'This Time' proves that rock and country can easily roll together

March 26, 1993|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic


Dwight Yoakam (Reprise 45241)

As a singer, Dwight Yoakam has everything you'd expect of a country traditionalist -- a high, lonesome tenor with a soul-deep twang. As a songwriter and stylist, however, Yoakam's sense of tradition is anything but the Nashville norm, because instead of acting as if rock and country have nothing in common, Yoakam treats the two as different branches of the same tree. So "This Time" makes no distinction between the hillbilly heartbreak of "Home for Sale" or the classic honky-tonk of the title tune, and the Stones-style stomp of "Wild Ride." Still, the album's best songs -- like "Pocket of a Clown" or "Ain't That Lonely Yet" -- completely blur those distinctions, to sound like pure Yoakam.


Tasmin Archer (SBK 80134)

Although its title may seem just an allusion to Dickens, there's good reason for Tasmin Archer to have "Great Expectations." It helps that her first single, "Sleeping Satellite," topped the U.K. charts straight out of the box, but the real reason for hope is her songwriting, which blends soul-baring emotion with ear-catching melodies. But Archer's debut doesn't entirely live up to expectations; although her singing has enough soulful confidence to keep the material from ever seeming too precious, it also leads her to turn potentially exciting songs into polite pop fodder -- meaning that for every emotionally arresting number like "In Your Care," there are two more tracks that are pleasantly tuneful and nothing more.


Monie Love (Warner Bros. 45054)

Male rappers don't have much maneuvering room when it comes time to strike an attitude; either they're gangsta tough, or pensively philosophical, with no middle-ground allowed. But Monie Love plays it both hard and tender without fear of contradiction, and it's that whole-woman perspective that gives "In a Word or 2" its punch. As she puts it in "Mo' Monie," "I'm no longer in the middle," and the best tracks here find her firmly in command, from the strong sense of self-determination in "Sex U All" to the deeply-felt family values voiced by "Born 2 B.R.E.E.D." Even better, the music backs her up all the way, offering everything from smart, soul-style vocal hooks to slammin' drums and fat, floor-shaking bass-lines. In a word, it's terrific.


James Brown (Polydor 314 517 845)

If you know James Brown only as a singer, you really don't know James Brown that well at all. Brown played organ, piano, vibraphone and drums, and released 11 all-instrumental albums between 1961 and '71. "Soul Pride: The Instrumentals 1960-1969" collects the best and most ambitious of these, showing off long-time sidemen like Maceo Parker, "PeeWee" Ellis, Jimmy Nolen and St. Clair Pinckney, as well as Brown's own surprisingly fluid soloing. Some of the tunes are impressively jazzy -- check the bop-derived blowing on "Gittin' a Little Hipper," for example -- but the most memorable moments focus on the funk that made Brown famous. And if "Funky Drummer," "The Popcorn" or the live "Devil's Den" don't get your booty shakin', you're in serious need of a soul transplant.

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