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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Los Lonely Boys, Vanessa Hudgens and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2008

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Los Lonely Boys, “Forgiven” (Epic) ***

Last time out, “Heaven” turned a little bit hellacious for Los Lonely Boys. The Grammy Awardwinning sibling trio from Texas watched the multi-platinum sales of their 2003 major label debut turn into a sophomore slump with 2006’s “Sacred,” but that hardly seemed to have deterred the group on “Forgiven.” Rather than retreat the group retrenches, returning to the easy-grooving, harmony-laden Santana-meets-Stevie Ray Vaughan feel of its first album, only this time recording live on an Austin soundstage with co-producer Steve Jordan. “Forgiven” kicks off with the lost-my-baby Latin blues of “Heart Won’t Tell a Lie” and mines plenty of familiar terrain from there on out, including the smooth brotherly vocal arrangements of “Staying With Me” and “Love Don’t Care About Me,” the philosophical big-picture lyricism of “The Way I Feel” and the title track, and the swinging acoustic groove “Loving You Always.” Dr. John guests on three of the album’s tracks, while guitarist Henry Garza picks his solo spots wisely, shining on tracks such as “Superman,” “Another Broken Heart,” “Make It Better” and a cover of the Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man.” The two unlisted bonus tracks are worth sticking around, for, too — particularly the grinning “Guero in the Barrio,” which is about as loose as Los Lonely Boys have ever sounded on disc.


Vanessa Hudgens, “Identified” (Hollywood) **

Disney’s “High School Musical” star wasn’t even born when Don Henley hit with “All She Wants to Do is Dance” in the mid-’80s, but that’s precisely what’s on Hudgens’ mind on her second album. On the first single “Sneakernight” she declares that “we’re dancin’ all night long,” while in “Hook It Up” she promises that “if you don’t like to dance you don’t stand a chance” — and other songs such as “Party on the Moon,” “Did It Ever Cross Your Mind,” “Last Night” and the title track are aimed at DJ booths as much as radio playlists. “Identified” is a more mature outing than Hudgens’ gold-selling 2006 debut “V,” but still has a familiar, anonymous kind of formula that adds pop-rock (“First Bad Habit”) and ballads (“Don’t Leave Me,” “Don’t Ask Why”) to the mix, as well as an airy, bigvoice showcase, “Gone With the Wind,” that sounds like one of Disney alum Christina Aguilera’s discards.


Alkaline Trio, “Agony & Irony” (Epic): The Chicago punk troupe’s sixth album, and first in three years, has a heavier edge thanks to producer Josh Abraham (Linkin Park, Slayer).

Kate Arminger “Believe” (Cold River): The 17-year-old country singer cowrote 10 of the songs on her sophomore effort.

The Chap, “Mega Breakfast” (Ghostly International): The British electro-rock troupe has signed with Ann Arbor’s Ghostly International for its third album.

Jen Chapin, “Light of Mine” (Purple Chair): The latest album by Harry Chapin’s daughter covers a variety of material by Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, Van Morrison, David Bowie, Sly Stone, John Lennon and others, along with two of her own songs.

C-Murder, “Screamin’ 4 Vengeance” (True/Asylum): The New Orleans rapper, who’s facing a murder retrial this fall, welcomes Mia X among other guests on his latest effort.

Earlimart, “Hymn and Her” (Majordomo): The L.A. indie rock trio gave itself a four-week deadline to write and record its sixth album.

G-Unit, “T.O.S.:

Terminate on Sight” (GUnit): A collective outing by 50 Cent’s crew, with friends such as Swizz Beatz, Rick Rock and Polow Da Don kicking in on the production side.

Brad Caleb Kane, “This Day in History” (Love Lane): The jazz-trained Los Angeles troubadour’s debut was produced by Maroon5 compatriot Matt Wallace.

Kansas, “Two For the Show: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Kirshner/Epic/ Legacy): The classic rock group’s 1978 live album is expanded with 10 previously unreleased tracks from the same tour.

Lamb of God, “Walk With Me in Hell” (Epic): The extreme rockers’ two-disc, fivehour DVD includes live footage and a pair of documentaries, including one about the making of its “Sacrament” album.

John Mayer, "Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles" (Columbia): Mayer's concert set treats fans who think his body is a wonderland) to originals and covers in three configurations -- solo acoustic, trio and full band.

Night Ranger, “Hole in the Sun” (VH1 Classic): Three of the “Sister Christian” gang reunite for the ’80s rockers’ first new album in a decade.

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, “Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson” (Say Hey): The New York singer-songwriter’s debut set features guest appearances by pals from Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio.

Rose Hill Drive, “Moon is the New Earth” (Megaforce): The second album from the unapologetically retro Colorado trio tapped by Rolling Stone magazine as a band to watch.

Ricky Skaggs, “The High Notes” (Cracker Barrel): The Nashville veteran recasts a dozen his biggest country hits, 10 of which hit No. 1, in bluegrass arrangements.

Tech N9ne, “Killer” (Strange Music): The Kansas City rapper’s 11th album features guest shots by Paul WAll, Scarface, Kottonmouth Kings, Ice Cube and more.

Various Artists, “The Motown Collection” (Time Life): Motown’s biggest hits are remastered and collected on this 150-track, 10-disc set (see story, page D1).

Ying Yang Twins, “Ying Yang For President” (TVT): So much for Obama; the Atlanta rap duo throws its hate in the ring to bring the Dirty South to the White House.

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