Volume 95, Issue 7

Wednesday, September 12, 2001
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Spoke's resident folkie

Old story dies quick on screen

Rock roots, Welcome

Outside the box

O-Week Snapshots

Rock roots, Welcome

Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack

RCA Records

It's nice to see some newcomers on the rock scene returning to their roots, instead of only producing formulaic Top 40 singles.

As frontman and guitarist for the band, Doyle Bramhall II flexes his musical muscles by varying the tempo from driving rock anthems to mellow blues ballads.

Welcome skillfully slips from impressive blues solos in songs like "Last Night" to raunchy guitar licks in "Problem Child." It manages to come across as an original modern rock album, but is still heavily indebted to the works of classic bands like Cream.

Perhaps the only drawback of the album is Bramhall's overbearing passion for the blues. His guitar playing, while incredibly good, doesn't break any new ground. The guitar tone is traditionally clean, however, the addition of additional effects would provide more dynamics and a richer sound.

It's unfortunate there aren't more bands unafraid to produce music that reflects their history and ideals like Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack. Albums like Welcome are indeed a "welcomed" break from the monotony of mainstream rock music. 

- Stephen Pizzale



Arguably the most talented member of the current neo-soul movement, Maxwell has returned after a lengthy absence with his third release, Now.

Compared to 1998's Embrya, Now is a disappointing release. Maxwell has decided to play it safe and take a step back. The result is a significantly safer, more conventional album.

That's not to say it's without artistic merit. Several of the songs, like "Get To Know Ya" and "Temporary Nite" are sophisticated funk tracks that rank with the best of Maxwell's earlier work. Who else would use banjo and pedal guitar in modern R&B for anything other than novelty's sake?

His experiments aren't always successful. While he earns points for covering Kate Bush's classic "This Woman's Work," his rendition fails to live up to the original. Likewise, the majority of the slow jams are surprisingly limp, particularly the current single, "Lifetime."

Now is half a great album and half filler material that seems designed to recapture commercial fortune. With any luck, this album will sell a boatload of copies, encouraging Maxwell to try his hand at creating some trail-blazing music once again.

–Aaron St. John

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