Shaq's rap attack shows plenty of big-league moves

RECORDS

November 12, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

SHAQ DIESEL

Shaquille O'Neal (Jive 41529)

On the face of it, Shaquille O'Neal's debut album seems like just another sports-celeb vanity project. After all, with production by Erick Sermon and Def Jeff, plus cameos by the Fu-Schnickens and Phife from a Tribe Called Quest, "Shaq Diesel" is blessed with enough first-rate help that it would sound good even if all O'Neal did was dribble to the beat. So here's the surprise -- O'Neal raps well enough to make the all-star support unnecessary. It helps that he's got a strong voice and enough rhythm to easily go one-on-one with his guests. But what puts O'Neal in the driver's seat is his flair for tricky cadences and cleverly composed rhymes. Take "Shaq Diesel" for a spin and hear for yourself.

STONE FREE: A TRIBUTE TO JIMI HENDRIX

Various Artists (Reprise 45438)

It's hard to argue with the premise behind "Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix." How better to illustrate Jimi Hendrix's influence than have an assortment of superstars remake some of his best-known songs? For all its good intentions, though, "Stone Free" ends up seeming rather less than the sum of its parts. True, there are some marvelous moments -- Jeff Beck's incendiary "Manic Depression," the Pretenders' gentle "Bold As Love" and the Cure's curious techno take on "Purple Haze" -- but Eric Clapton sputters where he ought to sizzle, Nigel Kennedy seems clueless about "Fire," and Spin Doctors emerge from "Spanish Castle Magic" sounding like some second-rate bar band. It may be better not to be experienced with this album.

THE RED SHOES

Kate Bush (Columbia 53737)

Even though it generally takes four years for Kate Bush to put an album together, what results is usually worth the wait. So why does "The Red Shoes" seem such a misstep? It isn't as if Bush has lost her knack for odd-but-catchy pop songs -- the title tune spins its slightly circular theme into wonderful, ear-catching arabesques, while "Rubberband Girl" boasts all the bouncy exuberance of Peter Gabriel's big hits. But she does seem to have lost the thread somewhere, because too many of these songs lead nowhere, relying more on flashy production (like with "Big Stripey Life") and high-profile guests (as on the Prince-driven "Why Should I Love You?") than on melodic inspiration.

INHALER

Tad (Giant/Mechanic 24525)

Some people think hard rock would be more enjoyable if it cleaned itself up a little -- tone down the distortion, sweeten the vocals, and add a little pop polish to the arrangements. The guys in Tad, on the other hand, seem to think that ragged vocals, grungy guitars and subtle-as-a-brick arrangements are precisely what makes the music worth playing. And "Inhaler" makes a pretty strong case for that aesthetic. Not only is there plenty of power to these songs, from the pummeling overdrive of "Lycanthrope" to the ear-crushing power-chords in "Throat Locust," but Tad Doyle and his bandmates appear to have the time of lives generating that racket. As Beavis and Butt-head would say, this stuff definitely doesn't, er, inhale.

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