Tuesday, December 5, 2000 Volume 66, Issue 74



Year 2000 musical offerings not all bad 

Cougar Entertainment Staff

The year 2000 had its share of ups and downs musically.

Boy bands and teen pop princesses continued to dominate the charts while lesser-known, but more talented, acts burst onto the scene and appear to have staying power.

This was the year of the "thong," "who let the dogs out" and 'NSync's "Bye, Bye, Bye."

So a group of The Daily Cougar editors and writers decided to get together and give their thoughts on the best albums of 2000:

Jake McKim, Entertainment co-editor

It was difficult for me to narrow my list down to the top three CDs of the year, but after some careful thought, the soulful throwback sounds of D'Angelo's Voodoo , the bluesy funk of B.B. King and Eric Clapton's Riding with the King and the jaw-dropping, soccer-mom-infuriating, highly skilled rhymes of Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP made the final cut. 

D'Angelo's sophomore effort affirmed our faith in good music that pays tribute to its elders. King and Clapton finally showed us that it is possible for two guitar gods to collaborate and not bash heads. Slim Shady's off-the-wall semantics and eyebrow-raising lyrics captivated young hip-hop fans and proved that white boys can rap (well, some of them, anyway).

Wyclef Jean's The Ecleftic, Boyz II Men's NathanMichaelShawnWanya and -- no joke -- 'NSync's Bye, Bye, Bye deserve honorable mention.

Ed De La Garza, Sports editor

Given that the music world is saturated with boy bands and teeny-bopper acts, it becomes harder to find real gems. But as long as Pearl Jam and Dwight Yoakam keep making music, the world is safe.

With Binaural, Pearl Jam created the perfect mix of experimentation and straight rock 'n' roll. Gone are the tendencies to drone on about protesting. The band grew up, as shown on "Of the Girl," "Light Years" and "Sleight of Hand."

Although the band is still capable of turning it up a notch ("Grievance" and "Breakerfall"), the slower numbers give Eddie Vedder a chance to shine. The short and sweet "Soon Forget" finds the singer accompanied only by a ukulele.

Yoakam made country marketable in the late 1980s. With Tomorrow's Sounds Today, Yoakam continues the fine tradition of pop-savvy country mixed with just the right amount of rock. His cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" does the unthinkable: It sounds better than the original. Yoakam is the new George Jones, with a little bit of Elvis Presley thrown in.

With Tool's lead singer Maynard James Keenan providing vocals, A Perfect Circle burst on the scene with the hard-as-nails "Judith." Heavy on religious imagery and progressive rock interludes, the band's album Mer De Noms is a throwback to a time when hard rock could be obnoxious and beautiful. The haunting "3 Libras" has a melody that will stick with you for weeks.

Keenan Singleton, Daily Cougar music critic

They say video killed the radio star. But in the world of rap/hip-hop, radio killed the musician.

The emergence of artists like Nelly and Li'l Bow Wow and the continued dominance of chart-toppers Jay-Z and Eminem have turned hip-hop from "Beats, Rhymes and Life" to "Weak, Crimes and Trife."

But two albums, Common's Like Water For Chocolate and Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele, display rap music at its best -- danceable, insightful and, most important, packed with so many rhymes you'd want to slap Dr. Seuss.

About the only thing that isn't original about Chicago native Common's Like Water for Chocolate is the title.

From live instrumentation to the underlying messages of freedom and equality, Common's fourth album is like air -- it's a must-have for everyone.

Although the album's second single, "The Light" became a major radio hit, Common did not forsake the album's dignity. Tracks like poignant lead single, "The 6th Sense," or the willowy-light guitar riff of the "The Questions" showcase that the artist formerly known as Common Sense is no common rapper.

While he's not a friendly ghost like Casper, Ghostface Killah did make one of the friendliest albums to listen to in the year 2000.

Supreme Clientele, his first solo offering since being released from prison, is another masterpiece from the Wu-Tang dynasty.

From the brash, in-your-face horns on "Apollo Kids" to the instant club hit "Cherchez la Ghost," Supreme Clientele has a bevy of tracks to sample.

Ghostface's vivid descriptions of subjects ranging from his first love to beating someone down and cleverly selected samples make his sophomore solo effort splendid --not a slump.

Honorable mentions: The Ecleftic, Wyclef Jean; Art Official Intelligence, De La Soul; Fantastic, Vol. II, Slum Village; Stankonia, Outkast.

Jim Parsons, managing editor

It may seem odd that one of the best albums of 2000 is a re-issue of songs recorded between 1990 and 1993. But Kelly Willis' One More Time: The MCA Recordings isn't just another re-issue -- it's a look at the musical near-miss of the 1990s.

Willis was expected to lead Nashville's "alternative country" movement, but her recordings never sold enough to satisfy the major labels. Only after her brilliant 1999 album What I Deserve did MCA decide it would take credit for Willis' sophisticated material, an effortless blend of classic country, rockabilly and western swing. Enjoy the collection, but don't buy MCA's line that it was responsible for Willis' success.

In a slightly different vein is Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, the latest set from the British house-pop sensation Fatboy Slim (a.k.a. Norman Cook). Although it's not as accessible as his past work, Gutter and Stars gives Slim latitude to produce a collection that's eclectic, savvy and just plain fun.

Every song isn't great, but the good ones really rock, particularly the Bootsy Collins collaboration "Weapon of Choice" and both tracks featuring Macy Gray.

Perhaps the best album of 2000 is Heartbreaker, the solo debut from alt-country bad boy Ryan Adams. Adams, formerly the frontman for the almost-good band Whiskeytown, has found his niche in a range of styles from the jangly guitar rock of "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)" to the haunting "Amy."

Adams' backup, which includes Gillian Welch and a turn from Emmylou Harris, enhances the album's stripped-down Southern rock undercurrent. Heartbreaker is not only an impressive offering, but is a promise of things to come.

Brandon Moeller, editor in chief

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to sampling the latest albums from Radiohead, Van Morrison, Erykah Badu or Merle Haggard in their entirety, but I have heard three albums that I think mark the best of Y2K.

Johnny Cash's American III: Solitary Man is one of the best birthday presents I've ever given myself. Seriously, from the opening cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" to Cash's version of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger," the album is a solid piece of work that clearly illustrates why Cash is one of the most respected artists in country music. My other favorites from the album include "The Mercy Seat," "Country Trash" and his cover of U2's "One."

On the jazz side, Houston's own Free Radicals offer a delicious sample of freestyle grooves on its latest, Our Lady of Eternal Sunny Delights

There aren't many raps and jams on this album; it's mostly great background music for studying. But if you've ever seen a Free Radicals show, you know its live performance is so powerful that the band's presence turns all heads wherever they play free shows or benifits. Their adaptation of John Coltrane's "Mr. P C" is good enough to warrant buying the 31-track album available through its Web site at www.enjoymusic.com/freeradicals/.

Despite coming out at the end of 1999, The Roots' Come Alive live album was one of the best things I didn't hear until 2000. The album features the hard-core lyrical masters of hip-hop spurting out favorites like "The Next Movement," "Proceed" and "What You Want," but the band's incredible energy can be felt more unrestrained in a live album format.

The album also contains music and video files that can be played on your PC.

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