Tue, Jan 03, 2012 - Page 16 News List

CD reviews

Savage Life 3, Stage Whisper and Because She Hoped

Jon Caramanica, Nate Chinen, Ben Ratliff  /  NY Times News Service, New York

Webbie, SAVAGE LIFE 3, Trill

Webbie

SAVAGE LIFE 3

Trill

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, rapper Webbie has the laziest sort of charm. He didn’t even take time to come up with a newish title for this, his third solo album, and he certainly doesn’t agonize over his lyrics, which have a haphazard quality cohered mostly by his heavy local drawl, in which he never quite closes a syllable.

Almost a decade ago he emerged in tandem with the far more fiery and intricate Lil Boosie (who is serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to smuggle drugs into two prisons and is awaiting trial on a murder charge), and he appeared happy to play second fiddle. Accordingly, Webbie’s biggest hits — Give Me That, from 2005; Independent, from 2007 — have felt almost accidental, half-hearted ideas stretched to song length, and delivered with glee.

Last, Webbie was the definition of a regional rap star: Savage Life 3 made its debut at No. 17 on the Billboard album chart, despite Webbie getting little attention outside the southern US. What’s more, a reckless appearance on BET seems to have had him barred from the network (one of many topics he discusses in a rambling, hilarious and lengthy two-part interview conducted at Wal-Mart that recently entranced the rap blogosphere).

Still, Webbie perseveres, keeping his sound intact, or at least not working hard at changing it. There are a couple of moments of sharpness here when he doesn’t lean on his slurry style. “I’m from Baton Rouge where ain’t no such thing as handouts/If you don’t hustle you don’t stand out, hands down,” he raps on Right Now. And the album’s final two tracks show a degree of reflection that the rest of the album eschews.

But generally, the less printable the lyric, the more enthusiastic he is to deliver it, as on I Do ‘Em All and also Rubber Tonight, which has a delirious beat by Mouse on tha Track, one of the southern US’ long-running local-hero producers. He also produces What’s Happenin’, an update on the keening synths that were the signature sound of the New Orleans anthem I’m Bout It, Bout It.

Too much of the rest of the album is musically undistinguished, although you sense Webbie isn’t paying it much mind.

— JON CARAMANICA, NY Times News Service, New York

Charlotte Gainsbourg

STAGE WHISPER

Because Music/Elektra

Charlotte Gainsbourg has wielded two double-edged swords throughout her musical career. The first is her success as a film actress, which stretches back to her childhood and more recently involves professional antagonist Lars von Trier. The second is her birthright as the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg, the shrewdly mischievous French musical polymath, and Jane Birkin, the smoldering British actress and singer. As a result of these legacies, Gainsbourg has enjoyed unfair advantages and elicited unfair judgment, which complicates perceptions of her work.

Stage Whisper isn’t likely to fix any of that. But it’s a checkmark in the right column, strengthening her foothold and identity as an artist. A little more than half the album consists of material recorded during a 2010 European tour, with songs drawn from Gainsbourg’s recent albums IRM and 5:55. Then there are eight new tracks, mostly an overspill from the IRM sessions, which were produced by Beck.

Gainsbourg had limited experience with live performance when she began touring behind IRM, and on some level Stage Whisper is about showing that she’s more than a wraith in a recording booth. Her singing is collected and on pitch, whether she’s working with a whispery hush or a lemon-tart croon.

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