Nikka Costa, Can’tneverdidnothin’ (2005)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Music
July 23rd, 2005 • 6:34 pm

It was always going to be a challenge for Nikka Costa to match the impact of her 2001 debut album Everybody Got Their Something… Not that the debut was such a big commercial splash — but it certain got her noticed, and deservedly so. It introduced music fans to a great new voice with what seemed like a natural knack for gritty rock-funk numbers and great ballads.

The sophomore album Can’tneverdidnothin’, released a couple of months ago, was a long time in the making, but it picks up right where Everybody Got Their Something left us.

The first four tracks are like four consecutive punches that rock and roll you just as effectively as the first album did. Nikka Costa is a “littlescreama” alright (the name of her publishing label), but it’s the screams of a real voice that knows that real screaming (as opposed to the artificial howling and vocalizing of most of her contemporaries) is part of the deal. It’s singing and songwriting with guts, and it’s a four-star opening for the album.

The fifth track, however (“Around The World”), is a disappointment. For one thing, its intro sounds too similar to the title track of the first album (which itself was a great tribute of sorts to Sly & The Family Stone). More important, however, the lyrics are just really flat and clichéd, and it’s musically speaking a bit of a mess.

Fortunately, the album gets right back into it with the next track (“Swing It Around”), and doesn’t let off until the final encore (a great cover of Nina Simone’s “Sugar In My Bowl” as an added, “hidden” track). Highlights include a cover of the classic “Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter” and the very Prince-like “Happy In The Morning” (which is also a bit reminiscent of “Some Kind Of Beautiful” on the first album — already a very Prince-like track — but it’s the kind of funk you never get tired of).

But really, all the rest of the album is terrific. As a whole, it probably doesn’t sound as original as Everybody Got Their Something did, simply because, well, we’ve had four years to play that debut album to death and we’re now quite familiar with Nikka’s singing and songwriting. But after a few listens it sounds every bit as good (except maybe for that fifth track).

Prince afficionados will have noted the appearance of Wendy Melvoin (former member of the Revolution) on the opening track, Stan “Chance” Howard (on-and-off member of the New Power Generation in recent years) on the keyboards on a number of tracks, and John Blackwell on drums on the debatable “Around The World”. Prince is also thanked warmly in the credits — although there is no sign of the “Silver Tongue” song that was announced as a contribution back in 2004 and whose demo version Prince himself released through his NPG Music Club last year.

Other appearances of note include Lenny Kravitz on the drums and bass on a number of tracks and ?uestlove on “Happy In The Morning”.

All told, it’s a great second album that definitely deserves more than a few listens. Here’s hoping that Nikka Costa will continue to blaze her own trail in years to come, with the occasional help of some funky acolytes. It would be great if we didn’t have to wait four years for the third, and a collaboration with Prince himself would be a terrific addition to her portfolio.

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