“Feelings” (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.)
The four “action-figure”-style images of journeyman David Byrne on the booklet of “Feelings” reflect the many musical moods he undergoes on the album, which features such acclaimed side players as members of Morcheeba, Devo and the Balanescu Quartet. Highlights of a consistently entertaining, characteristically diverse offering include the catchy, sardonic “Miss America,” reminiscent of the late-period Talking Heads track “Mr. Jones”; the funky “Dance On Vaseline”; and the Celtic-inspired “Daddy Go Down,” featuring fiddle sensations Pierre La Roux and Ashley MacIsaac. Like Byrne’s last two solo projects particularly the underappreciated 1992 opus “Uh-Oh” “Feelings” is the work of a master of his craft in peak form. A record that deserves a place alongside the finest of Byrne’s material with the Talking Heads.
“Dream Walkin”’ (Mercury)
Toby Keith is growing into a self-assured musical maturity, well displayed by this collection of well-crafted songs. Keith wrote two of these and co-wrote six others, and they form a (mostly) cohesive look at the working-class country life: authentic-sounding love songs, laments and hell-raising anthems. That makes it all the more startling when Sting pops up singing on his own composition “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” which is not a country song, despite producer James Stroud’s best efforts at disguising it. True country sentiment just cannot be forced.
“Presents … The Carnival Featuring Refugee Allstars” (Columbia)
Fugees rapper/producer Wyclef Jean steps out on a solo journey that is bound to solidify his standing as one of hip-hop’s bona fide icons. Like the Fugees’ work, Wyclef’s art is based partly on well-chosen samples-including Cuban standard “Guantanamera” (featuring Celia Cruz), the Neville Brothers’ “Mona Lisa” and the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” the latter on the hit “We Trying To Stay Alive.” Beyond that, Wyclef excels at imbuing his insightful, thought-provoking rhymes with such elements as a symphony orchestra, a soprano’s vocalizing and spoken sound bites. Other highlights of a concept album that examines the joys and miseries of urban life via a carnival motif include “Apocalypse,” the touching “Gone Till November,” the reggae-influenced “Bubblegoose” and the epic title track. A record that promises to push the boundaries of hip-hop and extend Wyclef’s already sizable appeal.
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