Sunday, December 27, 2009

The QH Blend's Records of 2009

2009 is pretty much done and it closes a bleak chapter on popular music. The 2000's wavered in its balance between quality and quantity, but that doesn't mean there wasn't good music in 2009. The 10 records that made the cut do so because they put the previously mentioned idea of quality first. Good music is always there, one may just have to look harder for it. Before I unveil my 10 "winning" selections, I want to share my 10 "runner-up" records of the year:

Best of the Rest of 2009

1. Nelly Furtado: Mi Plan (Universal/Nelstar)
2. Mos Def: The Ecstatic (Downtown)
3. a-ha: Foot of the Mountain (Universal/We Love Music)
4. N'Dambi: Pink Elephant (Stax)
5. Tori Amos: Abnormally Attracted to Sin (Universal Republic)
6. Backstreet Boys: This Is Us (Jive)
7. India.Arie: Testimony Volume 2: Love & Politics (Universal Republic)
8. Mariah Carey: Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (Island/Def Jam)
9. Basia: It's That Girl Again (Koch)
10.Teena Marie: Congo Square (Stax)

The QH Blend's Records of 2009

10. Whitney Houston: I Look to You (Arista)

Those expecting a halfbaked comeback will be surprised by the tasteful, vogue settings Ms. Houston utilized for her sixth studio album. Seven years after Just Whitney, Houston displayed vocal prowess injecting vitality into deluxe ballads and a few upbeat numbers. (Notable Track: "Call You Tonight")

9. Vanessa Williams: The Real Thing (Concord)

Vanessa Williams' velvet toned R&B/pop has only appreciated in value through the years and is articulated nicely on The Real Thing. Splicing classic chestnuts and newly minted material together over pastel sound palettes is style with substance. (Notable Track: "Hello Like Before")

8. Q-Tip: Kamaal The Abstract (Battery)

Set for release in 2002, Q-Tip's second record was shelved, deemed to be too much of an artistic sucker punch to mainstream hip-hop's paunch. The intelligentsia force of Kamaal was unearthed this year, demonstrating the witty and insurrectionist attitude Q-Tip has made his calling card. (Notable Track: "Feelin")

7. Annie: Don't Stop (Smalltown Supersound)

Annie's Don't Stop is a miscellany of influences that crash into one another, creating juicy grooves. Annie's voice, previously a glossy, sopoforic wisp has filled out in all the right areas, blithe and commanding. (Notable Track: "I Don't Like Your Band")

6. Zap Mama: ReCreation (Heads Up)

Zap Mama (Marie Daulne) has made another all-embracing world music farrago, unparalleled in her appetites in jazz, hip-hop, funk, and Euro-pop. Daulne's strange singing sews these mentioned genres together in a quilt-like fashion. Notable Track: ("Non, Non, Non")

5. Amerie: In Love & War (Island/Def Jam/Feenix)

Amerie's fourth long player bridges the divide between commercial convention and her "chi-chi" experiments that Amerie is renowned for. That lemon piquant voice pumps with sass, but can frost songs with sadness when needed. Overall, the album is a sprightly affair, confirming Amerie's status as R&B's artsy darling. (Notable Track: "Tell Me You Love Me")

4. Chris Brown: Graffiti (Jive)

Chris Brown's temerity for edging forward in his sound should be praised. Graffiti juggles seductive inamorato boasts, incendiary confessions, and glowering club bangers. The true star is Brown's vocal and lyrical progression, his whiz-kid precision makes Graffiti an adroit junior album. (Notable Track: "I'll Go")

3. Natalie Imbruglia: Come to Life (Malabar/Universal)

Imbruglia's distinct brand of alternative pop is some of best in its arena. On her fourth record, and first on her own independent label, Imbruglia wastes no time resting. Come to Life recreates her ballads and adds a few electronic twists for a pop maverick feel on the latter half of the album. (Notable Track: "Wild About It")

2. Joss Stone: Colour Me Free! (EMI)

Continuing to defy the narrower classifications of "blue-eyed soul,"  Joss Stone serves up another piece de resistance of gutsy, luxurious music. The task of outdoing her third record is met with consistent studio polish that doesn't sand away Stone's grit. (Notable Track: "Could Have Been You")

1. Mandy Moore: Amanda Leigh (Storefront)

A decade makeover in the process, Ms. Moore is indisputably this decade's leading female singer songwriter thanks to Amanda Leigh. Studying Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and Carole King, Moore has added her own lyrics and gossamer voice to the folk-pop medium. Moore's album is all heart, presented on the stage of fine musicianship. (Notable Track: "Merrimack River")-QH

[Editor's Note: Special thanks to Andrew Bird for the art & enthusiasm on the project.-QH]

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chris Brown's Messy Masterpiece: "Graffiti"

Graffiti is an appropriate summation of Chris Brown as an artist thus far. Born of contemporary street culture, it can appear disposable. Further examination shows graffiti as an art like any other.

This is Chris Brown. A contemporary hustler at a glance, peel back the surface to discover swirls of Michael Jackson and Usher (think "U Remind Me"). Imagine what Graffiti, Chris Brown's third outing, would have been without the fallout from his domestic abuse incident with R&B-pop waif Rihanna. No one can know, but Graffiti is an album of modernist R&B properties. Brown manages to address his recent ills and push Graffiti forward outside of that context. He trademarks his uptempo vigor on the future funk of "I Can Transform Ya," featuring producer Swizz Beatz, and rap urchin Lil' Wayne. "Wait," a jangly groover is sure to reverberate through any and all car speakers in the approaching 2010 summer season. "Sing Like Me" is Brown at his bedroom best whereas "Famous Girl," a colorful shuffler, hides a bittersweet sentiment lyrically. That sentiment appears readily on "Crawl," a highlight where Brown emotionally stretches his legs.

Brown takes tentative steps on the verses toward the explosive imploring chorus: "If we crawl, till we can walk again, then we'll run until we're strong enough to jump. Then we'll fly, until there is no end. So lets crawl, crawl, crawl, back to love." " The lonely "Fallin' Down" displays a healthy amount of vulnerability and "I'll Go" nearly matches "Crawl" in intensity. A deluxe edition includes six additional songs, all surprisingly sturdy. On "I Love U," one can hear Brown's boyish smile riding the goofy, romantic accordion sample.

