Music from the Motion Picture (550 Music/Epic Soundtrax 66944)
What do Ice Cube, Tori Amos, Rage Against the Machine, Me'Shell NdegeOcello and the Brand New Heavies have in common? Musically, not much, and that's the problem with the soundtrack album from "Higher Learning." Like the students found in the film itself, the artists included on the soundtrack represent a wide range of excellence, from the guitar-driven alterna-rock of Liz Phair to the rumbling, bass-heavy hip-hop of OutKast. Trouble is, that diversity can make for some jarring segues, as the high-gloss funk of Raphael Saadiq's "Ask of You" dissolves into the dramatic quiet of Tori Amos' piano-and-voice rendition of "Losing My Religion." Still, the album's wide-ranging taste does lead to some exquisite music, from NdegeOcello's impassioned "Soul Searching" to the Heavies' sassy, soulful "Higher Learning/Time for Change," to Phair's arch, ambitious "Don't Have Time."
MTV PARTY TO GO VOL. 6
Various Artists (Tommy Boy 1109)
Compilation albums aren't ever going to get a lot of respect from rock critics. They aren't proper albums, after all, with a sense of conceptual unity and artistic vision; they're just glorified party tapes, where the selections have little in common beyond chart success and a steady beat. But is that really a fair complaint? "MTV Party to Go Vol. 6" may not have the depth and resonance of "Blonde on Blonde" or "Exile on Main St.," but with hits like Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage," Crystal Waters' "100% Pure Love" and Warren G's "Regulate," it does have enough energy and pop appeal to make its "serious content" almost a moot point. Besides, when was the last time you saw a room full of people shake their booties to "Blonde on Blonde"?
DUMB AND DUMBER
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 66523)
Despite its title, what the soundtrack album to "Dumb and Dumber" offers is really more along the lines of "Smart and Stupid." On the one hand, there are some wonderful pop gems to be found here, from Deee-Lite's sassy remake of "You Sexy Thing" to the refitted version of the Primitive's guitar pop classic, "Crash." On the other, there are some truly irritating tracks, too, including Green Jelly's not-quite-funny "The Bear Song," Deadeye Dick's none-too-clever "New Age Girl" and Pete Droge's just-plain-annoying "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)." Unless you're the type of pop fan willing to buy an entire album just to get one or two good songs, the smart thing would be to avoid "Dumb and Dumber."
GILLETTE ON THE ATTACK
Gillette (SOS/Zoo 11102)
If what you want in a female vocalist is a girlish voice and a demure attitude, odds are you won't care much for Gillette. In fact, "Gillette on the Attack" might just scare you. It isn't just her in-your-face rapping or the metal-edged intensity of the rhythm tracks; what seems most likely to scare prospective listeners is the message. As she makes plain in "Short, Short Man," Gillette isn't the type of woman willing to overlook her partner's, uh, limitations, and she spends most of the album putting men in their place (the doghouse, if they're lucky). Granted, the humor does get a bit coarse at times, as with the innuendo-laden "You're a Dog" or the you-so-ugly rap "Mr. Personality." But the real joke in all this male bashing can be found in the album credits, in which we learn that every one of these songs was written by men!