Stone Temple Pilots
Tiny Music . . . Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (Atlantic 82871)
When Stone Temple Pilots sailed onto the scene with "Core" four years ago, critics from Rolling Stone to "Beavis and Butt-head" complained that the group was nothing but a Pearl Jam rip-off, with no sound of its own. That's not a complaint anyone is likely to level against "Tiny Music . . . Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop," however. Even though the album was recorded with Pearl Jam producer Brendan O'Brien, its sound is anything but imitative. Some of that is because singer Scott Weiland avoids the mannerisms that made him seem like an Eddie Vedder clone, opting for a higher, lighter sound than on previous albums. But the bulk of the credit lies not with Weiland but bassist Robert DeLeo, whose sly, evocative songwriting allows the band to play off familiar pop styles without sounding secondhand. So even though "Lady Picture Show" is clearly Beatlesque in character, it doesn't come across as a cheap copy, any more than "Big Bang Baby" owes its sound to the retro cheek of post-psychedelic bands like Redd Kross. Add in the quirky, hypnotic cadences of "Art School Girl," and "Tiny Music" makes it clear what STP really
Dead Man Walking: The Score (Columbia 67673)
Movie soundtrack projects used to be a fairly simple proposition -- what you heard in the film was what you got on the album. Not now, though. As pop hits have become an important part of the marketing machinery, it's not unusual to find soundtrack albums that feature music nobody ever hears in the theater. That was the case with the first soundtrack album from the Tim Robbins film "Dead Man Walking," a pop-oriented project that augmented the Bruce Springsteen theme with songs nobody heard at the movies. By contrast, "Dead Man Walking: The Score" doesn't offer much in the way of potential pop hits, but its selections were, in fact, heard in the film. The biggest draw for rock fans will likely be "The Face of Love" and "The Long Road," two collaborations between Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan that, together, stretch almost 27 minutes. They're phenomenal performances but hardly the only memorable moments; the haunting "Sacred Love" by the Dusing Singers is a delightful bit of Eastern European choral ecstasy, while "Isa Lei" boasts a quietly intense musical conversation between Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt. It may not be the stuff hits are made of, but it's well worth hearing.
Music from the Motion Picture "Girl 6" (Warner Bros. 46239)
What's in a name? Not much, if you believe Shakespeare, but then he never had to deal with the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Supposedly, only songs the Symbolic One recorded before 1993 will be credited to Prince; anything after that is considered the work of TAFKAP. So how could "Music from the Motion Picture 'Girl 6'" boast "new songs by Prince" on its cover? Perhaps because even though the name Prince appears by several unfamiliar titles, the only truly new songs on the album are those credited to TAFKAP's band, the New Power Generation -- songs that just happen to have lead vocals by the man himself. Of these, only the sacred-and-profane "Count the Days" stands out, largely because of the way TAFKAP and crew work a sort of gospel-choir interplay into the verse. Beyond that, the album offers an odd mix of sex-centered oldies ("Hot Thing," "Erotic City," "Girls & Boys"), salacious side projects ("Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6, "The Screams of Passion" by the Family), and previously unreleased, largely unremarkable material from Prince. In other words, what the album promises is markedly different from what it delivers -- which, in a way, makes it a perfect companion to the film itself.
Face to Face (House of Blues 70010870072)
Although Cissy Houston is better known these days for being Whitney Houston's mom, she's quite a singer in her own right. Her pop career included a decade with the Sweet Inspirations (who backed everyone from Aretha Franklin to Neil Diamond to Elvis Presley), as well as several solo albums, but she has also maintained a steady involvement with gospel music. That's the side she presents in "Face to Face," but not always to the best effect. When she uses her pop smarts to bring new flavor into her material, the music soars, as the bottleneck blues of "God Don't Ever Change" and her spiritually recast reading of "How Sweet It Is" make plain. But when she plays it straight, Houston's performances are disappointingly pedestrian, meaning that her readings of "Amazing Grace" and "Go Where I Send Thee" are unlikely to make you a believer.
Pub Date: 4/04/96