s. Uh…up until the giant lemon.

--- Tim Goodwin

 

 

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  • This week: New discs by Elton John and Fergie; Weather Report boxed set; U2 DVD

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