April 08, 2002 12:00 PM

Southern Hummingbird

Tweet (Goldmind/Elektra)

It’s no fluke that Tweet seems to be channeling Aaliyah on “Oops (Oh My),” the first single from her debut album. Reminiscent of the late R&B star, Tweet’s smooth vocals flutter atop a hypnotic trip-hop groove courtesy of producer Timbaland, whose innovative beats marked much of Aaliyah’s best work. Tweet also records for Goldmind, the label helmed by Missy Elliott, another frequent Aaliyah collaborator, who pops up on a couple of tracks here.

Aside from “Oops” and one or two other cuts, though, Tweet is clearly her own chick. The Atlanta-based singer, whose real name is Charlene Keys, has a Southern earthiness, accented by direct lyrics and an affecting acoustic guitar that she plays on several ballads. Mixing folk, blues and gospel on songs such as “Always Will,” the music is soulful enough to be served with collard greens and corn bread.—C.A.

Bottom Line: How Tweet it is

The Best of Both Worlds

R. Kelly and Jay-Z (Roc-A-Fella/Jive)

Reviewed by Chuck Arnold

Anticipation for this disc—a collaborative effort by two of the biggest solo stars in rap and R&B—was so high that the record label refused to send critics advance CDs for fear they would be leaked to the public, thereby diminishing official sales. But bootleg copies still managed to hit the streets, where we bought one for the purpose of this review. So does the album live up to all the hype? Well it doesn’t exactly represent the very best of either Jay-Z’s hip-hop world or R. Kelly’s urban-soul universe, but it still delivers the goods from two dependable talents.

The chemistry between these artists, who cowrote 12 of the 13 songs, is evident throughout: Kelly shows why he has as much street cred as most hip-hop acts, convincingly delivering his hard-core lyrics as an “R&B thug” of sorts, while Jay-Z demonstrates that he remains one of rap’s most musical emcees. Most of these—songs from party tracks to poignant social commentary—sound like Jay-Z cuts featuring Kelly on guest vocals Which isn’t a bad thing, considering the strength of Jay-Z’s last solo album. Still, Kelly adds some old-school soulfulness to cuts like “The Streets.” He really gets his chance to strut on “Naked,” a ballad he wrote and produced himself, on which he lays his emotions bare.

Bottom Line: Two stars for the price of one

Album of the week

Black Ivory Soul

Angélique Kidjo (Columbia)

Reviewed by Nick Charles

“If God had a voice, it would sound like Angélique,” pop singer Dave Matthews recently said of Kidjo. Matthews, who cowrote a song for this disc and sings on it, may have a point. On this new effort the West African diva embraces jazz, blues and funk, singing as effortlessly in French and English as she does in her native language of Fon. She displays a voice by turns dynamic and soothing, authoritative and plaintive.

The Benin-born Kidjo’s newest interest is Brazilian music. Working mostly with her own original compositions, which burst with the flavor of deeply rooted African traditional, she ties the often melodic, drum-based African sound to the more frenetic lines of Brazil’s Car-naval music, with its lilting guitars.

Bottom Line: A world-beater

While You Weren’t Looking

Caitlin Cary (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Kyle Smith

Caitlin Cary is worth seeking out. The direction might be, Get on Lucinda Williams Boulevard and bear right on k.d. lang Road near the Whiskeytown exit. Cary’s country-fried folk-rock may make her the second star—former bandmate Ryan Adams has become the first—to emigrate from Whiskeytown, one of those alt-country outfits that was so alternative it managed to charm every music critic in the land while selling only paltry quantities.

Cary is a fiddler, although she deploys her violin’s romantic keening only sparingly in a rounded mix wrapped around acoustic guitars with the occasional look-in from electric guitars and pedal steel. Like Williams and lang, she sings with an intoxicatingly clear diction and an understatement rare in rock and rarer in country.

Bottom Line: Fiddler on the rise

Beyond Words

Bobby McFerrin (Blue Note)

Reviewed by V.R. Peterson

Thinking of McFerrin—whose 1988 novelty single “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year—as a one-hit wonder is like reducing Paul McCartney’s importance to “Say Say Say,” his regrettable smash duet with Michael Jackson. In his career, McFerrin has recorded a bunch of jazz albums (with the likes of Herbie Hancock) and studied conducting with Leonard Bernstein (he even led the New York Philharmonic a few times).

On his latest, the interplay’s the thing, as McFerrin warbles, scats and sings an ambitious set composed of simple melodies, sound effects and rhythms—but no discernible words. The result is a joyous layering of talent and technology rich in Asian, African and classical influences. A plaintive moan wafts above a slinky bass line; a chorus grows loud repeating a playful riff in rounds; tempos shift. Guests include pianist Chick Corea (on the only tune McFerrin didn’t write), but some cuts feature just McFerrin and a digital keyboard.

Bottom Line: Bobby sounds off

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