Timeless indeed, but also precisely of the moment, the 30-year-old mixed-race London deejay/graffiti artist named Goldie has accomplished something exceedingly rare with his debut album: Like Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, Coltrane's A Love Supreme and maybe a handful of other recordings, Timeless firmly plants itself for the ages by capturing this very moment in music and, by extension, society.

Timeless signifies with words--but much more so through its impressionistic music--a sonic and emotional climate completely at peace with its past and in synch with the future. Hard-bop, soul, hip-hop, techno, acid jazz, trip-hop and, now, with Goldie's keen commercial deliverance, jungle.

An intensely urban variation of techno made from hyperbreak beats and dub bass lines, jungle unites black and white, underground and hip-hop, American and British dance-club music like a block-party rave in a run-down dance hall.

With Timeless, though, Goldie achieves more: He brings the music out of the clubs and into the popular consciousness by applying jungle's hypnotic beat--so fast it sprays sound, and so dense it threatens to become one eternal pulse--to jazz instrumentation, hip-hop samples, ambient washes and the soulful vocals of Diane Charlemagne and Lorna Harris, who belt and cry here like Marvin Gaye at his most vital.

Framed by two gorgeously melancholic epics--the 21-minute title suite (which contains Goldie's hit, "Inner City Life") and the 12minute, live jazz "Sea of Tears"--and sprinkled with thrilling industrial grinds ("Saint Angel") and sweet jazz-soul trips ("State ofMind"), Timeless has a subtle allinclusiveness that seems to beckon us irresistibly into today.--Roni Sarig

5ive Style
5ive Style
(Sub Pop)

The funky debut of Chicago's 5ive Style is an instrumental low-fi skip-hop through familiar sounds and beats made new. The smiles begin on the opening cut, "Deep Marsh," which sounds like a remnant from Captain Beefheart's Clear Spot sessions. 5ive Style's stop 'n' start power funk shows up again on "Round Up," which closes with a monster series of chord progressions, and again on "Apple Pie," a fat '70s groove that reaches back to Herbie Hancock's Headhunters for inspiration.

If 5ive Style's debut has a fault, it's that the disc peters out toward the end. Some of the album's later songs, like the loping Beefheartian romp "Waiting on the Eclipse," drag themselves home. The final cut, the spidery "Sure Is Hot," sure isn't.

But 5ive Style's low points are still higher than most, and the CD's simpler joys make more complicated rhythm-oriented acts seem silly. If funk ever has its own punk revolution, let it begin here.--Ted Simons

Gangsta's Paradise
(Tommy Boy)

With his single "Gangsta's Paradise" (off the Dangerous Minds soundtrack) the biggest pop hit of the year, Coolio has risen above the rap game to certified stardom. But, while mainstream fame is often the kiss of death for rappers (Hammer, can you hear me?), Coolio manages to top the pops and avoid the disdain of hip-hop purists by sculpting one of the best please-all campaigns since Bill Clinton's run in '92.

Gangsta's Paradise, Coolio's second album, deftly toes the border between Compton hard-core and Hollywood friendly.

Attribute Coolio's commercial success to his skill with interpolation. Where Hammer had Rick James' "Super Freak" to build from, Gangsta's Paradise has Kool and the Gang's "Too Hot," Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'," Sly Stone's "You Caught Me Smiling" and Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones."

Coolio makes the pop charts when other rappers don't because of his songs: Theyhave irresistible hooks and choruses. But Gangsta's Paradise also stays rooted incurrent West Coast rap flavors with thesmooth groove of "Geto Highlites" andthe deep funk of "Excersise Yo' Game."

Though he plays nice with raps about respecting women and raising children, Coolio covers all bases with tracks like "Kinda High, Kinda Drunk" and "Recoup This," a skit depicting a brutal murder. But, as on last year's Fantastic Voyage, Coolio comes across most clearly on party jams like "Sumpin' New," where the good times rise above the contradictions.--Roni Sarig


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