Discs Review

Andre "Andre 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton continue to expand the borders of hip hop on their sixth disc, Idlewild.

September 20, 2006 10:40
3 minute read.
outkast disk 88 298

outkast disk 88 298. (photo credit: )


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OUTKAST Idlewild Hed Artzi Andre "Andre 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton continue to expand the borders of hip hop on their sixth disc, Idlewild. Ostensibly a soundtrack to their new film of the same name - it's set in the American South during Prohibition - Idlewild is an ambitious, sprawling effort that finds the Atlanta-based duo breezing from swing jazz to dance pop effortlessly. Leading off with big band sing-along "Mighty O" - based on Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" - the album is filled with intelligent, inventive raps enhanced by expansive arrangements and other artistic nuances not usually found on hip hop discs. But Outkast doesn't offer normal hip hop. From the finger-snapping R & B of "Idlewild Blue" to the swirling psychedelia of "The Train," the duo and their slew of guests, who range from Macy Gray to Snoop Dogg, sound like they're having a great time, and it permeates the performances. While Benjamin and Patton evidently collaborate less than Lennon and McCartney did in their later Beatle years, the music hasn't suffered as a result. If Stevie Wonder or Prince had been born 25 years later and had been influenced by rap instead of soul and the blues, it's unlike he results would have been any more impressive than Outkast's on Idlewild. SANDI THOM Smile … It Confuses People Hed Artzi Talent or hype? In the case of Sandi Thom, the UK's latest folk/pop sensation, it's both in equal measures. The 24-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter was just another struggling troubabour when, according to legend, she decided to stop touring and start performing from her living room to a small audience on her webcam. Broadcasting via her Internet site, Thom played 21 shows in a row, with the audience snowballing from a few hundred listeners into the thousands. The results thus far: a record deal and her first album, Smile… It Confuses People. Fueled by novelty a cappella hit "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair"), Thom's now burning up the charts. The song reflects the singer's fixation on the "traditional" values of sensitive Sixties and Seventies musicians and on more recent artists like Lillith Tour founder Sarah McLachlan. The sensibility is best exemplified by the tuneful "Superman" and "Little Remedy." Thom can rock out, too, in a restrained, Elton John-inspired manner on "Sunset Boulevard," and also on "The Human Jukebox." You'll hear tinges of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" in the bass line of "Castles" and George Michael's "Freedom" in the rhythms of "When Horsepower Meant What It Said," but there could be worse influences to borrow from. It remains to be seen whether her music will stand on its own merits once the Internet buzz subsides, but Thom's debut contains plenty of pleasurable moments whether you listen to them online or not. PRINCE The Ultimate Collection Hed Artzi Prince hated his record deal with Warner Brothers so much that he famously changed his name to a symbol in protest. But despite the acrimony that developed between the artist and his label, it's widely agreed that he produced his greatest music on albums released by Warner and subsidiary label Paisley Park. The Ultimate Collection features 17 of Prince's greatest hits, and another 11 remixes and extended versions up until the singer's multi-platinum 1991 collection Diamonds and Pearls. From early glories like "1999," "Controversy" and "Little Red Corvette" (which is presented here, unfortunately, only as a dance remix) to career peaks including "When Doves Cry," "Purple Rain" and "Kiss," one of Minnesota's most famous sons dazzles with his verve and talent. Some quirky masterpieces are left by the wayside, among them "When You Were Mine" and the lascivious "Head," but most of the essentials are present. There may be a more comprehensive career overview out there, but frankly, since 1991, there's not a lot of Prince you need. Still, for over 10 years, he ruled the roost, and not even Outkast will ever fully replace him.

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