'Yanni Live at the Acropolis' isn't lively enough

April 01, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

YANNI LIVE AT THE ACROPOLIS

Yanni (Private Music 10058 21162)

Even though he's often lumped in with the likes of Ray Lynch and Kitaro, Yanni is less a new age composer than an old-fashioned "beautiful music" bandleader. Instead of wooshing synths and airy atmospherics, what "Yanni Live at the Acropolis" delivers are the sort of soothing melodies and lush orchestrations one would expect from a latter-day Mantovani. That's not to say Yanni's music is entirely sedate; there's a surprising amount of funk to the bass-and-percussion break in ,, "The Rain Must Fall," and some fairly fierce fiddling at the end of "Standing in Motion." But given his propensity for slow, sweeping melodies and string-sweetened instrumental arrangements, rock-oriented listeners may find Yanni entirely too yawny.

MIND BLOWIN'

Vanilla Ice (SBK 28725)

Poor Vanilla Ice. He's tried hard to reinvent himself on "Mind Blowin'," offering a new look, a new DJ and a new attitude. But he still has the same rap style, and ultimately, that's what sinks the album. No matter how much he boasts about having "Phunky Rhymes" and wanting to "Hit 'Em Hard," the fact is that his raps lack both confidence and coherence. Instead of hyping the beat by playing with the cadences within his rhymes, the Ice man just runs roughshod over the rhythm, often losing the groove in a blur of syllables. Worse, he still thinks that a recognizable hook is enough to salvage a lame rhyme, although in the case of "Fame," he at least uses a cover band instead of samples. That's progress, for sure; trouble is, it's just not enough.

CHANT

The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos (Angel 55138)

Let's face it -- Gregorian chant isn't exactly the stuff of which hit singles are made. There may be something hauntingly beautiful about their plainsong melodies, but that hardly counts as a good hook. As for groove -- forget it! So how is it that the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos have a worldwide hit on their hands with the modestly titled "Chant"? Because despite the album's apparent lack of pop smarts, there's something wonderfully attractive about the sound of these chants. Some of it has to do with the monastery's acoustics, which add an otherworldly beauty to these austere melodies. But mainly, it's the monks themselves who make the difference, for their hushed, angelic voices convey such tranquillity and insight that it's easy to understand why these chants have endured for 1,500 years.

MARTINIS & BIKINIS

Sam Phillips (Virgin 39438)

Between her tart, melancholy voice and fondness for tuneful, semi-psychedelic guitar pop, you'd think Sam Phillips would be at least a minor sensation by now. So far, though, the public at large has remained distressingly indifferent to her charms. But if there's any justice in this world, "Martinis & Bikinis" will change all that. As with her previous work, the album is packed to bursting with exquisite instrumental textures and delicious mind-melting melodies, from the luscious, Lennonesque "Love and Kisses" to the pungent, guitar-charged punch of "Same Changes." And the best tracks, like "Baby I Can't Please You," are so irresistibly tuneful that it takes only a single play in the morning to leave you humming all day.

PICK UP ON THIS!

Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers (Rounder 2129)

Zydeco is dance music at heart, and the most popular zydeco bands in Louisiana work the beat with a single-minded intensity. So once Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers get into a groove, they stay there until the song is over. That's one reason why "Pick Up on This!" makes for such great party music; apart from the slow, bluesy introduction to "Yesterday," the band keeps kicking until the album is over. But it also helps that Beau Jocque augments the traditional Creole feel of " 'Gardez Donci" and "Chere Mignonne" with blues and funk licks like the "Boogie Chillun" riff that powers "Zydeco Boogie Woogie" or the rendition of "Low Rider" that caps "Hi-Rollers Theme."

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