III (Temples of Boom)Cypress Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia...

CD REVIEWS

November 09, 1995|By J. D. Considine

III (Temples of Boom)

Cypress Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia 669910)

However much the title suggests bass-driven party music, there's little fun to be had with Cypress Hill's new album, "III (Temples of Boom)." It isn't just that the lean, ominous rhythm tracks are more hypnotic than celebratory; there's also an aura of evil to the raps, as the group takes a brutal, unblinking look at the empty lives and meaningless violence of urban drug culture. Rather than take the establishment view and argue against dope, Cypress Hill opens the album with "Spark Another Owl," which actively revels in the pleasures of getting high. It's not just talk, though, for the music also plays its part, backing the raps with slurry, slow-thumping grooves and flavoring the instrumental tracks with psychedelic touches of sitar or vibraphone. Far from glorifying the drug life, though, the raps "Illusions" and "Killafornia" paint it as a world of pain and paranoia, full of low-level hustles and two-bit deals that -- as the horrifying "Boom Biddy Bye Bye" makes plain -- often go terribly wrong. All told, it makes for a deeply disturbing yet strangely compelling album.

Road Tested

Bonnie Raitt (Capitol 33705)

As any fan knows, Bonnie Raitt really kicks in concert. Blessed with a solid songbook and the tightest, funky bands, her shows are as close to a sure thing as can be found on the road these days. Apparently, though, that's not enough to justify a live album, so "Road Tested" augments her usual show with guest appearances by Bryan Adams, Charles Brown, Ruth Brown, Jackson Browne, Bruce Hornsby and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson. Obviously, those names add a lot to the marquee value, but what they bring to the album isn't quite so impressive. Hornsby fits in nicely on "Thing Called Love," and Adams pumps up the wattage on "Rock Steady," but the others serve merely in a cameo capacity. Besides, given the strength of Raitt's own performances, the added star power isn't really needed. Not only are "Love Letter" and "Longing in Their Hearts" hotter than the studio versions, but Raitt nicely rounds out the hits with a heartfelt tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell ("The Kokomo Medley") and a surprising cover of the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House."

Gangsta's Paradise

Coolio (Tommy Boy 1141)

Even though Coolio's raps are firmly grounded in the here-and-now, deep down, he's an old-school rapper. Unlike the new generation of West Coast rappers, Coolio would rather refit a familiar oldie than build a rhythm bed from scratch, and where other crews tend toward long solos alternating with brief free-for-alls, Coolio sticks with the fast-paced interplay of old-fashioned rap routines. That may keep him off the cutting edge, but it's responsible for most of the pop appeal on his second album, "Gangsta's Paradise." From the now-familiar title tune with its Stevie Wonder sample, to the "Me and Mrs. Jones" -- quoting "A Thing Goin' On" and the Smokey Robinson cop of "Cruisin'," Coolio is fairly shameless about building his raps around borrowed riffs. But because he always brings an original twist to the material, as in the Sly Stone derived "Smilin'," it's hard to find fault with his method, particularly since those samples and quotes often end up reinforcing the message in these raps. Best of all, the verbal content is often as deep as the grooves, making tracks like "The Revolution" and "For My Sisters" essential listening for hip-hop fans.

Vault

Def Leppard (Mercury 314 528 815)

Greatest hits albums are generally released when an act wants to maintain its career momentum but doesn't have anything new on hand. Even so, few groups are as open about that as Def Leppard is. In addition to 14 of the band's best oldies, "Vault" also includes a note to the fans promising that the band is "working like madmen" to finish its next album. But given the enormous amount of time this band spends in the studio, the fans don't expect a new album any time soon -- nor would they want one. After all, the heart of Def Leppard's appeal lies with the painstaking craft that goes into each single, and "Vault" certainly shows the advantage of that approach. Even though you've probably heard these songs a thousand times by now, there's still something about the crunchy guitars, massed vocal harmonies and punchy drumming that keeps tracks like "Rocket" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" sounding fresh and exciting. In fact, the only fault with "Vault" is "When Love & Hate Collide," a song written for "Adrenalize" but recorded for this collection; although it's solid enough to fit in with the other tunes here, it comes across like a bar of gold in a room full of platinum. But then, how many bands have that problem?

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