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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Staind, Loudon Wainwright III and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2008

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Staind, “The Illusion of Progress” (Flip/Atlantic) **1/2

On the front end of Staind’s sixth album, frontman Aaron Lewis warns us that “You’ll never change the way I am ... Just let me be,” and there’s no question the Massachusetts quartet has found its formula — and a successful one at that, as its last three albums have debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. But while “The Illusion of Progress” doesn’t stray too far from the stylistic mark set by its predecessor, it does push the parameters of Staind’s established sound. A gospel choir backs Lewis’ soulful vocals on “The Corner,” while Eastern guitar flavors and drum loops swirl through “Breakaway.” “All I Want” and the first single, “Believe,” are not only as poppy as Staind has ever gotten but are also among the most positive and optimistic lyrics Lewis has ever penned, and “Tangled Up in You” is an unapologetic love song built on acoustic guitar and strings. But those represent movement rather than drastic departure; there’s still plenty of angst to be found in these 13 Johnny K-produced tracks, and while the set is bookended by the out-and-out rockers “This is It,” “The Way I Am” and the album-closing “Rainy Day Parade,” Staind’s stock-in-trade is still the midtempo arrangement with the softer verses swelling into a big, anthemic chorus on “Save Me,” “Pardon Me,” “Lost Along the Way” and “Raining Again.” And, as noted, that works at the cash register. So you can’t fault Staind for staying with what works, but it’s heartening to see the group straying from it just a little this time out.


Loudon Wainwright III, “Recovery” (Yep Roc) ***

“The good old days are good and gone now,” Loudon Wainwright III tells an “Old Friend” on this 13-track disc. But he’s not necessarily tied to that idea. On “Recovery,” Wainwright revisits songs he first released between 1970-74, teaming with producer (and Rochester Adams graduate) Joe Henry to dress up the once spare and acoustic arrangements with a variety of mostly subtle but very present instrumental touches that never usurp the melodic charm and sly wit that lent Wainwright the “new Dylan” tag back in those days. “Muse Blues,” for instance, gets a more rocking tempo, while “Be Careful There’s a Baby in the House” enjoys a folk-blues overhaul and “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry,” with a four-piece string section, becomes a lush, sonic epic. We know from his recent output, including soundtrack material for “Knocked Up,” that Wainwright isn’t running out of original ideas, but the revisitations of “Recovery” are plenty fresh in their own right.


Blackmore’s Night, “Secret Voyage” (SPV): Former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and his wife, Candice Night, take a more electric path on their latest set of Renaissance-inspired songs.

Blue Mountain, “Midnight in Mississippi” (Broadmoor) and “Omnibus” (Broadmoor): The Mississippi Americana rockers offer all new material on “Midnight ...” and revisit their earlier work on “Omnibus.”

David Byrne & Brian Eno, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today;” David Byrne, “Big Love: Hymnal” (Todomundo): A double helping from the former Talking Heads frontman features Byrne’s first pairing with Eno since 1981’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (download it at www.everythignthathappens.com) and a set of music he composed for HBO’s “Big Love” series.

The Cheetah Girls, “One World” (Walt Disney): The trio’s latest features songs from the group’s new Disney Channel movie, which premieres Friday.

Jerry Douglas, “Glide” (Koch): The 12th solo album by the Alison Krauss & Union Station member features guest appearances by Travis Tritt, Rodney Crowell, Bela Fleck and others.

Family Force Five, “Dance or Die” (Transparent/Tooth & Nail/ EMI): The sophomore outing by the rock/funk/hip-hop hybrid quintet from Atlanta.

Donovan Frankenreiter, “Pass It Around” (Lost Highway): The singer, songwriter and pro surfer fortifies his third release with guests Ben Harper, G. Love and Grant Lee Phillips, who also co-wrote the track “Mansions in the Sand.”

GZA, “Pro Tools” (Think Differently/ Babygrande): The Wu Tang Clan member’s first solo album in five years finds him spitting with RZA, Masta Killa, Justice and others, and commenting on his feud with 50 Cent.

Juliana Hatfield, “How to Walk Away” (Ye Olde Records): The former Blake Babies member’s 10th solo album includes a duet with the Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler on the first single, “This Lonely Love.”

Hotel Lights, “Firecracker People” (Bar/None): The debut set from the group formed by former Ben Folds Five bassist Darren Jessee and members of Sparklehorse, Camper Van Beethoven and Tift Merritt’s band.

Ice Cube, “Raw Footage” (Lench Mob): He may be a family film star now, but Cube still gets his gangsta on with guests such as The Game, Young Jeezy, Musiq and more.

George Jones, “Burn Your Playhouse Down: The Unreleased Duets” (Bandit): Jones’ vaults are mined for previously unheard collaborations with Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Jones’ exwife, