VARIOUS ARTISTS, Music from and Inspired by Shaft (LaFace) "Inspired by" is right: Most of the cuts on this soundtrack from the updated version of

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CD Reviews

VARIOUS ARTISTS, Music from and Inspired by Shaft (LaFace) "Inspired by" is right: Most of the cuts on this soundtrack from the updated version of the 1971 blaxploitation benchmark, starring Samuel L. Jackson, directly mimic the velvety feel of Isaac Hayes' music from the original. Though Hayes' classic "Theme from Shaft" gets a nearly identical reworking by the man himself, the real action comes with younger R&B singers such as R. Kelly, Donell Jones, and Angie Stone aping the silky guitars, boudoir-ready strings, and languid singing of their '70s forebears. Though Kelly will never be convincing singing "I'm a bad man," his two cuts are among the set's finest. Alicia Keys' "Rock wit U" samples extensively from Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, and touch顠And there's plenty of hip-hop. OutKast's "Tough Guy" sounds like it was recorded in the middle of an arcade game, while Too $hort's "Pimp Shit" actually rhymes "earn" and "sperm" and claims that "pimpin' is the oldest profession" (uh, not quite, $hort-Dog). If the absence of the movie's Busta Rhymes on the soundtrack bothers you, the choppy, wigged-out flow of No Limit rhyme animal Mystikal makes up for it. Say . . . now that I've shaved my head for the summer, where did I put those turtlenecks again? —Michaelangelo Matos

SARAH DOUGHER, The Walls Ablaze (Mr. Lady) Everybody knows someone like Sarah Dougher—someone who is so approachable, whose strength and intelligence are so admirable, you hardly mind that sometimes you hear their stories twice, that you know what's coming before it gets to you. While various strings of Dougher's songs often ring familiar in their tone and sentiment, new ideas always manage to come through. Like all the best storytellers and folk singers, she has the ability to dress up even the most common tales with something clever and unexpected. Lines of nearly monotone melodies are broken by harmonious wailing, punctuated with DIY guitar chords and brassy electric licks, touched by delicate piano keys. The Walls Ablaze is as dynamic as we've heard Dougher, as varied and realized as the latest releases from contemporaries like Sleater-Kinney and Quasi. (Speaking of, Janet Weiss' drums on four of the tracks add a kind of bad-girl punch that compliment Dougher's raw sweetness and simple strumming perfectly.) Dougher, who you might also know as one-third of Cadallaca or the Crabs, sings with the heart of a cynic and the abandon of a lovelorn teenager. Lyrically, the album is at once as lucid and murky as a girl's journal. Dougher's inner-lit teacher is arrested by her inner-romantic, and the whole of her comes through in lines like, "The selfish life of the activist can only be understood/by the selfishness of the artist." In "Mirror/Shield" Dougher sings, "Keep your mirror away from me lady/because you'll never watch my back/and I don't want to watch your mirror crack," and suddenly every thing old is new again. —Laura Learmonth

 
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