HOUSE OF PAIN
House of Pain (Tommy Boy 1056)
Hip-hop is really jumping this summer. First Kriss Kross tops the charts with the bouncy, ebullient "Jump," and now House of Pain is working its way into the Top 10 with the similarly springy "Jump Around." But just as the guys in House of Pain have more to say than simply "Get out your seat and jump around," there's more to "House of Pain" than one single. In fact, "Jump Around," barely scratches the surface; not only are there tougher rhymes elsewhere on the album ("Danny Boy, Danny Boy," for instance), but much more imaginative music. "Guess Who's Back," for instance, owes much of its appeal to the way the backing track slips from a funky, Stax-derived soul groove into a circus calliope quote, while bass-heavy loop beneath "Come and Get Some of This" is so insinuatingly idiosyncratic that it's impossible not to be drawn in. All told, "House of Pain" is definitely a pleasure.
Bob James/Earl Klugh (Warner Bros. 26939)
Some duos strike sparks so easily that it seems almost as if the music would have to be fiery. That's never been the case with Bob James and Earl Klugh, though; these two have always seemed calm and collected when collaborating. Perhaps that's why they've dubbed their third album of duets "Cool." Of course, it helps that the album's tone also fits the title, from the well-chilled funk of "Movin' On" to the tuneful restraint of "The Night That Love Came Back." But don't get these guys wrong -- the music's mood may be cool, but the playing can get pretty hot, be it through the percussive percolation of "New York Samba" or in the quiet intensity of "Terpsichore."