Sunday , September 23 2018

Ndegeocello excels on covers album – Bleeps and lots more from Frisell

Meshell Ndegeocello, “Ventriloquism” (Naive/Believe)

Meshell Ndegeocello strips much of the glossy production off the 11 covers on “Ventriloquism” but keeps — and sometimes boosts — the songs’ emotional charge, investing them with an ethereal quality that acts as a counteragent to these accelerated times.

Ndegeocello’s voice travels the breadth of her range across the record, but there’s also a lot of air in her vocals, a certain restraint that enhances the moods along with the mellower beats per minute.

She creates a bluesy approach to TLC’s “Waterfalls,” a transformation which is reminiscent of Taj Mahal’s reinvention of “Take a Giant Step.” Prince’s own “Sometimes It Snows In April” is drawn out and heart wrenching, its extended intro of just bass and guitar prolonging the anticipation.

If Tina Turner’s take on Mark Knopfler’s “Private Dancer” was sad and disillusioned, Ndegeocello’s is even more pained and reflective. If there’s a glimmer of hope left that she still has time to “have a husband and some children,” it’s fading fast.

A trio of tunes written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity,” Janet Jackson’s “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” and Force MDs’ “Tender Love” — are all given new, successful identities, from vaudeville to folkish.

Opener “I Wonder If I Take You Home” — from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force — has a funky snare which also shows up in an altered state on closer “Smooth Operator.” Sade’s hit gets an updated time signature in what feels like a theme to love between robots.

Strong

Ndegeocello has been making consistently strong albums since her 1993 debut, “Plantation Lullabies.” Her talent or need to avoid being pigeonholed may be a handicap when it comes to wider acclaim, but even a dummy will tell you that “Ventriloquism” is worthy of all ears.

Bill Frisell, “Music IS” (OKeh/Sony Music Masterworks)

There are many Bill Frisells on “Music IS,” and they are all terrific. For his first solo album in 18 years, the guitarist beyond category touches upon a wide range of genres.

Frisell plays pop, jazz, country, folk and the blues, as well as classical, theatre and movie music, sometimes mixing styles on a single tune. He uses droning, reverb, loops, distortion, bleeps, blorps and even a ukulele.

There are no drums and no vocals but plenty of overdubs, and it’s very much a studio creation, with the emphasis on tone and texture. Frisell explores his 15 original compositions in layers, both by adding and peeling away. He reprises several songs recorded previously in different arrangements.

The album’s not a showcase for Frisell’s extraordinary virtuosity, with tempos mostly slow to moderate. He rocks on “Think About It,” but for less than a minute. Sometimes the beat falls away, such as on “Go Happy Lucky,” where he plays R&B without much rhythm.

But his compositions include more melodic hooks than might be expected from such a musical melange, with Frisell playing acoustic guitar on two of the prettiest tunes, “The Pioneers” and “Made to Shine.”

On his electric guitar, anything goes. “Winslow Homer,” for example, echoes contemporary jazz, or modern classical music, or a 1960s Haight-Ashbury bootleg. As with the album’s cover photo, boundaries are blurred on “Music IS,” and while the set presents many Bill Frisells, he sounds like no one else.

Also:

LOS ANGELES: SiriusXM announced today that Grammy-winning producer and DJ Diplo will launch his own radio channel, Diplo’s Revolution, exclusively on the network.

According to a press release, the channel, which will launch on Thursday, March 22, will feature “global rhythmic music hand-selected by Diplo,” as well as regular original shows hosted by him, Dillon Francis and Major Lazer members Jillionaire and Walshy Fire.

The channel will air live festival coverage from electronic music festivals around the world including Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas and more. It will also include songs from his solo projects, Major Lazer, Jack U and further upcoming collaborations.

The channel will launch with a special live performance from the Faena Theater in Miami Beach on Thursday, March 22 at 9:00 pm ET. This performance, exclusive for SiriusXM subscribers, will feature DJ sets from Diplo and friends, and will air live on Diplo’s Revolution, on SiriusXM channel 52 and through the SiriusXM app.

“I’m so stoked to be starting my own channel with SiriusXM. Back in 2012 I had a show with them called ‘Blow Your Head,’ and it’s awesome to be back in the family launching this project together. I’m excited to share my favorite music from all over the world, and can’t wait to have tons of friends on to do the same,” said Diplo.

“It’s exciting to have Diplo as part of the SiriusXM family. I have no doubt that Diplo’s Revolution will quickly become a listener favorite among our already popular dance channels, especially given his work as not only a solo artist but as part of Jack U and Major Lazer,” said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer of SiriusXM. “A well-respected producer, tastemaker, DJ, writer and performer, Diplo will share his singular point of view with SiriusXM listeners, exposing them to the most important dance music from around the globe.”

Diplo will host a weekly music show, “Records on Records,” on Diplo’s Revolution that will air on Fridays at 7:00 pm ET. Additionally, Diplo will also host a monthly show, “Diplo’s Wavelength,” based on the cultures and music he discovers while touring the world. It will air the first Friday of every month.

Since he burst into the mainstream with his work on M.I.A.’s “Arular” album in 2004, Diplo has become one of the world’s major producers and DJs, working as a solo act and with Beyonce, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd, as one half of Jack U with Skrillex and as one third of Major Lazer. (Agencies)

By Pablo Gorondi

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