{Music Reviews}

Leona Naess

Comatised – 2001 MCA Artists $16.99 at Samgoody.com

Leona has this voice that cajoles and soothes as she asks you to go to Mexico with her in Track One of her latest album, Comatised.

And she can make the listener want to follow her anywhere, be it as far away as Mexico or just through the rest of her album. This was an exploratory record for Naess that showed just how versatile she and her trusty acoustic are.

“Weak Strong Heart” begins with a synth-bass that sounds like a bleating heart beat. That feeling only intensifies with the addition of the percussion and electric, while Naess cooes the question “how many women does it take to show you how?”

“Blue Eyed Baby” has the feel of a Savage Garden song, with the words hitting each other on strong, stacatto points of the tap-tapping of Martin Terefe's drumming. Naess has the power to sound like a gentle mentor one minute, then the all-knowing best friend and a challenging teenage spitfire the next.

Her voice is soul candy. If you like letting Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, Alanis Morrisette, or Natalie Imbrulia soothe your thirst for melody, then intorducing a dose of Naess to your listening.

By Sally Carraher

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VPN (Very Pleasant Neighbors)

"For Nearby Stars" – 2001 Evil Twin Records, $12.32 at Amazon.com

The five blank faces of this New York placid rock band are staring at me devoid of human emotion from the press release photo while I write this review.

Their music gets an “A” for execution of theory. They know how to play a guitar and a drum set.

Vocals Austin Hughes can carry a tune. They know how to follow the neatly perforated lines of assembly song making: intro with a guitar, two versus, a chorus, instrumental strain, another verse, bla,bla, bla…. The problem is there is simply no emotion.

Their songs are about all kinds of nifty subjects, like communist spies in “Flypaper” and the devil delighting in human corruption in “The Flood” but it all falls short with a depressing lack of energy.

The lyrics are great if you can stand to listen to Hughes' baby-doll impression of a Billy Corgan voice. They have talent, but it seems they need some help in getting that fire – that breath of life – to make their creations spring forth into the realm of the living.

Heed your own lyrics and like “Perfumigation” says, how about you go disqualify yourselves. Sorry guys, while your local fan-base may support you, I don't think the rest of the world is numb enough for you yet. And stop staring at me.

By Sally Carraher

Destiny's Child

“Eight Days of Christmas”- Sony Music Co., 2001, $16.99 at SamGoody.com

It seems that these days every artist, regardless of genre, has a Christmas album.

Destiny's Child's entry into this list is nothing more than a new look at some holiday classics.

The only problem is they don't have the guts or gusto to pull it off tastefully.

Here me out. Dropping hip-hop hooks and rearranging classics like “8 Days of Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” makes them sound like some bad mall shopping Muzak. The ladies do have harmony and immense talent, but it's better served on the group's traditional sound, like “Survivor” and “Independent Woman.”

They take songs from masters like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Nat “King” Cole, give them an updated feel and sit and wait while their fans fork over more money to make their Christmas better, not music fans or festive holiday-goers.

Piffle pure and simple. If you're still going to buy it, at least appreciate the fact that these ladies can sing. Especially Kelly Rowland on “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

But remember that following a popular trend in the music industry leaves you no better than those millions who trooped out to buy Christina Aguilera and Brittany Spears albums as well. Ouch.

By Will Vandergriff

Dave Matthews Band

“Live in Chicago…”- RCA Records, 2001 (2-disc), $15.38 at Amazon.com

Starting off a live show with anything other than a number-one single or fan favorite is a recipe for hate.

But then again, when was the last time a musician came to the fore like Dave Matthews and his band?

On “Live in Chicago 12-19-98 at the United Center” the maestro of Southern Soul-Rock loses his voice but it doesn't come back to haunt him.

The opening track of the 2-disc set, “Last Stop,” finds Matthews warbling and writhing from pitch to pitch, before finding his groove on the albums (uncut even) second track, “Don't Drink the Water.”

All tracks run longer than their air-friendly four minutes, thanks in part to the band interspersing solos and improvs in every track. This gives the listener eight or nine minutes of enjoyment instead of the usual quick cuts.

Matthews style hasn't been copied by anyone yet, but artists are getting closer, so taking the time to master a live show and let your audience know that it's a style all your own takes not only guts but supreme confidence.

The only problems with the albums are the fact that the show took place three years ago, before the album's “Everyday” and “Before These Crowded Streets.”

So the standards are there, but the new style and fine-tuned experience are lost on the listener. (By Will Vandergriff/ Northern Light)