1999's A La Legere was Jane Birkin's first album to be recorded with no input whatsoever from Serge Gainsbourg, but his absence – perhaps surprisingly – did not show. Indeed, it emerged as one of her most beautiful recordings yet, a transitional set, yes, but also a confident one. Philippe Lerichomme's arrangements are spellbinding throughout, while songs the quality of "Les Avalanches," "Trouble," and "C'est Comme Ca" would have dignified any of her earlier, more feted albums.
1999's "Animation" was the second album from MVP (Mike Vescera Project). Vescera, of course, is best known as the singer from Obsession, and his stints with Loudness and Yngwie Malmsteen. He’s joined here by guitarists Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween), Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson) and Joe Stump (Reign of Terror).
One of Spain's longest-running heavy metal exports, Dark Moor was founded in 1993 by Madrid-based guitarist Enrik Garcia, and after honing their fantasy-laced power metal via three demo tapes (1996's Tales of the Dark Moor, 1998's Dreams of Madness, and 1999's Flying), signed with the independent Arise label for the release of their full-length debut, 1999's Shadowland.
Playing sideman to Rick Braun, Larry Carlton, Gato Barbieri, the Neville Brothers, and many others introduced guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver to smooth jazz fans, but it was with Steve Reid's band that Oliver found a following. It was 1996 when Reid contacted Oliver at the last minute to fill in for a canceled opening act. Oliver hit the stage as a solo act and Reid was impressed with the guitarist's vocalese skills and summery sound. Oliver had come to vocalese not through King Pleasure or Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, but through Bobby McFerrin and Pat Metheny's work with Richard Bona and David Blamires, who sang along with guitar solos. Being a fan of the earthy Metheny sound, Reid hired Oliver after the gig and featured him in his touring band. Reid's Mysteries and Passion in Paradise albums featured Oliver not only as guitarist but songwriter as well. Oliver struck out on his own in 1999 with his debut, First View, released by Night Vision. The album spawned three hit singles on smooth jazz radio and earned the guitarist a Debut Artist of the Year award from Smooth Jazz News.
Stereolab took an unprecedented two years between 1997's Dots & Loops and 1999's Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, as they tended to personal matters. During those two years, Stereolab's brand of sophisticated, experimental post-rock didn't evolve too much, even as colleagues like Tortoise, Jim O'Rourke, and the High Llamas tried other things. Since each Stereolab album offered a significant progression from the next, it would have been fair to assume that when they returned, it would be with a leap forward, especially since Tortoise's John McEntire and O'Rourke were co-producers. Perhaps that's the reason that the album feels slightly disappointing. The group has absorbed McEntire's jazz-fusion leanings – "Fuses" kicks off the album in compelling, free-jazz style – and the music continually bears O'Rourke's attention to detail, but it winds up sounding like O'Hagan's increasing tendency of making music that's simply sound for sound's sake.