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2001 album from the California Alt-Rockers fronted by Gwen Stefani. The album features production and/or appearances from Prince, Bounty Killer, Lady Saw, Nellee Hooper, The Neptunes, Sly & Robbie, William Orbit, Ric Ocasek and others.
As much as No Doubt have protested that they are a singular unit and not "Gwen and her guys," Gwen Stefani's much-touted duets with rapper Eve and techno mogul Moby did nothing to juice the boys' spotlight, which had been steadily dimming since the release of 2000's Return of Saturn. But all that banter is silenced with Rock Steady, on which the music is definitely the star, unfettered by Gwen's cutesy-clouded feminism or dumped-by-the-boyfriend woes. Having mostly departed from their ska home base, No Doubt's well-navigated exploration of hip-hop beats, reggae, and the reunion of '80s keyboards and guitars finds the group picking up the pop-rock baton that Garbage dropped with an unsettling thud. Rock Steady's delegate of stalwart producers perfectly decorate the disc with their respective expertise; Ric Ocasek (new wave), Prince (R&B), Nellee Hooper (trip-hop), Sly & Robbie (dub), and William Orbit (trance) offer some staying power to music that's always been on the edge of disposable. Despite their disparate styles, the songs complement each other like stars and stripes. This is No Doubt's best album to date, and as they continue to expand their influences, the party only gets bigger. --Beth Massa
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If you got the chance to read my original review on this disc I was less enthusiastic about it back in 2009. Now I've listened to it recently (March 2013) and everything changed. Here's the review I wanted to post on Rdio's website but couldn't for still unknown reasons. Stay with me. High praise is coming.
I can't start this review any other way: This is No Doubt's most underrated album of all time! It's a really popular album and has some of their biggest hits on it to date like "Hey Baby", "Hella Good" and "Underneath It All" but in reality I think the feelings on this album by the fans are really split. I caved initially giving the album a mere 3.3 star rating and calling it a "mixed bag" basically. But pulling it out and listening to it again after so long two days ago (after thinking I gave it to a friend to keep) made me see the light. This album is genius. It's No Doubt's most upbeat album to date and in most spots is very dance-y. However, it is still completely injected with Gwen's relationship issues to make the album that much crazier. Genre wise, it's a lot of pop, some dance, some pop rock and there's even a track with Prince that's more R&B-infused. It's called "Waiting Room". Although that track has its appeal (the Prince appearance works and his voice compliments Gwen's) it's still my least favorite on the album.
"Start The Fire" fares a little better and has a killer sound towards the end but otherwise is a little cheesy. Other than that I really love all the tracks. This album is something special and it's funny how I saw a lot of the tracks as filler before. I admit that this album won't be enjoyed by everyone because there are some repetitive qualities about a lot of the tracks (choruses repeated ad nauseum). But the awesome production, insightful lyrics and Gwen's vocal delivery on most of the tracks (mainly the verses and on some bridges) keep this album ahead of the pack.
Before I talk about my favorite tracks I'm going to say I used to favor "Return Of Saturn" as their best work. Not so anymore. While both albums are great they are very, very different. "Return..." comes off as more emotional because you can take the beats more seriously and they were kind of dramatic with the combination of the honest, heartfelt lyrics. But this album is just more fun and dance-y.
OK. My all-time favorite track from this album was "Underneath It All" for the longest time but track #6 has bumped it a little lower into spot #2. "Detective" is said track and I find that it really has a great feel to it production-wise while showing some of Gwen's deepest relationship insecurities inside. I am also quite partial to the short bridge in the song that shows off Gwen's voice in an addicting manner. The track is repetitive in spots but the repetition works. The "peek in's" in the song are really funny towards the end because you know that Gwen is looking through her man's closet trying to find dirt on him. The song just works. "Underneath It All" is the next standout with its killer lyrics about love, amazingly laid-back production, useful feature from the necessary Lady Saw and (probably most importantly) the absolutely stunning bridge which contains the album's most loving lyrics.
"Hella Good", the first official song on the album is very vibe-y too and I love it. Initially when it came out I didn't "get it" but I love the lyrics and the production is on fire. "Hey Baby" while slightly annoying is also a good track. One of the catchiest songs on the album it's just fun to hear and even easier to sing along to. "Running" is another standout which stands out as the album's only ballad. It's a gorgeous song if I do say so myself but it is also one of the tracks that contains some computer "bleeps" and "bloops" in production and could possibly be a turn off to some. However, there's a lot of sentiment there. And again the bridge (although too short once more) is to die for where all you hear is Gwen sincerely coo a few "do, do, do's" and say "the fuuuuuuture."
Although almost every track is a standout here I'll just touch on one more track. "Don't Let Me Down" a fun, bouncy track is one I gobble up every time. It's a cute song and is up there with "Hey Baby" as the album's most upbeat and carefree sounding material. The production is again a true highlight. Another of my favorite parts of the song is the chorus where Gwen spits, "So don't blow it/even a little bit/'cause now you're all mine/don't you forget it."
Basically (by an inch), this is No Doubt's magnum opus. Come here if you want fun sounds and want to get up and shake your ass. Pull out "Return Of Saturn" if you want to reflect. That's No Doubt's somber record.
"Underneath It All"
"Don't Let Me Down"
"In My Head"
2 - Hella Good
3 - Hey Baby
4 - Making Out
5 - Underneath It All
7 - Don't Let Me Down
8 - Start the Fire
9 - Running
10 - In My Head
13 - Rock Steady
Track number one is a slice of Track 13, an introduction only, and Tracks 6, 11, & 12, were rather emotionless. But that leaves about nine songs to love. You won't regret this buy.
Most recent customer reviews
It's a pity that this is very wavy vinyl.