Stumbles do crop up on Graffiti with the clumsy "Pass Out" and the semi-spellcaster "Take My Time." Both songs feature unneeded collaborations (Eva Simmons and Tank), Brown can carry his own album. Brown's statement in "Lucky Me," "I'm finally becoming a man, now I've got a bigger show to do," has him facing a difficult transition into adulthood. That Brown is willing to share the bumpy journey makes Graffiti's softer sides real.

Directed By: Joseph Kahn

Graffiti, like the aforementioned art and Chris Brown are not perfect. Perfection isn't the aim, instead Graffiti wins in its mixture of confidence and curiosity. Look for more from Chris Brown in the future, a work in progress. Four stars out of five.-QH

[Editor's Note: For more information on Chris Brown, visit]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Natalie Imbruglia Comes to Life on New LP

Natalie Imbruglia shot up like a wildflower in 1997 with her  engaged cover of the little known Ednaswap song "Torn," pulled from her debut Left of the Middle. Ms. Imbruglia fit right in with the other women working the alternative pop stance that was popular and crowded in the mid-to-late 1990's. Imbruglia's real voice laid ready to catch fire under the less ambitious material of her debut.

After the start of a new decade, Ms. Imbruglia finally caught that fire on her sophomore recording White Lilies Island (2002). Imbruglia's voice and songwriting now had endless, and worthy, sonic walls to bounce off of.  Her third album Counting Down the Days (2005) bathed itself in romantic splendor, supported by the successful single "Shiver."

2007 saw the arrival of her hits set Glorious: The Singles '97-'07, with four new tracks rumored to be from a shelved fourth record. Those songs betrayed an interest in electronic infusion to her rock and pop, something that came to fruition on this newest endeavor. Via the indie imprint label Malabar Records, distributed by Island/Def Jam and Universal Records, Imbruglia's fourth LP Come to Life is close to brilliance.

Alongside a stellar set of talent, Imbruglia went to work on the creative collisions collected on Come to Life:  Brian Eno (U2), Ben Hillier (Depeche Mode, Blur), Chris Martin (front man of Coldplay), Daniel Johns (front man of Silverchair, former husband), Gary Clark (Melanie C, Cathy Dennis, Liz Phair). "My God," "Lukas," "Fun," "Twenty," and "Scars" come from the grounded, progressive colors Imbruglia painted in on her past records. This time the edges are sharper, cleaner, but still organic. "My God" bubbles with intertwined guitar and keyboard as Imbruglia burns intensely as never before.

"Lukas" is a bittersweet take on "Our Last Summer" ABBA-esque story telling and is Imbruglia's grandest moment. "Scars," incredibly human, is a picturesque revelation: "I climbed the walls, you hit the bars, I am from Venus, you are from Mars, you got your brand new friends, and I got a broken heart. Doesn't matter who we are, everyone has their scars." "Scars" is the portrait of heartbreak for the recently divorced Imbruglia

"WYUT," "Cameo," "All the Roses," and "Wild About It" make up the second half of the album and sport Imbruglia's electro threads. "WYUT" gets too close to power pop for the demure Imbruglia, but she grabs the wheel of the song to guide it. "Cameo's" sex and salt isn't dissimilar to the appeal of "Wild About It." The latter, Imbruglia's most galvanizing song, is a springy number with a fantastic chorus climax. On "Wild About It," the sound of exploratory freedom is heard ringing. "Want" acts as the portal between both sides of the album, combining old and new Imbruglia. It interpolated an established highlight, "Be With You," one of the new tracks from her 2007 retrospective, its first verse appearing boldly in "Want's" middle eight. Through it all, the mannered, emotive Imbruglia makes the cut intimate.

Directed By: Diane Martel

Come to Life is satisfying from start to finish, making its muted commercial fortune frustrating. The record is set to get a physical release in Britain in January 2010. Currently it's available only in  digital form there. The album could also get an American release in February, her first since White Lilies Island. The continued growth shown here indicates Natalie Imbruglia's flame has not only "come to life," but will burn for years to come. Four and a half out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: Come to Life is available as an import, varying in price, at your local independent music retailers. For more information on Natalie Imbruglia, visit:]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Janet Jackson's "Number Ones" Gathers Big Hits

Janet Jackson hails from one of the greatest American music dynasties: The Jacksons. It wasn’t just an everyday task when she released her eponymous debut in 1982 to start her own musical career.

Taking a more direct hand with her music in 1986 on her third LP Control, Ms. Jackson, alongside Minneapolis knob twirlers and continuous producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, crafted a seamless mixture of dance, funk, hip-hop, and pop rooted firm in R&B traditions.

 The rest, as they say, is history. Number Ones (2009) is Janet Jackson’s second official “best of” package, the first being Design of a Decade: 1986/1996 (1996) which focused solely on her A&M Records output. Number Ones, led again by A&M Records, attempts a lofty step forward by licensing her run of singles from her successful tenure at Virgin Records (1993-2006) and her brief stint at Island/Def Jam Records (2007-2008). The songs featured have all hit “number one” on some chart or another, whether it was an international chart or one of three U.S. Billboard charts (Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop, Hot Dance/Club Play Chart.) Effectively, in the United States alone, Jackson has attained 11 pop number ones, 16 R&B number ones, and 18 dance number ones.

Spread across two-discs, a general overview is given of Jackson’s trajectory musically. Her sweetly toned and sturdy voice led her self-empowering funk attacks such as “The Pleasure Principle” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” The themes ranged from social consciousness to the carnal, but Jackson’s momentum in continually evolving her uptempo aesthetic never faltered on the metallic “Rhythm Nation” or the dramatic scale of “If.” "If" made delicious use of The Supremes single “Someday We’ll Be Together” during the introduction and infamous breakdown.

Jackson tended to burn brightest on her ballads. “Let’s Wait Awhile” represented here in its single/video edit, is as heart tugging as it was at the time of its release. The sparse “Again” sparkles, giving way to an extremely fragile, poignant ending. Even the fusion of jazz and hip-hop on her sleeper lead single from The Velvet Rope (1997), “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” with A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip gives a broader view into how Janet Jackson uses her voice.

Several other chestnuts like the jubilant duet between the late soul balladeer Luther Vandross on “The Best Things In Life Are Free,” her infectious pairing with jazz great /A&M founder Herb Alpert on “Diamonds,” and the sticky affair “What’s It Gonna Be?” with Busta Rhymes glimpse into the versatility of Jackson’s collaborations. “Scream” her classic dark pair-up with her iconic brother Michael can’t go without mention. It fashions the greatest sibling partnership on record to date with its soaring space-age rock-R&B tensions.

Jackson also demonstrates that outside of her creative, critical, and commercial peak that she continued to turn out classic material. “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” an alluringly marvelous mixture of contemporary European disco motifs & American urban grit, is possibly her finest dance single to date. The amber hued shuffle of “Call On Me” is flirty and her most recent hit “Feedback” had her refining her stake in the electro music realm. Despite the public blackballing at pop radio, post-Superbowl 2004, she unfairly endured during the period these records were out, the songs were embraced at both black and dance radio.

Unfortunately A&M shortchanges buyers by leaving out the clutch of singles from Jackson’s first two records at A&M: Janet Jackson (1982) and Dream Street (1984) which included her first forays into the R&B Top 10 with the sunny splash of “Say You Do” or the frenetic “Don’t Stand Another Chance.” Ironically, these were included as an attached “EP” to her first hits disc Design of a Decade on the international edition, but have yet to make their American debut.

On the one new song, and single produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, “Make Me” is study in the classic Minneapolis sonics that Jackson has trademarked throughout her career. Constructed on top of a bold, neon-like keyboard riff and riotous back beat, Jackson dips into her best Michael Jackson-esque “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” vocal technique. Already, it has become an instant Janet Jackson favorite among fans.

"Make Me"
Directed By: Robert Hales

Number Ones simply grazes the legacy of Janet Jackson’s output, in truth constricting more than complimenting her discography. There is still a large batch of singles and album tracks that are missing, but in the meantime Number Ones will serve as a subdued introduction and reminder of Janet Jackson’s musical legend.-QH

[Editor's Note: Originally published & written by Quentin Harrison (me) in the November 24th-December 1st, 2009 issue of The Dayton City Paper. Number Ones available at any and all music retailers, for more information on Janet Jackson visit:]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Melanie C: "Northern Star," 10 Years Later

Departing a group is never an easy practice with the rule that the whole is greater than its parts proving true usually. Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm, or Melanie C, has spent 10 years defying this truth. While undoubtedly great in the Spice Girls, Ms. Chisholm stepped to the solo plate, striking a home run with her eclectic debut Northern Star (1999).

Melanie C first tried her wings on a duet with rocker Bryan Adams called "When You're Gone," released toward the end of 1998. Also along with her group mates, their first four-piece single "Goodbye" was smashing into the global charts at the same time. Work on what became Northern Star began tentatively during this hectic period. By the advent of 1999, a collective hold was placed on the group as each member branched into her own solo projects. Melanie C was signed as a solo Spice Girl through Virgin Records, like her fellow group members.

The Record
At her core, Melanie C was a pop singer so genre dabbling came naturally to her. With Northern Star, Melanie explored uninhibited and channeled her swath of influences that included everyone from Blur to Madonna. To achieve her aim, Melanie enlisted a variegated batch of songwriters and producers: William Orbit, Rick Rubin, Rick Nowels, Craig Armstrong, Mauries De Vries, Rhett Lawrence, and Richard Stannard. Collectively, everyone labored to bring a smart, schizophrenic  air to Northern Star. The title of the record honored her Liverpool heritage, the area in England in which she was raised.

Melanie herself was the lead writer on all 12 songs that made the final cut. Her writing, majority of it cathartic and autobiographical, brought emotional authenticity to Northern Star. Melanie's lyrics addressed everything from keeping faith ("Northern Star"), love and intimacy ("Closer"), and fear ("Feel the Sun"). Musically, these songs were just as intense as the lyrics, lush, oceanic constructs that relied on symphonic pulls and pushes. Melanie's diversification appeared on "Be the One," a porch acoustic gem and "Goin' Down," a menacing, Benatar flavored stone that let her cut loose.

"I Turn to You," a dark, stormy piece of electronica pulled the meaning out of every word Melanie sang. Sadly, the soul of "I Turn to You" was drained in the remix translation when touched by Hex Hector for its single edit. Thankfully, the album version kept the poetry of the song intact.

Regardless of the rock throb of "Go!" or the  urban slide of "Never Be the Same Again" (featuring the late, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes), Melanie C took the pop hallmark of genre hopping to a place all her own.

The Impact
Upon its United Kingdom release on October 18th, 1999, Northern Star was buoyed by a steady bed of critical acclaim. All Music Guide hard nosed critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine said of the record:
"Melanie C has a fairly strong voice, a good sense of melody, and carries a tune with some personality, which is one of the reasons why the genre-hopping of Northern Star works. She can convincingly deliver everything from the pop balladry of the title track to the snarling, neo-industrial punk statement of purpose "Goin' Down." "
Barry Walters of Rolling Stone echoed a similar sentiment:
"...the distorto-punk first single, "Goin' Down," more than compensates with a butt-kickin' Low-era Bowie homage. Give it up for Gifted Spice."

Commercially, the record measured up to the critical adoration pound for pound. No less than five singles were released from the album starting in 1999 through 2000 in the U.K.: "Goin' Down" (9/29/99, #4 U.K.), "Northern Star" (11/29/99, #4 U.K.), "Never Be the Same Again" (3/20/00, #1 U.K.), "I Turn to You" (8/7/00, #1 U.K.), and "If That Were Me" (11/27/00, #18 U.K.). In Britain the record shifted over 900,000 units, certifying platinum three times there. Globally, the record sold gold (Australia, Austria, and Canada) and platinum (Germany, Sweden) in many markets. The album fared poorly in the United States, peaking outside the U.S. Billboard 200 (#208), though "I Turn to You" became a dance hit (U.S. Dance #1). Northern Star is also one of three solo Spice Girl albums that received an American release.

