CD Reviews


“Take a Look in the Mirror”

Compare to: Slipknot, System of a Down, Disturbed

Jon Davis and company didn’t waste any time getting back in the studio with their latest album, “Take a Look in the Mirror”, released only 18 months after their previous lackluster effort, “Untouchables”.

Maybe they should have taken a bit more time.

It seems Korn may have built impossible expectations with its breakthrough album, “Follow the Leader,” in that every album since has failed to garner the same sort of critical acclaim, with “Take a Look” being no exception.

While this album is still very solid and would probably be a great record for most other bands, it fails to deliver the new, original, hard-driving songs Korn fans want and expect.

The biggest problem with the album is that, aside from the two singles “Did My Time” and “Right Now,” it’s tough to distinguish any song from the next. Most Korn albums in the past, aside from “Untouchables,” have had numerous songs that stand out and could probably be released as singles. “Take a Look” struggles to duplicate that.

Though there may not be as many as there could be, this album still does have some strong points.

Both of the singles are the distinct, ground-breaking songs that Korn has become accustomed to producing, with “Right Now” being one of the best singles that Korn has released. If you are ever in need of a song to wake you up in the morning or prepare you for a boxing match, “Right Now” is that track.

Aside from the singles, the best track on the album is not even Korn’s. The “secret song” on the last track of the album is the band’s cover of Metallica’s “One,” with Korn giving the song energy that could only be bettered by Metallica itself.

Along with the CD, buyers get a complimentary DVD featuring a short compilation of Korn videos and a rather lame look into its most recent tour. Although the DVD will please hardcore Korn fans, it still doesn’t warrant shelling out $18.99.

All in all, the album is not bad, but it just fails to deliver the goods that would separate it from the rest of the pack. “Take a Look in the Mirror” may pacify the Korn faithful for the time being, but it’s still not the answer they are looking for.

— Josh Madden

Missy Elliott

“This is Not a Test” (Elektra)

Compare to: Eve, Da Brat, Trina

Under Construction was a successful, great album. “This is Not a Test” is just as good. For once, an artist has kept a sound that works instead of shifting when they don’t need to or staying when they shouldn’t.

Elliott follows up “Under Construction” with an album that sounds close to the chart-topping beats. Her affiliation with Timbaland on both albums has served her well, furthering her music and her reign as one of the few female rap moguls.

“Wake Up,” featuring Jay-Z, utilizes the concept of showcasing another artist well. It’s not a duet or a battle — it’s a fusion of the two voices. When Jay-Z’s voice takes over, Elliott’s drops into the background, never taking up too much of Jay-Z’s air.

Most of the other tracks featuring artists do the same thing; they’re a real collaboration that sounds good, using strong parts of both artists.

The one collaboration that just doesn’t work is Elliott, Monica and Beenie Man on “Don’t Be Cruel.” The mix between Elliott and Monica is all right, but Beenie Man is randomly thrown in and seems out of place.

The one thing that makes Elliott so addicting is that she has the capability to make tracks that you can chill to and you can dance to at da club.

Take “Is this Our Last Time” for example. Its smooth lyrics allow a listener to easily imagine themself and 30 of their friends crammed into an old Lincoln, grooving on their way down to the bar. But listen a second time. It could easily be remixed into a thumping bass-filled dance track.

Elliott is lovable because she puts herself out there as a reigning queen of rap who happens to love men and the good things in life. She’s not posing as someone who is bigger than she is.

Unfortunately, Miss E. falls victim to the one big downfall of all hip-hop — over-production. Timbaland does a fantastic job producing her album, but there are a few moments where it goes a step too far. Strange synthetic “Woooos” and other noises seem as out of place as Beenie Man, a last-minute addition that should have never been added.

For the most part, Elliott made a good decision keeping Timbaland, but perhaps for a few mere seconds, she let him go too far.

