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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Bob Dylan, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, August 28, 2006

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Bob Dylan “Modern Times” Columbia ***

Bob Dylan is 65, but he shows no signs of retiring. Or going anywhere. In fact, he informs us that “I feel like my soul is beginning to expand” in “Thunder on the Mountain,” the opening track of his 31st studio album and then shows us just what that means over the course of “Modern Times’ “ 10 songs. The album is of a piece with Dylan’s exceptional recent creative string, which includes 1997’s Grammy-winning “Time Out of Mind” and 2001’s “Love and Theft” — and even the musical prose of his bestselling memoir “Chronicles.” Giving its title ironic heft, “Modern Times” gives us a stripped-down kind of Dylan; produced by the singer-songwriter himself (under the nom de studio Jack Frost) and recorded with his versatile touring band, it’s a rootsy collection of blues shuffl es, jazz chordings, ballads, waltzes and sonic visits to rustic juke joints, smokey saloons and rural crossroads. But it’s also contemporary in its concerns, with references to post-Katrina New Orleans in “The Levee’s gonna Break,” to the troubled economic climate in “Workingman’s Blues #2” and to mortality in nearly every song and to a desire to find a love strong enough to make it worth living through the “unending” suffering of these “Modern Times.” We’re well past the time that Dylan can turn the world’s ear with a “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “Like a Rolling Stone,” but this is nothing less than a consistently engaging set, with a timeless and in many cases genre-less quality that complements his entrenched body of work and has a couple of new epics in “Ain’t Talkin’ “ and “Workingman’s Blues #2.” “You think I’m over the hill/ You think I’m past my prime,” Dylan sings in “Spirit on the Water.” Hardly.


Dirty Dozen Brass Band “What’s Going On” Shout! Factory ***

We’ve never heard Marvin Gaye’s classic album quite like this — and that’s a good thing. The inventive New Orleans troupe reimagines “What’s Going On” in its classic, horndominated style, approaching the melodies and counter melodies with fresh insights and ideas. Public Enemy’s Chuck D appropriately weaves post-Katrina concerns into the title cut, while Bettye LaVette’s husky vocals bring a roughhewn edge to “What’s Happening Brother.” A tight horn arrangement complements G. Love’s vocals on “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” and instrumental treatments of “Save the Children,” “Right On” and “Wholly Holy” bring new characters to each of those tracks. It manages to be reverent by being irreverent, and Gaye certainly isn’t spinning in his grave over this — unless he’s dancing.

New and Noteworthy

Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, “Torch”

(Livewire) — Debut from the St. Louis blues-rock band led by the son of Gregg Allman.

The Beach Boys, “Pet Sounds: 40th Anniversary”

(Capitol) — The third or fourth opportunity to replace this landmark in your collection, this time with a DVD housing a documentary, interviews and videos.

Beenie Man, “Undisputed” (Virgin) — The dancehall reggae favorite’s latest album is already making noise thanks to the hit “Hmm Hmm.”

The Black Crowes, “Lost Crowes” (Rhino) — The reunited Crowes mine the vaults for this two-CD set of rarities, which includes two entirely unreleased albums.

Crossfade, “Falling Away” (Columbia) — The anxiously awaited second set from the South Carolina band that heated up the charts with “Cold.”

Paula DeAnda, “Paula DeAnda” (Arista) — Debut set by the 16-year-old Texas singer signed on-the-spot by hit-making mogul Clive Davis.

Dream Theater, “Score”

(Rhino) — A live CD and DVD set recorded at the prog rockers’ 20th-anniversary show in April at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

The Grascals, “Long List of Heartaches”

(Rounder) — The award-winning bluegrass troupe delivers its second album, with a guest list that includes George Jones, Dierks Bentley, Steve Wariner and others.

Hatebreed, “Supremacy” (Roadrunner) — New rock from old school headbangers fronted by MTV “Overdrive” host Jamey Jasta.

Ray LaMontagne, “Til the Sun Turns Black” (RCA) — Hipsters all over will be lined up to grab the quirky troubadour’s moody second album.

Sam Moore, “Overnight Sensational” (Rhino) — A who’s who of guests (Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Sting, Clapton, the late Billy Preston) accompanies the “Soul Man” on this solo outing.

The Roots, “Game Theory” (Def Jam) — Serious social messages groove alongside samples from Sly & the Family Stone, the Jackson 5 and the Ohio Players on the rap group’s latest release.

Jessica Simpson, “A Public Affair” (Epic) — Nick had his say; now we get Jessica’s side of the story on her fi fth album.

Soundtrack, “Broken Bridges” (Show Dog Nashville) — You’d think Toby Keith would make his fi lm debut and not put some songs on the soundtrack. He’s got six here, along with contributions by other artists.

Stefy, “Orange Album”

(Wind-Up) — the debut album from the Orange County, Calif., rockers who fi rst appeared on the “John Tucker Must Die” soundtrack.

Pete Yorn, “Nightcrawler” (Columbia) — The lauded singer-songwriter’s fourth album also is his fi rst studio effort in three years.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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