"Never Be the Same Again" w/ Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
Directed By: Francis Lawrence

Overall, Northern Star sold over three million copies worldwide at the time of this writing, making it the most commercially successful solo Spice Girls related recording to date. Melanie C's star continued to streak the sky with subsequent releases like Reason (2003), Beautiful Intentions (2005), and This Time (2007). The last two albums were released independently through her own label Red Girl Records. Northern Star holds a specific space in the Spice Girls discography and the overall "turn of the millennium" pop records released 10 years ago. A high standard of quality and passion assisted in it becoming a classic in the making. Another 10 years will be kind to Northern Star and the growing legacy of Melanie C. Five out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: In print, Northern Star can be purchased Stateside in specialty stores or online, Northern Star is quite common in British, European, Japanese, etc. music retailers to this day. For more current information on Melanie C, visit:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kylie Minogue Does Chicago, 10/7/09!

It's hard being a Kylie Minogue fan in America. My enduring relationship with Ms. Minogue began when I was 17 and she broke Stateside with the already international blockbuster Fever (2001). My musical romance only increased through the years, as evidenced by my massive collection of her work. Her 22 year span rivals that of Madonna in terms of reinvention, placing her as the original "pop princess," sorry Britney. That said, she hasn't been able to crack the U.S. scene, our loss really.

Imagine my glee when I received an e-mail notification announcing her first North American/Canadian tour. Immediately, I snatched up my ticket for her October 7th, 2009 Chicago  gig, the closest to yours truly in Dayton, Ohio. Only a clutch of major U.S. cities, and one major Canadian city, were to be visited by the pop pixie. Minogue discussed that the For You, For Me Tour was to include the best segments of her globe spanning tour spectacles from 2000 through 2008. Of course these segments would be subject to some changes so they'd be slightly recognizable to the faithful, but fresh to the uninitiated.

Last Wednesday evening at the University of Illinois Pavilion Center, amid a sea of gay men (varied in age and color), women, curious students, and a few international supporters, Minogue graced the stage atop her gigantic glittering skull to the Euro-thump of  "Light Years."

Minogue established right off that she was an approachable pop performer who combines arena theatrics with live craft. Her intense live version of her creative milestone "Confide in Me," was beautifully delivered. Additional highlights that showed off Minogue's skills included her acapella rendition of "Your Disco Needs You" from Light Years (2000), it received a rapturous applause from the crowd. "Better Than Today" had Minogue belting out with attitude to the '70's kissed groove of the track. The song is from the sessions for her currently unnamed 11th studio project, in the works now.

The whole of the setlist had a mixture of songs from her S.A.W. days ("What Do I Have to Do," "Shocked") as well as her recent material: "2 Hearts," "Can't Get You Out of My Head," "In Your Eyes," "Slow," etc. Noticeably absent, outside of the mentioned "Confide in Me," was fare from her mid-period albums Kylie Minogue (1994) and Impossible Princess (1997), arguably her finest era and my favorite. To be fair, she has covered this period well on her last two shows. It just would have been nice to have seen those songs featured Stateside, but Minogue satisfied the mass of of her audiences with her setlist selection.

The songs shined with a full band, featuring a three-piece brass section and two backing vocalists. Complimented by a diminutive crop dancers of all colors and genders, Minogue had plenty of support, but led all of the elements with poise and control. Minogue's own stage presence allowed her to break into a few dance steps, but she relied on her singing, immaculate costuming, and charm to sell herself. All of this was hosted on a modern stage set with one of the best laser shows ever witnessed.

Kylie Minogue Departing Chicago, 10/7/09

At two hours, the show rolled smoothly with the crowd wildly attentive, a success! Kylie Minogue is the type of pop music icon that America simply doesn't make and to see her (finally!) in the flesh was truly an experience. The rest of America "should be so lucky."-QH

[Editor's Note: For more information on Kylie Minogue, and her remaining live dates, visit]

Monday, September 21, 2009

10 Years of Macy Gray

Macy Gray stepped into the spotlight riding the crest of the neo-soul wave in modern R&B. Gray hasn't been a large commercial presence past her debut, but she's crafted consistent albums since her arrival in 1999. The recordings play as vibrant and wild as they did when released and with this decade winding down, these albums should be celebrated.

Her debut, the Grammy winning On How Life Is (Epic, 1999) certified platinum three times in the United States alone. A whipped blend of retro soul-jazz and hip-hop made up Life, and Ms. Gray's inimitable singing matched the arrangements. The confessional hit "I Try" is as effective as ever alongside the thumpers "Caligula" and "Sex-o-matic Venus Freak."

In 2001, Gray's creative checkmate with The Id (Epic, 2001) suggested she wasn't just another flash in the pan. The Id, a colorful, cartoonish update of '70's funk boasted bold romanticism ("My Nutmeg Phantasy") and fearless abandon in style dabbling ("Sexual Revolution"). "Sexual Revolution" had an elastically voiced Gray tear into the track with humor and panache, one of the lost singles of this decade.  If On How Life Is was the seduction, The Id the actual act, than The Trouble with Being Myself (Epic, 2003) was the blissful afterglow.

To date, Trouble is Gray's most balanced effort, managing to dial down the overt attitude of The Id without sacrificing Gray's freakish musical explorations.  The introspective "Happiness" bears a weight that Gray's work didn't possess in abundance. That emotional nudity is portrayed in "Things That Made Me Change" and "Speechless." The arrangements aren't so much sparse on these songs as just right. Gray's inward travels didn't stop her from bumping hard on the block party starters "When I See You" and "She Don't Write Songs About You."

A customary best of, via contractual obligation on Epic's end, came in 2004. There were two new songs included, the lovely violin valentine "Love Is Gonna Get You" and her Sly & the Family Stone inspired take of Aerosmith's evergreen song "Walk This Way." Partnered with (of the Black Eyed Peas), Gray released her fourth album, BIG (Geffen, 2007). Her tamest effort at the time of this writing, Gray tailored her eccentric R&B to adult soul well. She sparkled on ballads like "Slowly" and "One For Me," her range as a singer demonstrated deftly. The violent bombast of "Ghetto Love" is the "Gray of old," replete with its brilliant interpolation of James Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World."

"Sexual Revolution"
Directed By: Bryan Barber

The two years after BIG have been quiet for Macy Gray, though rumors of an album to include the hilariously titled "Slap a Bitch" are floating around. Gray also enrolled recently in the hit show Dancing with the Stars. What this will mean for her as a singer, one can't know just yet. However, if Gray is to never step foot into another recording booth, she has left behind four strong albums that will continue to intrigue.-QH

[Editor's Note: All of Macy Gray's albums are still readily in print, and can be easily located at any music retailer.-QH]

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Pointers Sisters: Remastered in 2009

An investigative listen into the annals of The Pointer Sisters (Bonnie, June, Ruth, and Anita) indicate that they're one of the most versatile girl groups ever.

