Reviews > Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 Internet CDs for the week ending Feb. 2, according to Billboard

Issue: "TNIV makes its debut," Feb. 23, 2002
1
Drive
Alan Jackson 1 week on chart
STYLE
Country.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Designated Drinker" (to those who don't get the irony)

WORLDVIEW
"I know Jesus and I talk to God / And I remember this from when I was young / Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us / And the greatest is love."

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OVERALL QUALITY
The care with which Mr. Jackson writes, chooses, and performs his material is as evident as his desire to avoid challenging preconceived notions of what it means to be a contemporary country-music superstar.

2
Josh Groban
Josh Groban 6 weeks on chart
STYLE
Good-natured, theatrical kitsch for classically trained baritone voice and orchestra.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
As Mr. Groban is a classical and not a rock or pop singer, his worldview is inseparable from the worldviews of the composers whose work he records, hence "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (Bach), "Vincent" (Don McLean), and many shades of yearning in-between.

OVERALL QUALITY
At 20 Mr. Groban sings as well as Andrea Bocelli, providing the raised-on-rap generation with an "Adam" to go with its "Eve" (Charlotte Church).

3
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
55 weeks on chart
STYLE
"Old-timey" country, folk, Gospel, bluegrass, and blues.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Like wine, music rooted in the truth gets better with age.

OVERALL QUALITY
As music, these down-home performances of traditional songs function as bearers of good news; as the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film of the same name, they take on surreal and at times comical overtones; as a cottage industry they've spawned Down from the Mountain (Lost Highway Records), a companion live album featuring many of these same musicians.

4
All Things Must Pass
George Harrison 13 weeks on chart
STYLE
Meticulously produced post-Woodstock rock-Abbey Road meets the Wall of Sound.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"My Sweet Lord," "Awaiting on You All" (overt Krishna advocacy)

WORLDVIEW
"The Lord is awaiting on you all / To awaken and see / You don't need no church house ... no Temple, ... no rosary beads / Or them books ... / To know that you have fallen.... By chanting the names of the Lord ... you'll be free."

OVERALL QUALITY
Spotty; catchy innocence mixed with naïve overindulgence.

5
The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack
4 weeks on chart
STYLE
Epic, orchestral soundtracking.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
If this music can be said to have a worldview, it would be the one shared by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and therefore would have to do with courage, faithfulness, and laying down one's life for one's friends.

OVERALL QUALITY
As far above the Star Wars music of John Williams as it is below the church music of Bach and Handel; grand enough to inspire the seeking out of Bach and Handel if not the hunting of Orcs.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
If consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the mind of Bruce Cockburn must be vast indeed. Nothing characterizes the music of his 32-year career so much as its contradictions, and nothing throws those contradictions into sharper relief than Anything Anytime Anywhere: Singles 1979-2002 (True North/Rounder), the Canadian singer-songwriter's latest compilation. Its stylistic eclecticism alone makes for jarring juxtapositions. Singles from his early and latter-day acoustic folk phases sit uneasily next to those of his New Wave and World Beat rock phases, resulting in mood shifts that feel almost as arbitrary as the decision to emphasize the "hits" of a decidedly non-pop musician. Christians in particular might wish that Mr. Cockburn's performance of "Strong Hand of Love" (from the 1994 Mark Heard tribute album of the same name) had made the cut, or that the uncharitable, profanity-spiked liberation-theology anthems "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" and "Call It Democracy" hadn't. Not only have the latter been anthologized before (1987's Waiting for a Miracle), but since Sept. 11, the anachronistic (and violent) anti-U.S. sentiments they contain seem gratuitous.

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