Cd Check

CD CHECK

October 06, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Sheryl Crow

Wildflower

[A&M] **1/2 (two stars and half star)

In case her doe-eyed presence cheering now-fiance Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France wasn't enough, Crow seems determined with this album to leave no doubt: Love is on her mind. It's not, apparently, irrepressible, exuberant puppy love but serious, introspective, adult love.

Too bad. Crow has always been at her best when at her most spirited, drawing on classic rock and pop models, her ballads serving as nice contrast. But there's little contrast here, with contemplative considerations of amour dominating. It's not all coos and sighs -- there's more ruing of love lost ("Always on Your Side," "Perfect Lie") and uncertainty ("Good Is Good," in which someone should have reminded her that thunder comes after lightning, not the other way around), than blind devotion. And when she goes outside these ruminations ("Letter to God," which gets too close to XTC's "Dear God," and the news-fueled "Where Has All the Love Gone"), it's a bit jarring.

John Shanks and Jeff Trott's restrained production and David Campbell's snaky string arrangements give an attractive, Beatles-lite tone overall, though only the '70s soul-pop of "Live It Up" breaks the relatively deliberate pace. It all shows Crow as smart and mature. But the giddy-kid part of her is missed.

DJ Quik

Trauma

[Mad Science] *** (three stars)

Since his emergence in the early 1990s, this Compton, Calif., rapper-producer-musician has been one of the music's most innovative and underappreciated talents. His melodic beats helped define the funk-drenched, West Coast rap sound, and his silky raps have reported on the joy and pain Quik has seen and experienced in the tumultuous streets of Southern California.

On his seventh album, Quik enhances his musicianship and his rapping, updating his sound by focusing on an airy, crisp production style that tones down the funk backbone and draws attention to the groove-driven guitar, horn, drum and turntable work that propels the sonic side of the album.

Quik's stream-of-consciousness lyrics feature more passion than he's had in years and also include some of the best wordplay of his career. The somber "Intro for Roger," the soulful "Jet Set" and the bouncy "Till Jesus Comes" document Quik's struggle with friends and family, while the thumping "Catch 22" describes the crippling impact violence has on communities and families.

Even on the more upbeat selections (i.e., the sensuous "Black Mercedes"), Quik still infuses his lyrics with the edge typical of a person scorned. Indeed, there's an undercurrent of bitterness and rage that fuels "Trauma," making for an intense musical journey that resonates long after the music stops.

Various artists

Sounds Eclectico

[KCRW/National Records] **** (four stars)

This disc of Latino-themed sessions from the Morning Becomes Eclectic show on Southern California's KCRW-FM could serve as a cool primer to Latin Alternative music and its many permutations -- from the lounge-rock of Los Amigos Invisibles and the haunting acoustic pop of Jorge Drexler to L.A. favorites Los Lobos and Ozomatli.

But the collection is simply indispensable for serious Latin rock fans. Because they were taped on two-track digital tape with no overdubs, the recordings reveal a vulnerable and deliciously raw side to some of the movement's stars.

We learn, for instance, that Julieta Venegas' drummer is not a very reliable time keeper and that El Gran Silencio can border on incompetence when it ventures on an acoustic "Sound System Municipal."

When the performances are peerless (a raucous "Clandestino" by Manu Chao, a smoky bolero with Omara Portuondo -- one of the record's few nonrock tracks) the feeling is particularly moving, since you know these gems were captured in just one take.

From the purring vocals of Aterciopelados' Andrea Echeverri to Cafi Tacuba's solemn "La Muerte Chiquita," there are so many precious little details here that the album's depth can be appreciated only after repeated listening.

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