Whether it was jazz washed in disco or rock-soul-new-wave, The Pointer Sisters have done everything under the sun musically. Three albums from The Pointer Sisters golden transitional period have been resurrected by the reissue label Wounded Bird Records. Energy (Planet, 1978), Priority (Planet, 1979), and Black & White (Planet, 1981) are important to The Pointer Sisters tale.

After the pleasant holding pattern of Havin' a Party (Blue Thumb, 1977), and the departure of sister Bonnie for a solo career, Anita, Ruth, and June reconvened. They ditched the vintage pastiche and became rock 'n' roll glamazons. Pairing with Richard Perry (Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Ray Charles, Diana Ross) and signing to his Planet Records imprint, all parties were ready to reinvent.

Energy, a high class, if raucous covers record hosted  their version of "Fire," originally from Bruce Springsteen. It became a Pointers staple. Slow burning and smoky, Anita's lead propelled the single to become a hit with both pop and R&B radio formats. The Allan Touissant penned "Happiness" was a synth funk burst of flirtatiousness, while "Dirty Work" leaned toward a country approach in its guitar play. With songs like these, The Pointer Sisters turned Energy into a surprise success.

Unfortunately, their second album of rock readings, Priority, didn't court commercial victory. Perry's production (he'd stay on with the Pointers through 1988) wrapped the Pointers in blues chic, the sisters, Ruth especially, sounded right at home on "Who Do You Love" a gospel gasper.

The Pointers smoothed things out with Special Things (Planet, 1980), on that long player resided "He's So Shy." Special Things was reissued by Wounded Bird Records in 2007 and is currently out of print, (yours truly of course has a copy). That leads us to Black & White, which included the "Fire" styled "Slow Hand," another hit.  Additional highlights included the light lowering jam "What a Surprise" and playful dancer "Sweet Lover Man (Now)," performed coyly by the tarty June. Included as a bonus track from the sessions of Black & White, previously unreleased, is a version of "Holdin' Out For Love," a song that has seen life in the hands of Cher and Angela Bofill .

Pointers @ BBC's Russell Harty Performing "Slow Hand," Circa 1981

The release of these records is important in today's musical landscape that thrives on unoriginality. Hearing The Pointer Sisters so vivacious in 2009 is a true treat, it may serve as an example others looking to send popular music spinning on a dare again like these women did.-QH

[Editor's Note: For more information on The Pointer Sisters, visit Energy, Priority, and Black & White are available at all indie and online music retailers/outlets.-QH

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Is it About Whitney: Then & Now

Not until I heard Ms. Houston's energetic plea to "dance with somebody who loves me," did I know that I had the same yearning as a young boy. Though I came of age with Whitney Houston when she was burning brightly during her '90's peak, classics like the previously stated "I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)" proved to be perennial. How does, and has, Ms. Houston maintained her musical magic? Despite a few melismatic moments in her songbook, it contains a bounty of classics that cross pop and soul. Fueled by a voice that is powerful and sensitive, her presence is immeasurably beautiful.

Her debut Whitney Houston (1984) rivaled Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982) in that it captured the attention of white and black music buyers equally, and continues to do so. The stirring "You Give Good Love" is a Houston benchmark. The school talent show staple, produced by Diana Ross stalwart Michael Masser, "Greatest Love of All" also lived on Houston's self-titled record. Refusing to be defined by its low key moments, Whitney Houston housed colorful excitement as "How Will I Know" testified.

The sophomore jinx didn't exist on the follow-up Whitney (1987),  its neon-gloss steppers ("So Emotional")  acted as windows to Houston's youth. The ache of "Just the Lonely Talking Again," originally by The Manhattans, received Quiet Storm airplay without being a commercial single. It shines as an unsung work in Houston's discography. Without warning, a sentiment that Houston had become too white identified, despite her unwavering black radio and retail support, crept up.

Shaken by the critique from her own people, her third studio outing pushed her black music edge to the front of her sound on I'm Your Baby Tonight (1990). The sleek knock of the title track, produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and L.A. Reid, disclosed the protruding arrangements Houston adapted to on the album.

I'm Your Baby Tonight showed itself stronger on the quieter sides with "Lover for Life" and "Miracle." Beginning in the '90s, Houston transitioned into film like a second skin: The Bodyguard (1992), Waiting to Exhale (1995), and The Preacher's Wife (1998). Her soundtracks spun out all the consummate hits: "I Will Always Love You," "Queen of the Night," "Exhale (Shoop, Shoop)," "Why Does It Hurt So Bad," etc.

Broader musical maturity included the neo-soul massage of "My Love is Your Love," courtesy of Wyclef Jean. It was the single and title track to Houston's fourth opus, released in 1998. Still charting the terrain of modern R&B, Houston's record switched between her structured pop fare ("I Learned From the Best") and evocative material ("Oh Yes").  A customary hits package arrived in 2000, with the criminally ignored "Fine" hiding behind all of her hits and other new songs.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long after this that Houston's personal trials began overshadowing her career highs. Her fifth long player Just Whitney (2002) suffered under the weight of Houston's problems. In the chaos, excellent material like the pre-club lounge of "One of Those Days" (helmed by Kevin "Shek'spere" Briggs) weren't given the opportunity to connect to audiences.

In the ensuing years copycats, detractors, and cynics sneered that Whitney Houston was a relic from a period in music long departed. Thankfully, with the impending release of her sixth studio effort I Look to You, it seems that relic may just have the last laugh. The Swizz Beatz "Upside Down" flavored "Million Dollar Bill" measures perfectly against Houston's best uptempo work, the album itself promises some new and familiar nuggets too.

"Million Dollar Bill"
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas

Whitney Houston's return has everyone talking and if people are willing to listen, she might just have something to say with I Look to You. We can't know where the future will take Ms. Houston, but we can hope that it will be to new places and that we can come along for the ride.-QH

[Editor's Note: I Look to You releases domestically on 8/28/09. For more information on it and Whitney Houston, visit her official site here.-QH]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

12 Records & Artists of 1989

1989 was an advent of change for popular music culture. Vinyl records were slowly being phased out of existence, outside of a DJing context. Cassette tapes had quickly usurped vinyl as the “go to” approach for convenience in music listening, but cassettes were in danger of being surpassed by the compact disc.

