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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Dwele, Motley Crue and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, June 23, 2008

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Dwele, “Sketches of a Man” (RT Music Group/Koch) ***

There’s no question Detroit singer Dwele (ne Andwele Gardner) is on a roll. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for a tribute version of Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World” and appears on the latest albums by Common and Kanye West. Meanwhile, we’ve been waiting for him to follow up 2005’s “Some Kinda,” and he makes the wait well worth it with his third fulllength album, “Sketches of a Man.” The title speaks of high concept, and Dwele delivers with 20 songs and interludes of soothing, soulful sonic blends, weaving together R&B, jazz and hip-hop conventions within a spare, pillowy ambience that reminds us of Marvin Gaye circa “I Want You.” Producing mostly himself, and playing most of the instruments to boot, Dwele guides us through the halting grooves of “Blow Your Mind” and “Workin’ On It,” the African vibe of “Travelin’ Girl,” the beatnik flow of “I’m Sorry (Wake the Musical Baby)” and the electro-brass workout of “Body Rock.” Longtime Motor City mates Slum Village lace soft raps — including a reference to embattled Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — into “Brandi,” and Lloyd Dwayne and J. Tait are on board for the string-fortified come-on “If You Want To.” But “Sketches’ “ central track is also its kicker; on “I’m Cheatin’,” a bouncy midtempo produced by G-1, another longtime Dwele compadre, he sings about doing just that, but with the same woman — a tricky premise that shows how deftly this particular soul man can blur the lines between cerebral and sexy.


Mötley Crüe, “Saints of Los Angeles” (Motley Records/Eleven Seven Music) **1/2

The Crue kicks off the first studio album by its original lineup in 11 years by declaring that “it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it” — and this is just the band the situation calls for.” The 13-track “Saints ...” is a kind of aural companion to the quartet’s lauded autobiography “The Dirt,” reviewing its rise from the L.A. club scene to a drugs- and debauchery-drenched peak, building to a resolution that these guys will be “Goin’ Out Swingin’.” With plenty of vintage guitar riffs from Mick Mars and assistance by the team from bassist Nikki Sixx’s Sixx A.M. side project, “Saints ...” upholds the Motley reputation for thumbed-nose rock ’n’ roll, and tracks such as “This Ain’t a Love Song,” “What’s It Gonna Take” and “Welcome to the Machine” ensure that it’s more than just a gratuitous outing to justify a summer tour.


Blondie, “Parallel Lines —30th Anniversary Edition” (Capitol/EMI): Blondie celebrates its breakthrough with four extra tracks, including the single mix of the hit “Heart of Glass,” and a DVD.

Deborah Bonham, “Duchess” (Atco): With Led Zeppelin fever at a new high, the sister of late drummer John Bonham steps out with her own addition to the musical family tree.

Ry Cooder, “I, Flathead” (Nonesuch/Perro Verde): The idiosyncratic and adventurous artist completes his “California trilogy” with a set that accompanies a 95-page novella he’s penned.

Cute is What We Aim For, “Rotation” (Fueled By Ramen/Atlantic): The Buffalo, N.Y. modern rockers declare that “Practice Makes Perfect” on their sophomore album.

Luke Doucet, “Blood’s Too Rich” (Six Shooter): The rootsy Canadian singer-songwriter and his band, the White Falcon, covers the Cure’s “The Lovecats” on his fifth release.

Alejandro Escovedo, “Real Animal” (Back Porch): The Texas troubadour’s latest conceptual work is a rocking set that surveys his life and travels from Texas to California to New York and back to the Lone Star State.

Jon Foreman, “Spring + Summer” (Credential/EMI): The Switchfoot frontman finishes his seasonal EP series with the terrestrial release of its last two installments.

The Hacienda Brothers, “Arizona Motel” (Proper): The final album from the Western soul troupe pays tribute to frontman Chris Gaffney, who died in April from liver cancer.

Freddie Hubbard, “On the Real Side” (Times Square): The trumpet legend is still blowing at 70, with backing by the New Jazz Composers Octet.

Incognito, “Tales From the Beach” (Heads Up): Bluey Maunick and his jazz synthesis outfit recorded its latest outing at studios in Italy, Germany, Indonesia and England.

Amos Lee, “Last Days at the Lodge” (Blue Note): The soulful singer-songwriter’s third album was produced by Detroit’s Don Was.

Less Than Jake, “GNV FLA” (Sleep It Off): The skapunkers pay homage to their hometown (Gainesville, Fla.) on this 14-track return to “roots” set.

G. Love & Special Sauce, “Superhero Brother” (Brushfire): The loose-limbed Philadelphia group makes sonic reference to influences such as the Rolling Stones, Cream, John Lee Hooker, the Chambers Brothers and Archie Bell & the Drells on its 10th album.

Ian McLagan, “Never Say Never” (Maniac): The former Faces keyboardist and his Bump Band welcome Patty Griffin on this album’s closing track, “When the Crying is Over.”

Liz Phair, “Exile in Guyville” (ATO): The special 15th anniversary reissue of Phair’s gutty landmark adds four B-sides and a DVD.

Shinedown, “The Sound of Madness” (Atlantic): The Florida rockers teamed with hitmaking producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Kid Rock, Goo Goo Dolls) to make their third album.

Steve Tyrell, “Back to

Bacharach” (New Design/ Koch): Tyrell tips his hat to the songwriting great, enlisting the man himself along with Rod Stewart, Martina McBride, James Taylor and Dionne Warwick for a charity remake of “What the World Needs Now.”

Various Artists, “Big Blue Ball” (Real World): Peter Gabriel began this world music-flavored all-star project 16 years ago, and the final product also features Sinead O’Connor, Tim Finn, World Party’s Karl Wallinger and others.

The Watson Twins, “Fire Songs” (Vanguard): The Los Angeles folk-rockers come out of Jenny Lewis’ shadow with the first full-length set of their unique harmonic convergence.

Paul Weller, “22 Dreams” (Yep Roc): The former Jam and Style Council leader’s latest solo set features guest appearances by Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon and others.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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