LL Cool JAll World (Def Jam 314 534 125)Hip-hop hasn't...

CD REVIEWS

November 21, 1996|By J.D. Considine

LL Cool J

All World (Def Jam 314 534 125)

Hip-hop hasn't produced all that many greatest hits collections, in large part because few rap acts last long enough to generate an album's worth of hits. LL Cool J, though, has not only endured but grown in the 12 years since "I Need a Beat" put the then-16-year-old rapper on the map. But what makes "All World" remarkable isn't the incredible consistency of his output over the years so much as the way he has been able to maintain such a recognizable presence even as his sound changed. LL was very much a child of the Run-D.M.C. era, and his early hits -- particularly "I Just Can't Live Without My Radio" and "I'm Bad" -- were monuments to that macho bravado, owing their power to the brusque staccato of his polysyllabic attack. Later tracks, however, find him focusing more on his flow, laying back on "Doin' It" and "Hey Lover" so that instead of driving the beat, he merely teases it along -- an approach he pioneered through such breakthrough singles as "I Need Love" and "Goin' Back to Cali." Still, as well as "All World" documents his achievements, hard-core fans will be disappointed to note that both "I Need a Beat" and "Rock the Bells" are represented in their album incarnations instead of the superior 12-inch versions.

If We Fall in Love Tonight (Warner Bros. 46452)

Never one to hide his light under a bushel, Rod Stewart has

released three separate best-ofs over the years, as well as the career-spanning retrospective "Storyteller." So what could possibly justify another such collection? Why, a clever concept, of course. So even though "If We Fall in Love Tonight" looks as if it's little more than an attempt to stretch five new songs into a full album, it's actually meant as a ballad-oriented hits album. Trouble is, that makes a better marketing strategy than it does a listening experience. Some of that has to do with the crushingly uneven nature of the song list, since there's no way the flaccid "For the First Time" deserves to be put on equal footing with such solid performances as "You're In My Heart" or "Downtown Train." Nor does it help that Stewart invests as much emotion in the maudlin claptrap of "Sometimes When We Touch" as he does in more stirring material, such as "Broken Arrow" or "First Cut Is the Deepest." But the album's biggest weakness is its numbingly even tone; without a rocker or two to shake things up, Stewart gets to be a bit of a snore. Perhaps a better title might have been "If We Fall Asleep Tonight..."

George Clinton

Greatest Funkin' Hits (Capitol 33911)

When is a greatest hits album not a greatest hits album? When the hits you hear aren't the hits you remember. That's pretty much the case with George Clinton's "Greatest Funkin' Hits," an album that relies as much on his P-Funk legacy as on the strength of his solo career. After all, six of the album's 12 tunes are remakes of Parliament and Funkadelic oldies, including two versions of "Mothership Connection" and three of "(Not Just) Knee Deep." Adding to the sense that Clinton relies a tad too much on "Greatest Hits Helper" is the fact that there are also two totally different renditions of "Atomic Dog." Of course, considering how solid some of these alternates are, it's doubtful too many fans will complain. For instance, the first "Knee Deep" boasts guest raps by Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes and O.D.B., while the third is blessed with a jazzy, dub-inflected mix that brings a whole new vibe to the tune's booty-shaking groove. Overall, though, these "Greatest Funkin' Hits" lend credence to the view that Clinton has been coasting on his reputation for a little too long.

Joni Mitchell

Hits (Reprise 46326)

Misses (Reprise 46358)

Usually, a rock act's best and most popular work are one and the same. But not always, as Joni Mitchell's career makes plain. Although it would be easy enough to cull an album's worth of great songs from her most commercial material, it would be hard to get an accurate sense of her artistry without delving into the stuff that didn't sell a ton. So instead of just releasing a best-of like everyone else, Mitchell has divided her greatest work into two albums, "Hits" and "Misses." It's easy enough to understand the appeal of the former, stretching as it does from "Both Sides, Now" and "Chelsea Morning" to "Help Me" and "Free Man in Paris." But it's the latter that offers the most rewarding moments. Whether through such great album tracks as "A Case of You" and "For the Roses" or by way of overlooked gems like "Sex Kills" and "Hejira," Mitchell's "Misses" makes a strong argument for the view that success in the marketplace is rarely the best indicator of an artist's worth.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.