Launched in August of 1981, MTV completely changed how music reached listeners and viewers, producing an entire crop of artists who were grown in the music video medium. Hip-hop was ascending from cult stature to something far more important, while the “Second Summer of Love” spilled from English shores to clubs the world over. R&B had again mutated as it had earlier in the 1980’s, this time it morphed into something harder, sleeker, at times grittier, it was a formidable sound called “new jack swing.”

Through all of these changes 12 recording artists shined at the close of the 1980’s. Some of these individuals were established, trying to reignite interest in their work for a new generation. There were others who were trying to secure a legacy outside of their ‘80’s genesis and some were just getting started. The records these artists released varied in critical, commercial, and creative arenas, but each album furthered respective legacies.

Quality is what tied all these records together, making them the exception to the rule of mediocrity in the music of 1989. Exploring what made these records special will identify why they continue to inspire and attract new listeners 20 years later.

De La Soul

3 Feet High and Rising
(March 1989, Tommy Boy)

Hip-hop was still an unpredictable art form when a trio of Long Islander’s released their debut in 1989. 3 Feet High and Rising revealed that hip-hop wasn’t limited to braggadocio or partying, but addressed varying ideas like any other genre of music could. Handsomely compelling MCs, with one bad DJ: Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer), Trugoy (Dave Jolicouer), and Maseo (Vincent Mason) strikingly wove in elements of throwback soul and jazz, taking sampling to a new level. Cuts like “Eye Know” and “Me, Myself, and I” are now identified as living hip-hop archetypes, this type of conceptual approach in hip-hop hadn’t been done. De La Soul soon became figures for the forefront of the “socially conscious” hip-hop movement from this release onward.

Recent Work: The Grind Date (2004, Sanctuary)


Like a Prayer
(March 1989, Warner Bros.)

Not as creatively successful in its forward trajectory as True Blue (1986), from a singles standpoint Like a Prayer was a winner. The singles were solid pop constructs built on top of an already laid foundation of musical momentum. The rock/gospel explosiveness of the title track or the soul-lite treats of “Express Yourself” and “Cherish” demonstrated Madonna’s ear for musicality, songwriting, and her growing improvement as a singer. Like a Prayer did have its seductive moments outside of its released output; the Latin fueled “Spanish Eyes” was a highlight. It gave hope that Madonna would return to crafting albums that spun out singles and album tracks, which of course she did.

Recent Work: Hard Candy (2008, Warner Bros.)

Donna Summer

Another Place and Time
(April 1989, Atlantic)

After spending the 1980’s flexing her artistic muscles, Donna Summer sought pure pop simplicity on her 14th album, Another Place and Time. Produced by S.A.W. (Stock, Aitken, & Waterman), the production trio behind the successes of Rick Astley, Dead or Alive, Bananarama, and Kylie Minogue. S.AW. placed Summer’s unmistakable presence in inescapable pop hooks and melodies where she brought deeper dimensions to the hits “This Time I Know It’s For Real” and “I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt,” regarded highly by Summer devotees and casuals alike.

Recent Work: Crayons (2008, Burgundy/Song BMG)

Cyndi Lauper

A Night to Remember
(May 1989, Epic)

Lauper’s third album ditched her image-led ditziness to embrace an inner songwriter that had tried to surface on her first and second albums. Without question, Lauper as a vocalist had been proven and with a steelier batch of songs to support it, her voice soared. The glorious rock epic “I Drove All Night” set her version of that song in stone, just as powerful was her hand at the sparkling romance of the title track. A Night to Remember was the stage Lauper used to be more than an ‘80’s flash in the pan, but rather one of the leading lights it produced.

Recent Work: Bring Ya to the Brink (2008, Epic)

Jody Watley

Larger Than Life
(May 1989, MCA)

Watley’s sophomore set upped the ante started on her eponymous debut from 1987. Firmer and groovier in its execution, it set her own blueprint for R&B reinvention that carriedy her into the next two decades. Larger Than Life divided deftly between dance funk, and love songs while blowing open what was a burgeoning trend. Chaka Khan with Melle Mel (“I Feel For You,” '84), Rene & Angela with Kurtis Blow (“Save Your Love,” '85) were the first collisions of hip-hop and R&B, though Jody Watley added her take to this movement. Working alongside hip-hop titans Eric B. & Rakim on “Friends,” a tale of true friendship in the “me” decade, it became one of Watley’s biggest hits. Watley wasn’t just an urban diva, she was the urban diva and Larger Than Life evidenced this.

Recent Work: The Makeover (2006, Avitone)


(May 1989, Warner Bros.)

Serving as a bookend collection of sounds to a decade Prince helped define; Batman was also a tie-in soundtrack to Tim Burton’s smash hit film of the same name. Prince’s sexy, kooky Minneapolis attitude was on display on the searing flash of “Electric Chair” to the goof-funk of “Trust.” After several conceptually led albums, it was nice to hear Prince simply get loose. Prince coasted comfortably and Batman succeeded in being a Prince record that had all his fun tricks with none of the frills.

Recent Work: LOtUSFLOW3R/MPLSoUND (2009, NPG)

Swing Out Sister

Kaleidoscope World
(May 1989, Fontana)

Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell were anomalies in 1989. Inspired and sounding like the peerless lounge, jazz, and pop of the halcyon '60s era, they didn’t necessarily fit into the mainstream on either side of the Atlantic. Regardless, this British duo crafted an immaculate and stronger effort in their sophomore set Kaleidoscope World.  Lyrical affirmations and moody portraits of love and life conflicts colored in sumptuous orchestral backdrops. With Drewery providing vocals and Connell arranging, this duo could do no wrong when it came to doing what they did best.

Recent Work: Beautiful Mess (2008/2009, Avex Trax)

Gloria Estefan

Cuts Both Ways
(July 1989, Epic)

Gloria Estefan catapulted to fame with floorfillers like “Dr. Beat,” “Conga,” and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” as a member of the Miami Sound Machine. They'd break ground by infusing authentic Latin rhythms and melodies with contemporary pop and dance music. Estefan herself flowed well with the ballads “Words Get in the Way,” “Can’t Stay Away From You,” and “Anything for You” all written by her. Stepping out exclusively on her own, with the Miami Sound Machine still behind her, Cuts Both Ways straddled the poles of adult contemporary and uptempo pop. Estefan’s songwriting featured prominently on the whole record, and Cuts Both Ways has become a fan favorite in the process with hits like “Don’t Wanna Lose You” and “Get on Your Feet.”

