Burn to Shine



The poor man's Lenny Kravitz is troubling us again with his weak new release, Burn to Shine, on which each of the 12 tracks crib from successful artists in different genres. I guess Harper feels that if he turns out meaningless ditties in various styles, like throwing spaghetti at the wall, one's bound to stick. The sick, sad truth is that there's money to be made from this mediocre thinking. Harper's clever publicists have managed to create a buzz for his utterly pilfered Burn to Shine. To wit: Track one copies exactly the bass line from Chris Cornell's single "Can't Change Me." I played them at the same time, and couldn't tell them apart. Harper goes on to pay diluted premature homage to such wide-ranging acts as Limp Bizkit, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Harry Connick Jr., all of whom should be turning over in their much-wished-for graves. This isn't Elvis or the Beatles stealing from black music. This isn't even Robin Hood.

Harper is marketed as "soul" 'cause, you know, he's like, black and stuff. He's more like the black Bush, and not just because his entire career is owed to his good looks, like Bush's is to Gavin Rossdale's glossy locks. The parallel extends because, although Bush are Brits, the English hate them. The British Isles look to us quizzically and think, "You won't take our Oasis, our Blur; but Bush you'll take into the cash-padded bosom of your Top 40?"

Bush shows in the U.K. have been canceled because they couldn't sell enough tickets. There were some angry American exchange students that day.

And Harper? He's a race traitor, or maybe a race trader. Like Bush, he trades on his background for instant credibility, using racial stereotypes as shorthand for his art. His "soul" is not black or white but patently green, all about the Benjamins, as our friends at the Weekly like to put it. And while there are times when an album that is aggressively configured for mainstream acceptance is on target, this one is not. It's shabby and insinuating, like a used car salesman. It makes me cringe.

Harper is backed by the Innocent Criminals, who are mostly innocent (you get less time for being an accessory, and though Harper is the fancy eye candy in this band, the Innocent Criminals are aiding and abetting) and very certainly criminal. I genuinely feel for the able session musicians who rely on the spoils from Harper's genre-pillaging to put food on their tables, but hey, in the music biz, crime pays. ERIN FRANZMAN


Euphoria Morning



Euphoria Morning is not going to be what anyone expects from Chris Cornell. It's on the border of adult contemporary, saved only from going over the edge by Cornell's awesome voice. He really has fun with the vocals here, wrapping and winding them around the melodies with an evident glee not present in his previous work. And it's possible that his enjoyment is what has entirely ruined his appeal.

That is, assuming his wailing and plaintive Soundgarden vocals were the source of his appeal. There's a sneaking suspicion, though, that perhaps Cornell is also in possession of such powerful good looks that women want to do him and men want to be him. I'm not negating his vocal ability, but at some point we must acknowledge that sometimes talent is coincidental.

But we'll stick with the music for now. It's not awful. Which is all it had to be, really, since for the most part Cornell can coast on his good looks and the fumes of his copious bullshit. It's not exactly fair to make fun of the things Cornell has said about Euphoria Morning, but he is actually quoted as saying, "I really love old R&B ballads of the '60s, and wanted to sing in that style. In a way, it's like reinventing the wheel. How can I make it a little different?"

Okay, actually, it's nothing at all like reinventing the wheel. The album is serviceable pop rock. The songs are fairly consistent, a little on the Sting tip, and vocally impressive, but ultimately, Euphoria Morning is irrelevant.

And honestly, if Chris Cornell fell down in a forest, and there was no one around to hear him, would he still make a sound? ERIN FRANZMAN


David Bowie, hours... (Virgin). "I wanted to capture a kind of universal angst felt by many people of my age." What's that -- the Stone Age? Bowie's 23rd solo album moves away from the electronica bandwagon he failed to hop on his last time around. But did you see him on the MTV awards? So hot.

Mel C (a.k.a. Sporty Spice), Northern Star (Virgin). All the damn Spice Girls either have babies or solo albums. Mel C has recently been touted as the underdog Spice, but I still can't imagine that this album is going to reveal a new side of her. I never had a favorite Spice Girl, and boy do I feel a hole in my heart.

Melissa Etheridge, Breakdown (Island). Released in three different formats to confuse and cash in. There's the regular, 11-track version for stores; a special, limited-edition Internet version, which features three additional B-side tracks; and a 12" vinyl version with only 10 tracks, BUT it's sold with a 7", bringing the total back up to 12 tracks. And the vinyl version comes with 10 Melissa Etheridge "art cards." I'll trade you Melissa Etheridge for a 1947 Joe DiMaggio?

The Fastbacks, The Day That Didn't Exist (spinART). You know you're gonna buy it, so I'm just reminding you....

B. B. King, Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan (MCA). Louis Jordan was the "King of Swing"; B. B. is a king. He has a divine right to set Lucille loose on Jordan classics like "Is You Is, or Is You Ain't (My Baby)?" With help from gravel-voiced Dr. John.

Live, The Distance to Here (Radioactive/MCA). Music has changed since Live's 1997 Secret Samadhi, which was pretty wussy. This is alleged to rock harder, but frontman Ed Kowalczyk says it has "a message of love and peace and unity for the next millennium." Settle down, slugger, and visualize whirled peas or some shit like that.

Paul McCartney, Run Devil Run (Capitol). Hey, man, Paula McCartney; I love that chick! Mostly covers.

Misfits, Famous Monsters (Roadrunner). More punk metal from the band everyone thought had broken up.

P. J. Olsson, Words for Living (Columbia). Debut from this L.A. singer-songwriter in the vein of Rufus Wainwright.

Luke Slater, Wireless (NovaMute). Latest from techno chameleon and former record shop proprietor Slater promises hard house.