Recordings

Besides, she can so be mean. In "Garden of Delights," she even uses the "H" word: You see my face/You hate my words/I hate you too.

Not necessarily the sentiments of a spineless Twinkie.--Laurie Notaro
Lisa Loeb is scheduled to perform on Sunday, November 26, at the Rockin' Horse, with Once Blue. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Simply Red
Life
(EastWest)

So he has a bad haircut--Simply Red's Mick Hucknall also has one of the most soulful voices ever to find its way out of a scrawny white boy. Fat with leisurely grooves and subtle hip-hop touches, the incorrigibly mainstream Life contains some of Hucknall's best work to date. It's a buoyant mix of keyboards, sax and vocals, anchored by a rhythm section composed of Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and Bootsy Collins.

Hucknall's lyrics are inspired musings from a 35-year-old who can take stock without getting morbidly self-absorbed. And the heart of these songs seems to emerge without compromise or embellishment--perhaps because of Hucknall's reported efforts to let the melodies form fully in his head before he committed them to tape.

That's not to say this record isn't a studio artifact: It is, and a well-produced one at that. It's just that Hucknall seems to have taken his completed vision into the recording room, rather than patching together fragmented ideas with slick electronics.

Mellow, but with a deep bass kick, this Life is worth living. Now, if he could just do something about that hair.--Matt Golosinski

M.C. Hammer
V Inside Out
(Giant/Warner Bros.)

The last time we saw Hammer, he was on the cover of his Funky Headmaster album, sportin' a badass bandanna and wrapped up in cellophane like a half-eaten gangsta combo sandwich. The reappearance of the"M.C." prefix is apparently Hammer's humble attempt to reconnect with the homies who fled his camp in embarrassment.

To read Hammer's two pages of thanks and no thanks inside Inside Out, you wouldthink the singer was the most persecuted figure since Job. Listen to the man, feel his wearywoe, y'all: "The pastthree years have been extremely painful--I was wounded in the house of my friends. Theluv of money consumed the minds andhearts of those closest to me. Who can be trusted?" What, does Hammer have agenealogical link to the Jackson family? In most organizations, greed starts at thetop, and I don't recall seeing anyone put a handgun to Mr. Burrell's temple, forcing him to do those KFC commercials.

This time out, Hammer accentuates the positive whenever it manifests itself. Albumfive opens with a reworking of the Reverend Al Green's "Luv-N-Happiness," only now it resembles a black man's "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3." Better still is "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things," where barbecues, house parties, Kool-Aid and "spreadin' luvthru the hood" make thefinal cut, but "kittens with whiskers" and "schnitzels with noodles" do not.

Things stay cheerful until"I Hope Things Change"--Hammer's attempt at "What's Going On"-style social observation--where everyone from pregnant teens to junkies todespondent parents is cashing in his chips. Then,for those who couldn't find enough "Hammer Time" to sift through his accusatory liner notes, "Keep On" tries to shame every double-crossing, disgruntled ex-employee. Ironically, the track is set against what sounds like a sample of Chic's "Good Times," with soothing background vocalists urging Hammer to (what else?) "keepon" and "don't let 'em hurt you, they don't deserve you."

From Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em to "don't let 'em hurt you" in five years--quite a reversal of fortune.

But don't fret too much over this. Hard-core gangstas may have to call Hammer's rap "imitation," but you don't. Hammer's always been a consummate entertainer, and in that regard he hardly falters here. Ifyou suffered with (and not through) Hammer these past few years, take himupon his offer to "Let the Healing Begin."--Serene Dominic

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