— P. Kim Bui


“Stroking the Moon” (Alternative Tentacles)

Compare to: Metallica, Disturbed, Sevendust

It’s too bad a band with such an interesting idea became so stereotypical. Deadweight is comprised of a violin player, a cello player and a percussionist. How did they end up sounding like Godsmack with a poorly-done Mindless Self Indulgence-style voiceover?

Picture this: it’s a beautiful day. The birds are singing, the people on the street are saying hello and you’re going to your favorite snooty independent record store. You see a copy of Deadweight’s new “Stroking the Moon” and ask the guy behind the counter if it’s any good. He says something like, “Rave reviews. I’ve been a big fan of theirs for years. It’s like [band you’ve never heard of] meets [another band you’ve never heard of]. It’s got, like, violins and cellos. Intelligent.”

“This could be good,” you say to yourself, and purchase it. You rush back to your home and put the album on. You are attacked immediately by the kind of distortion you only hear in angry rock music. However, due to the fairly interesting idea of violins and cellos in rock music, it doesn’t sound too bad. It would be entirely run-of-the-mill if not for the strings, though.

But then the singing starts. Kind of screechy, but not really. Kind of throaty, but not really. Kind of anthem-sounding, but not really. This makes for an entire album of “not really.” You skip to the next song after a minute and a half. What? Is this the same song? No, the lyrics are different.

Finally, you find the track “Stare at the Sun.” Amazingly, it’s exactly what you were hoping for in this album. A beautiful song with pleasant, nonaggressive stringed instruments. The singer’s voice sounds different, but you’re not quite sure how. It sounds good.

After your enjoyable experience, it’s back to Genericsville until the album ends its own life with the intelligently titled “Go to Hell.” You cry into your pillow for six hours.

If only this entire album could have been like “Stare at the Sun.” It would have been super. If you really like hard rock, give this album a try — you might just enjoy it. However, if hard rock isn’t your thing, at least try to take a listen to the one glimmer of light on an otherwise dark disc.

— Campbell DeSousa

Various Artists

“Tupac: Resurrection” (Amaru)

Compare to: Kurupt, Ice Cube, DMX

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die. For Tupac Amaru Shakur, that flash has come seven years after his death, in the soundtrack to the movie “Tupac: Resurrection.”

The album leads the listener on a musical journey from Tupac’s newest material back to his major label beginnings — guest rapping on a song with Digital Underground (“The Humpty Dance”) and back again.

The album starts with a fairly strong opener, the previously unreleased track “Ghost” — and the first of three songs produced by Eminem.

Also produced by Eminem, “One Day at a Time” features verses from Eminem and Tupac’s supposed prot‚g‚s Outlawz. “Only learn to take/ Our anger and our hate/ Control our mental state/ Settle down/ And just set it straight/ Maybe we can learn to take a second to pump the brakes,” raps Eminem, in a fairly mellow verse from the habitually-angry rapper.

About halfway through the album is another song produced by Eminem featuring Tupac’s east coast rival, The Notorious B.I.G., called “Runnin’ (Dying to Live).” The song showcases both the similarities and differences in the rappers’ styles. The track becomes more a memorial of their deaths than a reminder of their dispute.

Several songs later, the listener is introduced to a good selection, though maybe one too many, of songs from Tupac’s beginnings. The song ranges from Digital Underground’s “Same Song” to a song written by Tupac dating back to approximately 1989 called “Panther Power.”

Both songs reveal Tupac in a very different light than most fans are used to, with Tupac rapping in a style more akin to rappers of the late ’80s than his usual gangster style of the mid-’90s. The album wraps up with the mixtape collaboration that joins Tupac and 50 Cent in the song “The Realist Killaz.”

What the album lacks in quantity of unreleased material, it certainly makes up for with quality. The album is one both devoted fans of Tupac and fans of the genre alike can appreciate. The original soundtrack to “Tupac: Resurrection” sums up what Tupac’s life was truly about: a love of life through music, rather than the tragedy of a premature death.

— Judah Melton