SHAKIRA. The English-language Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 (Epic; Music ••••, Sound ••••) is the sequel to the all-Spanish FijaciÓn Oral, Vol. 1 - but aside from two overlapping songs, it's a different Shakira entirely. The Spanish set was a lush and relatively subdued pop disc; the follow-up is wildly and creatively multicultural.
They'll breakfast at Tiffany's, they'll sing to you in Japanese - oh, wait. Jardin, jardin, jardin, jardin! That would be French. No matter - they're still only here to entertain you. And that's exactly what the young boys in The Darkness do on their second album, One Way Ticket to Hell ...
A trembling flute figure drifts into the air and hangs there, sensuously falling and rising. It's one of the most celebrated moments in orchestral music, and the free, blissful, agile development that follows does not disappoint. Nor does Telarc's multichannel recording of this sumptuous work.
I don't know how many banjo players you can name, but I can come up with two: Bela Fleck and Roy Clark (and I had to cheat to get Roy Clark-before a trip to IMDB.com, it was "that guy from Hee-Haw"). Even if you've never heard of Bela Fleck, you've probably heard his music, as he's appeared on a ton of pop and jazz albums. He's won Grammys in the country, jazz, classical, and pop categories, but his roots are pure bluegrass.
I guess I shouldn't have counted him out, but, after Neil Young's last few efforts—Silver & Gold, Are You Passionate?, and Greendale—I was starting to feel like he was in a rut. The recordings had their high points, all right; but, when I'm in the mood for Neil, I'll spin Comes a Time or Sleeps With Angels. Although I've only spent a few weeks with Prairie Wind, I think it'll stand beside Young's earlier triumphs. It's that good.