Volume 93, Issue 56

Wednesday, December 8, 1999


Weekend Pass

The best and worst of 1999

Grand production a comforting classic

Rheostatics habitually unpredictable

Funnyman Fox fancies fame and fucking

Dre smokin' the good stuff again

Dre smokin' the good stuff again

Dr. Dre
Chronic 2001

The Impala, still and nailed to the ground for so long, is poised to commence bouncing again. The herb is cut, cleaned and ready and the AK-47's are pregnant with possibilities. The anticipation is over – Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001 has broken free from captivity and is out on the streets.

The originator of the West Coast G-funk sound is back from his self-imposed hiatus and ready to pick up exactly where he left off.

Since his well-publicized break from Suge Knight's Death Row label, Dre had sworn off his old "bitches, guns and weed" credo.

With a new wife and child influencing his lyrical choices, he adapted a more positive vibe for his next efforts. Predictably, his Aftermath compilation album failed, mainly because Dre forgot a key aspect to lyricism – write about what you know.

The success of rap's newest wunderkind, Eminem, has helped Dre re-establish his connections with the dark side of rap.

With his street credibility proven once again, the good Doctor went back to his familiar studio operating room and delivered an album the rap world has been anticipating for the past three years.

The first single, "Still D.R.E.," is the epitome of the West Coast sound, with mandolin plucks and violin sweeps creating a smooth, laid-back underbelly to a thrumming bass and tinny synthesizer chords.

Dre's voice is as deep and perfectly timed as ever and even Snoop's tenor chimings cannot disrupt his steady lyrical flow. One of two Eminem guest slots, "What's The Difference," encapsulates the recent style that Dre has nurtured. It has a hokey, timorous horn punctuating every backbeat and a shrill synth weaving in and out of the hard-driving chorus, shared by Dre, Xzibit and Slim Shady himself.

Unfazed and buoyed by self-confidence, "Forget About Dre" sees the rapper shoot down every insult with extreme prejudice and little mercy. "I told 'em all/All them little gangsters/Who do you think helped mold 'em all/Now you wanna run around talking 'bout guns like I ain't got none/ What, you think I sold 'em all?"

In fact, 2001 is so good, one can even forgive the current horrible trends in rap that Dre has adapted, such as the self-inflated interludes between songs, where he plays old answering machine messages, or acts out a threesome with the help of two moaning females.

As well, the inclusion of sub-par rappers on his Aftermath label detracts from the material, for listeners will buy the album for Dre, not mumble-mouthed hangers-on of the Doctor of sound.

A welcome back must then be extended to Dre, who has, without a doubt, proven true the maxim that adversity only makes one stronger. Much like Dre's biggest passion, Chronic 2001 is strong, resonant and will addict listeners for hours on end.

–Luke Rundle

Cowboy Junkies
Rarities, B-sides, and Slow, Sad Waltzes
Latent Recordings

Like many albums of this nature, the Cowboy Junkies' latest effort feels like a musical thank you note to the many fans who have supported them throughout their career.

This CD marks the rebirth of the band's own record company, Latent Recordings. It offers a collection of 10 songs, originals as well as covers, many of which have never made it beyond the rehearsal stage until now.

The album is an energetic mix of tempo – balancing upbeat track, folk-inspired tracks with a Nashville-style twang. It opens with the upbeat, "I Saw Your Shoes," followed by an outstanding cover of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now." With its blend of harmonica, mandolin and piano complementing lead singer Margo Timmins' rollicking vocals, this track is almost certainly the album's highlight.

Other songs on the CD, such as "River Waltz" and the traditional song "The Water Is Wide," are symbolic of the band's ability to play a wide range of music with great care.

This album is the Cowboy Junkies at their best. It's packed with solid, authentic musicianship and Timmins' equally haunting and unforgettable vocals. Timmins could easily sing any of her female contemporaries under the table.

Unfortunately, the album comes across as an enterprise specifically directed at fans rather than a legitimate release.

It lacks the urgency and depth which attracts new fans and besides the Dylan cover, doesn't offer a tangible, radio-friendly single.

With Latent Recordings reborn, the Cowboy Junkies will hopefully focus on a new album full of original material.

Perhaps then, they will find some new fans willing to embark on a journey filled with, among other things, Slow, Sad Waltzes.

–Matt Pearson

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Copyright The Gazette 1999