Pop: This Week's Album Releases

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WHITNEY HOUSTON

MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE

ARISTA

HER FIRST non-soundtrack work in eight years, My Love Is Your Love, finds Whitney Houston trying to re-position herself in a more youthful context. The results are certainly more intriguing than the usual Whitney- fare, though, as the album progresses, her confidence appears to desert her, and she slips back into her comfortable old routine.

For about half the album, though, things are quite exciting, especially when hot young producer, Rodney Jerkins (responsible for Brandy & Monica's recent US mega-hit, "The Boy Is Mine"), is at the helm. His "It's Not Right But It's Okay" opens proceedings with a light, frisky kalimba-funk groove with Whitney, in assertive mode, seeing off a cheating partner; angry and urgent, even a little abrupt, it's begging to be remixed every which way. Further evidence of Jerkins' sophisticated rhythmic sense comes with the album's stand-out track, "If I Told You That", an infectious funk piece built around a jazzy, contrapuntal piano figure that lends a dizzy whirl to the song's swagger and sway. In a year's time, you'll be sick to death of it.

The same goes for Wyclef Jean's "My Love Is Your Love", an anthemic number built with a blatancy even Noel Gallagher would admire from the recycled melodies of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" and "No Woman, No Cry". The song's problem is its obviousness, though it's left in the shade in that respect by the duet with Mariah Carey, "When You Believe", whose entire raison d'etre appears to be to scotch rumours about a Whitney/Mariah feud. As slushy and overdone as you'd imagine, it might have been more convincingly chummy had the two women actually shared the same studio at the same time.

Elsewhere, a couple of Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott collaborations add a little feistiness, but then Whitney slinks back to her old ways. Only Lauryn Hill's revamped "I Was Made To Love Her" goes against the flow, but even that seems drained of the Stevie Wonder original's exhilaration. Overall, only half a revelation.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Tracks

Columbia

UNLIKE THE new Lennon Anthology, there's barely any overlap between the outtakes on this four-CD set and the material already released on Springsteen's albums. Not that that means it's all great, mind; Springsteen was extraordinarily prolific throughout the Seventies and the Eighties, but judging by Tracks, he tended to re-work ideas - feels, chords, lyrical slants - obsessively, until he found the paradigm of a particular form.

As a result, substantial chunks of this set have an overly familiar cast - fine when it's the archetypal neo-Spector street opera of "Rendezvous", every bit as dynamic as anything on Born To Run, but less pleasing as one ploughs through the leftovers from The River, Human Touch, and Lucky Town. After a while, all the cars, edges of town and tragic anti-heroes start to blur into one another, and one loses focus.

But there's plenty here to reward fans, including the original 1972 demos recorded with A&R legend, John Hammond, and a riveting early version of "Born In The USA", done Nebraska-style, just Bruce, his guitar, and a spooky reverb.

KRUDER & DORFMEISTER

The K&D Sessions

Studio K7

FEW THINGS are as tiresome as the remix album, but the Viennese duo of Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister bring a fresh slant to the form on this double-album compilation. Going against the standard Teutonic stomp of the likes of Westbam and Sven Vath, they bring a subtle, stripped- down approach to their remixes of Roni Size, Alex Reece and Count Basic that renders such drum'n'bass artisans infinitely more appealing, without denying their essential nature.

There's no sense of undue hurry here, just a relaxed flow that stretches across both discs with a pleasing unity of atmosphere. Masters of the digital delay, K&D locate new rhythms in these grooves that transform their parent tracks, which include Bomb The Bass's "Bug Powder Dust" and Depeche Mode's "Useless". Slick and slippery, smooth and light, there's a spliffed-out grace to these grooves that stays just this side of ambient looseness, moored to the beat by the gentlest shuffle of soft percussion. If your experience of remixes is limited to those tedious DJ albums of thumping floor-fillers, K&D's approach may come as a pleasant surprise.

METHOD MAN

Tical 2000: Judgement Day

Def Jam

THIS LONG-AWAITED sophomore effort from the Wu-Tang Clan heavyweight comes studded with answerphone messages from such icons of negritude as Janet Jackson, comedian Chris Rock, VJ Ed Lover and, er, Donald Trump, all badgering Meth to hurry up and deliver another album, like they can't live without his pearls of wisdom.

The self-aggrandising tone extends to the record itself, a vernacular torrent sustained for 28 tracks without actually going anywhere much outside of the usual round of antler-locking and insults. The monotone menace of Meth's vocal style isn't really applied to any great purpose here, and the static loop grooves of his Wu-Tang chums RZA, True Master, Inspectah Deck and 4th Disciple serve to exacerbate the feeling of immobility; of being happily mired in deadly quicksand.

This, in itself, wouldn't be that much of a drawback - after all, it's not the first rap record to tread water so assiduously - but there's some stuff on here about "batty boys" that's bang out of order. As long as he's dragging that knee-jerk homophobia around, we shouldn't be looking to Method Man for much in the way of millennial change.

JEWEL

Spirit

Atlantic

JEWEL KILCHER'S debut album, Pieces Of You, sold a whopping 10 million units worldwide, of which about seven copies must have been purchased here in the UK. She's the Lilith Fairy: the embodiment of the sensitive woman-folkie trend that hasn't really travelled that well beyond America.

It's not hard to see why: the sensibility behind Spirit is a little too precious (no pun intended) for sturdier British palates, particularly since Madonna's old producer, Patrick Leonard, has attempted to cosset her voice here in a synthetic approximation of the classic Daniel Lanois ambience.

There's a superficial resemblance to the great female singer-songwriters of the past, but Jewel crucially lacks the outgoing, assertive spirit that Joni Mitchell brought to the form. Instead, her songs depict a stereotypically cold, cruel world in which innocence is routinely violated, full of victims and underdogs like the deluded lad in "Fat Boy". Depressingly, her antidote to all ills appears to be the salvatory power of prayer, pursued with chillingly evangelical talk of a "new army ... armed with faith". Another Christian army? That's all we need.

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