February 26, 2006
BY JIM DeROGATIS POP
Dilated Peoples, "20/20"
"Back again for the very fourth time / Don't worry if I write
checks / I write rhymes," the Los Angeles trio Dilated Peoples
rap on "Back Again," the triumphant opening track on their fourth
major-label album. Indeed, since their Capitol debut with "The
Platform" (2001), Rakaa, Evidence and DJ Babu have fallen short of
lucrative mainstream stardom, and never so much as on the
pop-conscious "Neighborhood Watch" (2004), a commercial
disappointment, despite the Kanye West-produced single "This Way."
Thankfully, the group brings things back into focus on "20/20,"
returning to their old-school commitment to socially conscious raps,
slashing battle rhymes,
stripped-down but hard-hitting beats and Babu's always impressive
Like so many otherwise potent hip-hop acts, Dilated Peoples
remain unduly fond of pointless between-song skits and shout-outs to
the joys of smoking weed. But they deliver the goods with memorable
tracks such as the politically inspired "Alarm Clock Music" (which
evokes Public Enemy jamming with the Roots); the smoldering soul
groove "You Can't Hide, You Can't Run"; "Olde English," which
courageously knocks empty-headed mainstream gangsta rap, and
"Kindness for Weakness" (featuring a guest turn by Talib Kweli),
which evokes Chicago rapper Common in asserting that there are other
ways to prove your manhood than by wielding a gun.
As the group raps in the latter, "Some say we're too serious
and conscious / Some say we're all battle raps and ganja / I say in
your bad dreams we're monsters / Rat-packing stages like Frank
Sinatra." And that's no idle boast.
Note: Dilated Peoples perform at 7:30 p.m. March 7 at the Park
West, 322 W. Armitage, with Little Brother and Defari.
Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3, "... tick ... tick ... tick" (RedEye)
On his 12th official solo album, the extremely prolific but
always rewarding singer and songwriter Steve Wynn announces his
intentions to rock out with both the title, which conveys the
ticking of a bomb moments before it explodes, and the cover art,
which portrays a chili pepper that you just know would be hot enough
to sear your tongue off. The 11 tunes contained within live up to
Wynn has been riding a real high during what he jokingly calls
his "fifth or sixth comeback and resuscitation from the dead since I
made 'The Days of Wine and Roses' with my old band the Dream
Syndicate back in 1982." This disc is the third installment of what
he calls a "desert trilogy" recorded in Tucson, Ariz. But where
"Here Come the Miracles" (2001) was an ambitious sprawl, and "Static
Transmission" (2003) was a dark and moody effort, "... tick ... tick
... tick" is straightforward and absolutely unrelenting garage rock,
with Wynn meeting his self-professed goal of being "louder, harder,
sicker, freakier [and] more hopped up on goofballs than what we had
Songs such as "Wired," "Cindy, It Was Always You" and "Wild
Mercury" reintroduce the frantic Wynn of Dream Syndicate classics
such as "Then She Remembers," simultaneously prompting pity and fear
via the cathartic emotional overload of his lyrics, and delivering
wave after wave of barely controlled crescendos and epic guitar
duels through the fiery and inspired interplay with guitarist Jason
Victor, bassist Dave DeCastro and drummer Linda Pitmon, who, if they
don't quite work miracles, certainly create a heavenly noise.
Artists, "Different Strokes by Different Folks" (Epic) *1/2
As with the ill-conceived, poorly executed and extremely sad
homage during the Grammys, the genius of groundbreaking '60s pop,
rock and soul heroes Sly and the Family Stone really deserves much,
much better than this exploitative and hollow tribute disc, which
finds a genre-blind though commercially glitzy collection of
unrelated artists reimagining classic Sylvester Stewart tracks by
remixing the vintage recordings or building new songs from key
elements of the originals.
While some fans might have preferred a straight covers album, the
big problem here isn't with the concept, but the execution. The
Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am and lite-popsters Maroon 5 detract from
rather than add to the original classics "Dance to the Music" and
"Everyday People"; some pairings that seem inspired on paper -- John
Legend, Joss Stone and Van Hunt on "Family Affair" -- fall flat in
the studio, and others such as Steven Tyler and Robert Randolph ("I
Want to Take You Higher") were doomed from the get-go.
In the end, less than a third of these tunes really take you
higher, among them Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy and John Mayer on
"You Can Make It If You Try," Moby's pure and simple remix of "Love
City" and the Roots' sampling of "Everybody Is a Star." And while
Sly is credited as producer, it seems as if he added as little to
this lost opportunity of an album as he did at the Grammys.