Recent Work: 90 Millas (2007, Burgundy/Song BMG)

Janet Jackson

Rhythm Nation 1814
(September 1989, A&M)

After the self-identified freedom of her third album, Control (1986), many didn’t know what avenue Jackson embark to next. She continued to make room to dance and celebrate, but did turn an eye to societal concerns with her fourth album. Working alongside constant producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Rhythm Nation was sculpted from the heated trends in black music. Its message focused stance didn't always cooperate, but when it did, as on the funky attack of “The Knowledge” or the breeziness of “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” this album cemented Jackson’s icon status. It can’t go without saying that those unconvinced of Jackson’s singing abilities were left speechless with “Miss You Much,” and “Someday Is Tonight.”

Recent Work: Discipline (2008, Island Def Jam)

Lenny Kravitz

Let Love Rule
(September 1989, Virgin)

Predating the retro cool of the 1990’s, Lenny Kravitz didn’t hide his love of Led Zepplin, The Beatles, and Sly and the Family Stone as Let Love Rule ran in the same vein as those acts. Kravitz did put his twist on his childhood heroes, as a songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. Passionate on the fuzzy vintage title track or oozing devil-may-care on “Mr. Cab Driver,” Kravitz’s music was clearly here to stay, but it took a few more records for him to internalize his love of past music heroe and find his own voice later.

Recent Movement: It Is Time for a Love Revolution (2008, Virgin)

Kylie Minogue

Enjoy Yourself
(October 1989, PWL/Mushroom/Geffen)

Out of all the S.A.W. acts, Kylie Minogue went onto achieve massive recognition, barring America, globally rivaling only Madonna. With her second album Enjoy Yourself, Minogue dished the same doe-eyed froth that made her debut Kylie (1987) so catchy and possibly irritating to some. Enjoy Yourself was a weaker record than Kylie, its singles key to its appeal. The tarty “Never Too Late,” and sing-along shimmer of “Hand on Your Heart” found Mingoue with a pleasantly unique voice all her own. Thankfully, the only way to go was up and each following record built on the merely playful backbone of Enjoy Yourself’s singles.

Recent Work: X (2007/2008, Parlophone/Capitol)

Lisa Stansfield

(November 1989, BMG/Arista)

Ms. Stansfield didn't reach our shores until early 1990, she began her British reign in the winter of 1989. Probably the finest example of blue-eyed soul excellence since her American predecessor Teena Marie, Affection was modern and classic in its compositions and vocalizing. The mournful, shuffler of “All Around the World” became an instant anthem, coupled with the spiky “What Did I Do to You," and coy “You Can’t Deny It” sealed the deal for Stansfield. Affection placed Stansfield’s voice, beautiful and potent, within the pantheon of blue-eyed vocalists forever.

Recent Work: The Moment (2004, ZTT)

Music, true music, is forever timeless. It is not limited to ideas and concepts such as “old school” or “new school,” it is far more universal and pervading than that. Records like these reflect the current tastes in popular music at that particular period, however each artist present went into these albums with a specific goal. That goal was that the record would sound as fresh and engaging outside of its period of creation. All of these records have achieved this and each of the artists featured here continue to maintain a presence today, building on an already alloyed fanbase.

In 2009, we are again at such a crossroads of change in music, will this era produce acts and albums that will hold up? We’ll have to wait and see what time will reveal, in the meantime one can enjoy these classics until we know.

[Editor's Note: Written by Quentin Harrison (me) in the July 15th-21st, 2009 issue of The Dayton City Paper. Main art created by Brenda L. Mullins, art co-conceived by Ms. Mullins & Mr. Harrison. Special thanks to Jody Watley for providing artwork & believing.-QH]

Monday, July 6, 2009

Still "Off the Wall" 30 Years Later, Michael Jackson's Masterpiece

Music was the reflection of Michael Jackson. It was with this music that he enraptured us in life and lives on past his untimely passing. Many have tried to pry apart the music from the man while peering at his legacy, this has proven to be an impossible task. An important anniversary proves this without fail. The progenitor to Thriller (1982) and his later albums, Off the Wall (1979) on August 10th, 2009 turns exactly 30 years old. This album launched Jackson into the stratosphere of music evolution, and in Jackson's mind, had been years in the making.

Clearly not satisfied with the pleasant, but diminutive solo output during his Motown tenure, now at Epic Records Jackson sought to make an impact worth remembering outside of the context of being a charter member of The Jacksons. Enter Quincy Jones, the production maestro Jackson worked with on the film adaption of The Wiz two years prior. Hitting it off personally and professionally, each had a unified vision for what became Off the Wall, Jackson's fifth overall long player.

It was 1979, the year disco, a dance offshoot of R&B, had taken hold of the mainstream music world after years of amassing power in the underground. With Jones and Jackson in head of production, they drew together a collection of talent that criss-crossed songwriters, session musicians, and singers.

Writers Rod Temperton (Donna Summer, Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, Heatwave), Paul McCartney (of The Beatles), Carole Bayer Sager (The Carpenters, Phyllis Hyman, Diana Krall), Stevie Wonder, and former Wonderlove and Supreme Susaye Green all brought special songs to the proceedings.

The musicians, also integral, boasted talent like George Duke, Greg Phillinganes, Louis Johnson (of The Brothers Johnson), Jerry Hey, John Robinson (the drummer from Rufus), and David Foster were some of the figures present.

Everyone drew together on a synergistic note to propel Michael Jackson into the pumping pulse of contemporary disco and R&B, without making him a slave to it. Off the Wall fit into the period perfectly and outlived it as well. The preciseness of Jones' R&B know-how, complimented Jackson's exuberance, making the album enjoyably addictive with each listen.

Danceable, groovy, and downtempo elements all cohered on Off the Wall. The bursting "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" was filled to the brim with cascading strings, throbbing bass, varied percussive elements. Through all of this, Jackson whooped, crooned, and sang his heart out. The vibrancy that characterized the searing "Get On the Floor" and "Workin' Day & Night" was muscular instead of the prototypical R&B macho-fuel that drove a few of Jackson's male colleagues. The springy "Rock With You" further found Jackson well-mannered, but not any less enthused.

