Audio reviews 9/26

Friday, September 26, 2003

'World Wide Underground'Extended jams and verbal gymnastics make Erykah Badu's latest album, "World Wide Underground," feel like a live concert. Although the CD has only eight tracks, plus intro and outro, the project feels full to bursting.

The creativity of past efforts is in full force. "I Want You" finds Badu with a love that "won't let go" despite trying solutions such as praying, fasting and drinking holy water. A repeated keyboard chord and Badu's entreaty of "What are we going to do?" make her passion clear.

Turntable scratching and a shouted chorus turn "Woo" into a fun party anthem. The smooth "Back in the Day" is more laid-back, as Badu remembers nights cruising the streets.

"Danger" is raw and urgent, about a woman who waits in fear for her drug-dealing boyfriend, anxious for his life and hers, but unwilling to leave him. The song is one of several that reference sounds and songs from her past albums.

"World Wide Underground" lacks some of the polish and clarity of "Baduizm," the singer's glorious 1997 debut. But the CD is enjoyable because of its spontaneity, and tracks such as "Danger" have a pull that earlier projects lacked.

'Reality' David Bowie's "Reality" is an exercise in introspection, where reminiscences are draped in cloudy allusion and the reality of the moment seeming to be the denouement of his life.

It's a change for Bowie on his 26th album to cast an eye inward when characters he's become in performance, namely Ziggy Stardust, have created a barrier between artist and creation.

But on "The Loneliest Guy in the World" and "Never Get Old," a pulsating, defiant song about aging, the subject is undoubtedly Bowie.

"Bring Me the Disco King," a subtle jazzy narrative Bowie has struggled for a decade to record, reinforces the theme. In the lyrics, he begs to be allowed to disappear, blind-sided with the end.

The album is not without its edgier moments, the kind of pump-your-fist rock Bowie can bring. The title track, "Reality," is a charged anthem of youth and unfulfilled expectations.

However, "Reality" isn't a vehicle for commentary on contemporary times. Instead, it describes an artist nearing 60 and finding the world disappointingly clear and never what it seemed.

-- From wire reports

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