Volume 93, Issue 45
Thursday, November 18, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Roots stays grounded
The Roots Come Alive
Those who haven't experienced the truly original sounds of hip- hop/R&Bers The Roots, are individuals who deserve a great deal of pity from their peers.
This constantly evolving Philadelphia septet are one of the few groups in the realm of hip-hop take a deserved amount of pride in the fact they play their own instruments, refusing to subscribe to the trend of sampling.
Their latest effort, The Roots Come Alive, captures the band at their very best, their unique live energy held captive at its most pure. The album does not purport to be a "best of" compilation, despite containing some of their biggest hits. Nor is it another live album, with the cuts remastered and butchered to the point of absurdity.
Instead, Come Alive is a series of favourite tracks taken from their latest tour cuts that have deviations from previous recordings, segues into rambling speeches and crowd banter as well as a few slip-ups in the form of missed cues and slightly off chords thrown in for good measure. In short, it is The Roots at the top of their game pure, fallible and totally listenable in its entirety.
The album opens with a snippet of a Grandmaster Flash crowd address, hearkening back to the old school days when skill, rather than hype, guaranteed popularity. As the leader of the Furious Five implores the crowd to get involved in the show and contribute their energy, one almost feels a nostalgic tear in their eye.
Classic Roots favourites such as "The Next Movement," "The Ultimate" and "The Notic," all make appearances on the album, as well as the linguistically ambiguous hit "You Got Me," of which there have been more interpretations made than Sam and the Shams' "Louie Louie." The lower profile author of the song, Jill Scott, fills in beautifully for the absent Erykah Badu and even better, actually sings the lyrics slow and clear enough to be understood.
Little remastering was done to manipulate the album's sound just fine tuning which renders the bass thrumming, the drums crisp and the vocals as clear as a bell. In essence, the mixing merely renders the live experience of the group as beautifully as can be expected from a recording.
This brings the listener so close to the actual experience that one can almost feel the blood, sweat and tears shed by The Roots to give fans their authentic sound, straight from the heart.
MTV Celebrity Deathmatch
For all those North of the 49th parallel, without a satellite dish, MTV has been stock-piling a number of original, in-house produced programs for a few years now.
One of these homegrown efforts is the wildly popular Claymation show Celebrity Deathmatch, which pits popular celebrities against each other in no-holds-barred fights to the bitter end, usually by full scale maiming, decapitation and evisceration. Not exactly high class entertainment, but any show which depicts Kathie Lee Gifford meeting a grisly demise can't be all bad.
The soundtrack, featuring solid but uneventful tracks by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Bif Naked, Eminem and Primus, stinks of the foul odour of greed. Many of the efforts are merely old songs by the artists, slightly remixed in order to classify them as "new versions" to the public.
A few cuts do highlight the effort, namely Xzibit's title track, "Celebrity Deathmatch," a hard thrumming string of vocals broken by samples of the show's ring announcer. As well, the seemingly odd pairing of the precocious Canibus and the legendary Rakim works well in "I'll Bust Em', You Punish Em'," with the duo's rap skills meshing in a cohesive sonic assault.
However, when the bell rings in the 12th and final round, MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch finds itself face down on the canvas, wondering what went wrong.
For those unfamiliar with the term "post-rock," pay close attention.
This is primarily instrumental music which relies mainly on simple guitar refrains, sparse melodies and heavy musical interplay between band members. Over the typical seven or eight minute run, tension usually builds to almost dizzying heights and then diffuses with an orgasmic clash of white noise and melody. One other thing you should know about post-rock is that Mogwai do it very, very well.
This Glaswegian troupe of instrumental stalwarts have been major players in the burgeoning post-rock scene. EP+2 sees them take the genre into more reserved territory, while maintaining their penchant for measured melodies and swelling crescendos.
The opening track "Stanley Kubrick" is a languid trip into a blissed-out world of echoed guitar tracks and swirling organs. Other noteworthies are "Christmas Song," featuring a recurring piano motif framed in a swath of arpeggiated guitars and the low builder "Burn Girl Prom Queen," which boasts a swelling horn section near the end.
While not as riotous as some of their previous efforts, EP+2 is every bit as engrossing and will serve as an appropriate "come down" soundtrack for anybody who's been through a rough weekend. Or month. Or year. Or life. Highly recommended stuff.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999