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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Beck, Wilie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, July 6, 2008

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Beck, “Modern Guilt” (Interscope) ***

Beck Hansen and Danger Mouse are two peas in a pop music pod — ambitious artists and, more than occasionally, visionaries whose primary goals seem to be doing something they haven’t before. They make apt collaborators, but rather than some groundbreaking opus they’re satisfied to make “Modern Guilt” a compact (34 minutes) and concise affair, marrying Beck’s melodic ideas to Danger Mouse’s commanding beats. These 10 songs rarely sound like a collision of sensibilities, however; Beck and Danger Mouse manage to complement each other with an ease that makes “Modern Guilt” at times sound like a vibey tossoff (it is, after all, Beck’s final album on his recording contract) but never less than an enjoyable sonic romp. “Orphans,” one of two tracks featuring backing vocals by Chan “Cat Power” Marshall, starts things off with a halting bass throb and a trippy arrangement through which Beck laces electric and acoustic guitars and even shots of flute. “Gamma Ray” gallops like a garage band trying to squeeze in one last song before their moms call them home for dinner, while “Soul of a Man” is a thumping slab of funk-rock. Tracks such as “Replica” and “Profanity Prayers” seem like set-ups for long, swirling outro jams — the latter featuring treated slide guitar licks that really stand out on headphones — and “Volcano” and “Chemtrails,” the “long” cuts at about four and a half minutes each, explore “deep thoughts” like “I’ve been drinking all these tears so long/All I’ve got left is the taste of salt in my mouth.” It’s not exactly “Odelay” or “St. Elsewhere” (by Danger Mouse’s Gnarls Barkley), but “Modern Guilt” is still a pleasure.


Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, “Two Men With the Blues” (Blue Note) ***

This looks like an utterly oddball pairing until you take the time to realize that both Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis have made careers out of playing where you least expect them — and who you least expect them to play with. Recorded in January of 2007 at Lincoln Center’s Singers Over Manhattan series, this 10-song set feels like an intimate latenight jazz club show, with the two principals and their crew — particularly harmonica ace Mickey Raphael and pianist Dan Nimmer — passing the ball on a collection of standards (“Night Life,” “Stardust,” “Georgia on My Mind”) with virtuostic exuberance. A boogie-fied version of “Caldonia” and a tambourine-shaking gospel rave-up of “Rainy Day Blues” are among the highlights, and Marsalis adds to the spirit when he puts down his trumpet and sings a few lines on “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”


The Alarm, “Guerrilla Tactics” (TheAlarm.com): The follow-up to the political rockers’ 2006’s “Under Attack,” was mixed by former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke.

The Baseball Project, “Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails” (Yep Roc): Members of R.E.M., the Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, Dream Syndicate and more unite for a set of irreverently sentimental new songs about the national pastime, including “The Yankee Flipper” and “Satchel Page Said.”

Chromeo, “Fancy Footwork: Deluxe Edition” (Vice): The Montreal electrofunk duo’s sophomore album is enhanced with a second disc of remixes and rarities.

Danger Radio, “Used and Abused” (Photo Finish/ Atlantic): The sophomore album from the Washington state quintet includes the fan favorite “Party Foul” as well as its accompanying video.

Donna the Buffalo, “Silverlined” (Sugar Hill): The rootsy New York group recorded its seventh album in nomadic fashion, at studios in Nashville, North Carolina, Alabama and back home in the Big Apple.

Albert Hammond, Jr., “Como Te Llama?” (Black Seal): The Strokes guitarist asks the musical question “What’s your name?” on his second solo album, with help from Sean Lennon among other players.

Billy Joel, “The Stranger: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Columbia Legacy): The Piano Man’s breakthrough album is remastered and expanded with a Carnegie Hall concert from 1977 and, in deluxe versions, a DVD featuring a documentary and a BBC live broadcast.

Little Jackie, “The Stoop” (S-Curve): The debut from Imani Coppola’s hip-hop side project, a joint venture with DJ/ programmer Adam Pallin.

Maroon5, “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” (A&M/ Octone): An expanded re-release of the pop hitmakers’ doubleplatinum 2007 album includes five B-sides, four music videos and a concert performance from Montreal.

Alison Moyet “The Turn” (W14 Music): The British singer’s first solo album in four years rolls out in the U.S. nearly nine months after its U.K. release.

New Guitar Summit, “Shivers” (Stony Plain): A second collaboration by Jay Geils, Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin, this time welcoming Randy Bachman as a special guest.

Willie Nile, “Streets of New York” (00:02:69): The under-sung rocker welcomes a handful of guests, including “Late Night with Conan O’Brien’s” Jimmy Vivino) on this made-to-discover concert souvenir.

Opiate For the Masses, “Manifesto” (Century Media): The Arizona headbangers’ fifth album follows a three-year wait after 2005’s “The Spore.”

Paramount Styles,

“Failure American Style” (KonKurrent/Touch and Go): Girls Against Boys frontman Scott McCloud adopts a new “nom de rock” for his first solo project.

Ron Sexsmith, “Exit

Strategy of the Soul” (Yep Roc): The Canadian troubadour’s 10th release includes a co-write with Feist on the song “Brandy Alexander.”

Patti Smith and Kevin

Shields, “The Coral Sea” (PASK): A live performance of the punk rock pioneer homage to the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, with the My Bloody Valentine leader providing accompaniment.

Soundtrack, “Weeds” (Lionsgate): The popular Showtime program’s third-season soundtrack features music by Ween, the Dresden Dolls, Beirut and comedian/actor Kevin Nealon.

Street Dogs, “State of Grace” (Hellcat): The wellregarded Boston punk group moves to a new label for its fourth album.

STS9, “Peaceblaster” (1320 Records): The fourth studio album from electronic-leaning California jam band.

Edgar Winter, “Rebel Road” (Airline): The veteran artist’s latest outing features guest performances by his brother, Johnny Winter, Clint Black and Slash.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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