Volume 94, Issue 64
Wednesday, January 17, 2001
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Gangsta rap rides again!
Parasites and Kings
To say that Sean Macdonald is an immensely talented musician, with a knack for eloquently expressing his feelings, would be an understatement.
However, to say that Macdonald is capable of writing entertaining music that will lead to his success on the music scene is a bold overstatement.
Parasites and Kings, Macdonald's debut effort, is a dark and disturbing look into many contentious issues that have plagued humankind. His insights into religion, love, revolution and political formations, are indeed thought provoking, but not exactly the kind of material that one would want to spend listening to on a sunny afternoon.
Throughout the album, Macdonald displays his ability to play an array of musical instruments proficiently. He is adept at writing seamless rhythmic backgrounds, but does not seem to be as skilled at matching the right tempo or tune with his lyrics. For example, "The Dancer and The Critic" has an unfittingly upbeat tone, since the lyrics deal with a gloomy, pessimistic and somewhat jaded view of the injustices of life, while the melodic frame suggests something altogether pleasant.
While Macdonald's candor and forthrightness are appealing on a poetic level, they do not seem to translate well onto sheet music. Songs like "Long
Lost Friend" and "Butterfly Wings" may pass for poems if you enjoy reading about themes of love and life, but they lose appeal when Macdonald attaches music to them.
Hard Times in BabylonRed House Records
Folk/rock artist Eliza Gilkyson deserves attention.
Her songwriting mixes confessional lyrics with a hint of social commentary. Her new album, Hard Times In Babylon, is a lush acoustic blend of instruments that drives the music without distracting from Gilkyson's understated vocals.
The 12-track compact disc is a musical diary of Gilkyson's life over the past couple years. She explores the theme of the relationship between money and art in the rocking opener "The Beauty Way," while the title track is a striking reflection after a friend's suicide.
"Engineer Bill" is a well-produced number that is both musically and lyrically pleasing. The song is about yearning for love on the move as an escape from personal troubles. The record itself improves with repeated listens, like a story that must be explored many times to unravel its many meanings and reap its many rewards.
Eliza Gilkyson is not an artist who will immediately catch the attention of listeners. She requires patience to hear what she has to offer. Her songs offer insightful portraits into the life of a female artist, searching for love and artistic integrity despite her losses.
Hard Times in Babylon concludes with the poignant "Sanctuary," which is a fitting conclusion. Whether in the sanctuary of God's love or simply the arms of a lover, Eliza Gilkyson proves there is always a place of escape from hard times, even in this modern Babylon.
As the album title suggests, The Reunion again joins together two of New York's finest, Capone-N-Noreaga. Since recording their first record, 1997's classic The War Report, the two were forced to part ways when Capone was sent to jail on a weapons-related charge. Noreaga went on to have both success and failure as a solo artist.
All of that is merely a memory as CNN takes out the same recipe that gained them respect before blazin' beats and hard lyrics. The result definitely deserves a listen.
The production on this album is so tight even a polka band would sound tight flowing over its tracks. Be it the L.E.S. produced "Phonetime," The Alchemist's "Queens," or Jewellz' "Straight Like That" it's all here.
Mobb Deep's Havoc cooks up a nice beat for the posse cut featuring himself, CNN, and Prodigy with "Queen's Finest." P shines as he does his usual flipping of a murder scenario. Dame Grease's production on "You Can't Kill Me" is as beautiful as it is gritty. The cinematic beat is simply captivating, as orchestra strings and army drum rolls fit together perfectly.
So what about Capone-N-Noreaga themseleves? While they don't embarrass themselves on the mic, they fall short of matching the brilliance of their last album. The flows are average, the lyrics are too.
Classic debut albums are rarely followed up by classic sophomore efforts. While this is true of The Reunion, it is still a good enough to please fans who stood by the duo through their years of exile.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000