CD reviews: Hanson, Kanye West, Rick Moranis


Remember Hanson? The kid band who scored a big hit back in 1997 with “MMMBop”?

That ridiculously catchy slab of bubble gum pop put the Tulsa, Okla., trio of brothers on the map, and a lot of people expected Hanson to simply fade away after that.

A funny thing happened, though; Hanson stuck around to play the showbiz game, and I’ll be darned if they weren’t pretty good at it.

As the boys grew into adults, they weren’t becoming superstars, but they were writing and recording enough good music to stay relevant, which is not an easy thing to do in this age of zero attention span.

The band’s 2010 single “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ ” was particularly catchy.

Now, Hanson has returned with yet another collection of songs, and once again Isaac, Taylor and Zac have turned in a solid album of songs that hit musical styles ranging from R&B to power pop.

The opening tune, “Fired Up,” aims to get the listener just what the title implies with it’s aggressive guitar riffs.

Later in the album, the boys demonstrate the talent that has allowed them to remain relevant on tracks such as “Get the Girl Back” and “Cut Right Through Me.”

The best track on the album is “Juliet,” and listening to it one has to wonder what mix of Maroon 5, Billy Joel and Harry Nilsson the boys had on shuffle on their iPods.

Whatever the case, Hanson has moved way past that initial pop hit and has crafted a genuinely great album of music. Take a listen and tell me I’m wrong.

Key Tracks: “Fired Up,” “Get the Girl Back,” “Juliet”

With a few notable exceptions, the best hip-hop artists have always been the ones with the biggest egos.

When the lyrics are front and center, one almost has to have a continent-size ego to properly put forth the expected image.

In today’s rap world, no one has a bigger ego than Kanye West.

He’s unstable, he’s outspoken, he’s frequently rude and confrontational.

He’s also a musical genius.

Past West albums such as “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Late Registration” have elevated rap music beyond any previous benchmark in terms of artistic originality.

On his latest effort, “Yeezus,” West is again swinging for the fences, dropping unorthodox samples and sounds into his songs and at times deconstructing the very definition of a rap song.

The biggest problem with “Yeezus,” though, is that West is so busy making the album sonically unique that he forgets the entire point of releasing an album of music: to entertain the listener.

The first great song doesn’t hit those listener’s ears until five tracks in. “Hold My Liquor” is classic Kanye, with the artist boasting in typical expletive-laden style over music that makes it sound like Daft Punk might have collaborated (they didn’t, although Justin Vernon of Bon Iver does show up on the track).

Prior to that song, we hear jarring electronic and industrial music inserted between lyrics that are misogynistic or worse. West at one point says that someone is “shakin’ like Parkinson’s.”

West’s mindset doesn’t change after “Hold My Liquor,” but the album does get better. Tracks such as “Blood On the Leaves” and “Send It Up” show that West is not prepared to sound like anyone else in hip-hop, or in any other music genre for that matter.

“Yeezus” is far from West’s best work, but he gets big points for making us all wonder what he’ll try next.

Key Tracks: “Hold My Liquor,” “Blood On The Leaves,” “Send It Up”

Remember Rick Moranis?

At one time, the former SCTV cast member and one half of the McKenzie Brothers of “Strange Brew” fame was in just about every good ’80s Hollywood comedy (“Ghostbusters,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Spaceballs,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”), but lately he’s been scarce on the silver screen.

As it turns out, Moranis retired from filmmaking after the death of his wife in the ’90s. In the meantime, the comedian has been trying his hand at musical comedy albums.

He released “The Agoraphobic Cowboy,” a collection of country-themed songs, in 2005.

Now, Moranis is back with “My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs,” which trades out the cowboy angle for a collection of comedy tunes that explore Moranis’s Jewish heritage.

Using musical styles that include klezmer, bossa nova, folk and jazz, Moranis sings about everything from the titular brisket (“My Mother’s Brisket”) to May/December romances (“I’m Old Enough to Be Your Zaide”) to a belated Bar Mitzvah (“Belated Haftorah”).

This nonpracticing Gentile (me) was most amused by the one-two holiday punch of “I Can’t Help It, I Just Like Christmas” and “The Seven Days of Shiva.”

While he’s basically making fun of his religion, Moranis is at the same time quite reverent with the subject matter.

For fans used to seeing Moranis as Bob McKenzie, this album might take some getting used to, but it’s good to see this comedian staying busy at his trade.

Key Tracks: “My Mother’s Brisket,” “I Can’t Help It, I Just Like Christmas,” “The Seven Days of Shiva”

By Devin Grant