Trisha Yearwood(Songbook) A Collection of Hits (MCA...

CD REVIEWS

September 11, 1997|By J.D. Considine

Trisha Yearwood

(Songbook) A Collection of Hits (MCA 70011)

It's not every country singer who could compile a greatest hits collection that opens with a big Dianne Warren ballad and closes with a tender little love song by Garth Brooks. But then, Trisha Yearwood isn't just any country singer. A crossover artists in the best sense of the term, Yearwood's singing marries the unfettered emotionalism of country with the full-throated power of mainstream pop. But the real magic in "(Songbook) A Collection of Hits" isn't what she does with her voice, but what she brings to the songs. Like a lot of country singers, Yearwood likes a good story, and her hits collection is packed with slice-of-life songs, from the sentimental naturalism of "She's In 00 Love with the Boy" to the you-are-there vividness of "Wrong Side of Memphis." She doesn't just tell these stories, though -- she animates them, pulling enough emotional energy from the melodies to bring these scenes to life. So when, in "The Song Remembers When," she sings of hearing an old song and being transported to a moment in her past, we're there with her, feeling the music's magic. Moments like that may be rare in country, but they're astonishingly common in Yearwood's "Songbook."

Christian McBride/Nicholas Payton/Mark Whitfield

Fingerpainting (Verve 314 537 856)

Rock songwriters like to say that the surest test of a song is how well it holds up when performed with just guitar and voice. In that sense, the Christian McBride/Nicholas Payton/Mark Whitfield collaboration "Fingerpainting" is quite a testament to Herbie Hancock's writing skill, because it conveys the full flavor of the pianist's compositions using just guitar, double bass and trumpet. It helps, of course, that guitarist Whitfield easily conveys the complexity of Hancock's chord structures, vividly capturing the angular dissonance in "The Eye of the Hurricane," and borrowing from Brazilian samba voicings to create the proper harmonic cushioning for "Speak Like a Child." Payton does an admirable job of fleshing out Hancock's melodic ideas, delivering the power of a whole horn section when needed and at times evoking the pungent lyricism of Miles Davis (Hancock's best-known employer), and his duet with Whitfield on "The Kiss" is especially sweet. But it's McBride who shines brightest, soloing as eloquently as either of his compatriots (his break in "The Sorcerer" is a masterpiece of melodic concision) while laying down a pulse so steady that even "Chameleon" holds up without drums.

Photek

Modus Operandi (Astralwerks 6207)

One of the problems with describing the various strains of contemporary dance music as "electronica" is that the term seems to suggest a music divorced from the textures of acoustic music. That isn't always the case, however, and few albums make that as obvious as Photek's "Modus Operandi." Even though Rupert Parkes, the man behind Photek, is a wholly electronic musician, he has little interest in obviously synthesized sounds. Instead, he draws inspiration from jazz and elsewhere. Not only do the breakbeats boast enough polyrhythmic complexity to bear comparison to be-bop, but the bass is often round and boomy enough to pass for an upright. But as much as some tracks might conjure up memories of vintage jazz fusion -- the Weather Report-like chords at the beginning of "The Hidden Camera," for instance, or the tasty simulacrum of acoustic bass, electric piano and guitar that defines the title tune -- others offer more otherworldly associations, as when the whooshing synths and dull-thumping percussion at the beginning of "Minotaur" suggest the workings of some celestial heating system. Either way, this deeply atmospheric music is perfect for getting lost in -- either at home or on the dance floor.

Gidon Kremer

Astor Piazzolla: El Tango (Nonesuch 79462)

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