Izzy / Antra / Artemis Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/17/2001
Being an outsider to the world of r&b these days, I'm not ashamed to admit the first thing that caught my attention on Disappearing Acts, the soundtrack to the HBO original film, was the cover art. (The more I see pictures of Sanaa Lathan, the more sexy I find her.)
Of course, once the disc hit the player, two other things caught my attention. First, there is some absolutely wonderful music that's contained inside. Second - what's with censoring some of the language? It's not like this was a movie aired on network television - this is HBO, for Crissake. (Seeing that I don't presently subscribe to any movie channels - and I highly doubt HBO will authorize my cable outlet to hook me up for repeatedly mentioning them in this review - I don't know if the movie's language is equally toned down. And, please, this isn't a call for people to send me free cable descrambler e-mails; I delete dozens of those damned things every week. Unless you work for HBO, don't bother me.)
Some of the names involved in this project will be recognizable to even general music fans who rarely dip their toes into the r&b/rap pool. Angie Stone, who turned the world on its ear with 1999's Black Diamond, sets the tone with "Get To Know You Better" - a song which makes me want to run to the library post haste to grab Black Diamond and give it a spin. Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman turns in a moving performance with "Head Over Heels" - and while the older generation will remember who he was, the younger listener base is given an education by the late Donny Hathaway on "A Song For You". Chances are once they get a taste of this song, the kids will be rushing out to discover the rest of Hathaway's musical legacy.
Other artists impress as well. Melky Sedeck gets two chances to shine, and they make the most of them on "Brooklyn" and "Just For My Baby", while Tony Kurtis ("Do I Love You Enough") and Terry Ellis ("Call On Me") will leave you wanting to hear more from them than just one track. Even the collaboration between rapper Talib Kweli and Les Nubians ("Love Language") should create more than a few smiles.
Surprisingly, some of the more established artists have a difficult time staking their claims on Disappearing Acts. I like Chaka Khan, but she just doesn't seem to capture the heart of John Hiatt's "Have A Little Faith In Me". The r&b spin doesn't work; maybe if it had been pushed towards more of a gospel bend would have caused it to skyrocket. (Hiatt himself put a gospel spin on the version on The Best Of John Hiatt.) Likewise, Meshell Ndegeocello doesn't seem to be able to get "Remember" fully up to speed, relying on the backbeat, her bass work and vocals to try and take the song somewhere special. It doesn't make it, but not due to lack of trying.
The debut of rapper Borealis with "Y.O.Y." is the one moment I could have lived without. Maybe better things are to come for Borealis; this just wasn't the moment.
As much as I admit ignorance when it comes to r&b these days (though I like a lot of what I hear), Disappearing Acts is the kind of disc I can easily pop into the player and leave there for the better part of an afternoon. Even with the occasional wrinkle, it's a generally fun disc to listen to and it captures a nice portrait of the spectrum we call r&b today.