Rhyme not the only reason Heavy D.'s 'Funk' succeeds

February 05, 1993|By J.D. Considine

Pop Music Critic


Heavy D. & the Boyz (Uptown 10734)

Because rap is such a word-intensive pop style, some people assume that anything it has to say will come across in the lyrics. That isn't always so, though; in fact, an album like "Blue Funk" by Heavy D. & the Boyz, carries as much of the message in the music as in the rhymes. Cue up "Slow Down," for example, and it doesn't take long to hear how the dissonance and disquietude in the clashing horn samples point up the irony in Heavy D.'s "No need to worry" chorus. Likewise, his dance hall-style delivery on "Girl" goes a long way toward softening the sexism of its lascivious lyrics. Best of all, by using the music to modulate the album's mood, Heavy D. is able to convey a far wider range of ideas and emotions, making this his most impressive and enlightening album to date.



Wynton Marsalis Septet (Columbia 53324)

Look at almost any history of jazz, and what you'll see celebrated is the spontaneous genius of improvisation -- which is fine as far as it goes. But jazz has also produced some wonderful composers, and yet the notes they put on the page never seem to be as deeply appreciated as the ones they let fly in performance. Fortunately, that's beginning to change, and as it does, we may wind up praising Wynton Marsalis more for his compositional genius than for is improvisatory flair. "Citi Movement (Griot New York)" is a case in point. Originally written for choreographer Garth Fagan, the ballet blends scored ensemble passages with individual and group improvisation as seamlessly as any Ellington classic, while its deft allusions to older idioms gives it a sense of scale rarely found in modern jazz. An impressive work, and one well worth a careful hearing.


Juan Luis Guerra Y 4.40 (Karen 146)

After the stunning success of their 1990 album, "Bachata Rosa," a lot of Latin music fans felt Juan Luis Guerra Y 4.40 had something to prove this time around. And "Areito" is, indeed, a milestone of sorts for merengue -- but not necessarily the one Guerra's fans might have expected. Sure, there's plenty of percussion-driven appeal to tracks like "Senales de Humo" or "Rompiendo Fuente," and some wonderfully affecting ballad work on "Cuando Te Beso." But the most interesting tracks are those that go beyond the usual stylistic boundaries of salsa -- like the vallenata-flavored arrangement behind "Mal de Amor," or the soukous-style guitar lines that color "El Costo de la Vida."


The Orb (Big Life/Mercury 314 513 749)

Given the ear-crushing volume employed at most discos, it may seem hard to believe that any dance music artist would be interested in subtlety or serenity. But soft-focus soundscapes are in fact the specialty of ambient house acts like the Orb, whose current double album "U.F.Orb" could almost be described as "dance Muzak." Except, of course, that real Muzak is far more conventionally melodic than these new-agey pieces, which avoid conventional verse-chorus constructions entirely. Yet as rambling and episodic as these pieces often are, there's something wonderfully hypnotic about their gently ebbing rhythms, particularly the 40-minute epic, "Blue Room."

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