The arrangements stayed succulent on the slow jams side too. Quaint and sparse described the poignant "She's Out of My Life," a staple for decades in Jackson's live shows. Partnered with Jones' goddaughter, Patti Austin, she and Jackson duetted on the valentine "It's the Falling in Love." Here you hear Jackson humoring some of the last bit of his Motown innocence. The mesmeric "I Can't Help It," penned by the aforementioned team of Wonder and Green, was a living, breathing lush sound of romantic proportions.

If Thriller was the visual and crossover watermark for Jackson, Off the Wall was the pre-MTV, pre-crossover solidification of Michael Jackson as a modern, R&B magus. Off the Wall when released on August 10th, 1979 was an immediate win across the board.

Five singles were released, with the first four reigning as Jackson standards. All four singles were U.S. Top 10 hits, a first in American music history. Off the Wall also gave Jackson his first solo Grammy win in 1980 for "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance" for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." The record would certify platinum seven times in America and globally moved over 20 million copies. On October 21st, 2001 the record received a generous remastering, tacking on several demo tracks and interview segments with Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones.

"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"
Directed By: Nick Saxton

I've always preferred Michael Jackson with an urban slant, his energized vocalizing sounded better against colorful R&B. While R&B's grit and groove was never too far from Jackson as he moved throughout the '80's, in the '90's and early '00's his work turned back to the hearty urban sound he started with. With Michael Jackson's tragic departure, celebration of his music is necessary. It was the medium he used to share joy with all of us. Five out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: Off the Wall is available at all music retailers: big box, indie, and online.-QH]

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Celebrating 20 Years of Texas

I first met and fell in love with Texas at 19, during the summer of 2004. Already a fan of various European exports in the form of the Spice Girls, Kylie Minogue, The Corrs, and Robbie Williams, Texas was a welcome addition to my growing collection.

Founded by Johnny McElhone in 1986, a former member of Hipsway and Altered Images, McElhone drew the Texas name from the Wim Wenders directed, Ry Cooder scored film Paris, Texas. Texas shot to fame with the biting urgency of "I Don't Want a Lover," from their debut Southside (1989) in the United Kingdom.

More than another hip '90's outfit, Texas is musical magic, and here is the tale of Texas, thus far...

1989-1993: Earthy Beginnings

Signed (still) with Mercury Records, Texas' debut recording Southside (1989) introduced the world to Sharleen Spiteri. A charismatic voice that was breathtaking. The band, Stuart Kerr (drums), Ally McErlaine (slide guitar), and Johnny McElhone (guitar/songwriter) constructed a solid sound of early-era U2 flavored rock with spacious country ambitions for Spiteri to soar atop. Off the strength of "I Don't Want a Lover," Southside shifted two million units in Britain alone.

1991's follow-up, the insistent Mothers Heaven fell victim to a fickle buying populace. Ricks Road alleviated some of the commercial tension when it released in 1993. The single "So Called Friend" became the theme to Ellen DeGeneres' TV show Ellen. Ricks Road drew from a similar well of blues, country, and rock like their two previous recordings. One key difference with Ricks Road factored into a tender cover of the Al Green classic, "Tired of Being Alone." The first seed of the blue-eyed revolution Texas was to utilize later surfaced on this song.

1997-2000: Blue-Eyed Soul Reigns

Texas' creative overhaul led to a burst in popularity across the board, partially in thanks to Spiteri's transformation from ingenue to confident front woman. McElhone and McErlaine became the only members from the original Texas line-up to stay intact as the band took on a revolving door aspect. Eddie Campbell, a keyboardist since 1991, also stayed with Texas throughout out its swaps.

Texas kept music at the fore and pulled off a major coup with White On Blonde (1997). Mingling alternative pop-rock with soul helped White On Blonde go platinum six times, securing Texas as darlings of the British realm.

Spiteri's growth as a singer was on display with the somber "Say What You Want" and epic "Halo." Texas' exploration of blue-eyed soul reached its zenith with The Hush (1999), their most accomplished record to date and the one that began my romance with them in the summer of 2004.

Taking the best from Philadelphia, Stax, and Motown they worked in those American sounds with a smooth European sheen. The Hush was downcast ("Day By Day"), sexy ("Summer Son"), and groovy ("Tell Me the Answer").

A retrospective followed a year later in 2000 with three new songs: "In Demand," "Inner Smile," and "Guitar Song." Anything cut before 1997 was given a "reworking" for the collection. Depending on the type of Texas fan, this either infuriated or excited. Notably absent was any material from Mothers Heaven.

2003-Present: Experiments & Hiatus

Dabbling in a bit of punk, dancehall, but with their rock soaked soul, Texas unleashed Careful What You Wish For (2003), their sixth LP, and first of original material since The Hush.

The album spawned a muted reaction amongst record buyers and critics. A thrilling, if mixed, bag of tricks in "Telephone X" and "Broken" kicked off the record on a hard note. "Telephone X" owed a debt to Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone," while "Broken" saw Spiteri flaunting her self-harmonies. The first single "Carnival Girl," with Kardinal Offishall, grated or delighted. Careful managed to be effective in stating that Texas would not rest on past laurels, even if the new ideas didn't always click.

Another year passed before Red Book (2005), their safe reach back to pop majesty ("Getaway") that recalled former glory. Dull patches like "Can't Resist" did mar the record unfortunately. Red Book recovered quickly on the sprawling duet "Sleep" with Paul Buchanan (of The Blue Nile) and the watercolor sadness of "Bad Weather." The record didn't fare better sales when compared to Careful What You Wish For, though many hailed it as a return to a "classic Texas" feel.

Texas took a sabbatical excusing their the live album The BBC Sessions  dropping in 2007. In 2008, Sharleen Spiteri issued Melody, her first solo album. The record performed modestly, whether or not its muted success will herald a Texas reunion is yet to be seen. Though favored by the college radios of the U.S.A. they never broke into our marketplace due to our auditory ignorance. Our loss as Texas executed refined pop like none other. One can hope for the Texas story to continue.-QH

[Editor's Note: For more information on Texas visit,]