This band's Arizona boycott has earned them headlines, but they only sing two of these 11 songs in Spanish, and not even in the impressionistic blues "27 Spanishes" do they pity the poor immigrant. So listeners put off by Big Statements needn't worry, especially when the jauntiest workout has no lyrics at all, the funkiest is a cover of an apolitical Reagan-era Grateful Dead song, and the junkyard production makes Louie Perez's clattery percussion and Steve Berlin's dirty sax sound as American as the bombs bursting in air.
The wind-swept strings Olson adds to his acoustic starkness blows the chaff off his imagery, whether elemental (birds, a beehive, a snake, a dove, rivers, rain, a fountain, water that Olson's "loved one" walks on) or religious (Tree of Life, milk and honey, being still and knowing, a song titled "Scholastica" and apparently inspired by the seventh-century saint of the same name, water that Olson's "loved one" walks on). Summing up the resulting mysticism is this proverb from "Wind and Rain": "Empty pockets are a part of love."
"Only the strong survive," sings Osbourne in "Let Me Hear You Scream," and as someone Ted Nugent once called the worst drug abuser he'd ever met, Osbourne should know. Musically, he survives just fine: The metal is heavy but not amelodic, straddling schools both old and new. But it's when he sings, "How will I know you, Mr. Jesus Christ? [. . . ] How will I know that you're the Son of God?" ("Diggin' Me Down") that his chances of not only surviving but also surviving more abundantly really improve.
For the third time in a row at least, a Prince album has generated more news for the way it was released (as a giveaway in London's Daily Mirror) than for the music it contains. And for the third time in a row at least, it's not hard to see why. Having all but completely ostracized himself from mainstream accessibility, he'll probably never have a hit again. But does he have to settle for positive uplift set to zippy synth-funk just to prove how much he doesn't care?
If, as Robert Christgau once wrote, "Amazing Grace" has become the "Send in the Clowns" of roots music, then John Lennon's "Imagine" has become the "Amazing Grace" of hippie utopianism. And on The Imagine Project (Hancock) Herbie Hancock doesn't do it any favors by distending it to 7:20, entrusting the singing to Pink, Seal, and India Arie, and nimbusing the resulting vapor in downy-soft piano. Compounding the effect are similarly otiose arrangements of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (eight minutes) and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" (nine).
But when Hancock feels his jazz roots-the seductively polyrhythmic "Tempo De Amor," for instance, and a funk-fusion medley of Tinariwen's "Tamatant Tilay" and Bob Marley's "Exodus" (featuring Los Lobos)-the album comes to life. Ironically, the strongest song is the one Hancock tinkered with the least: a version of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" featuring John Legend and Pink that sounds every bit as luminous as the original.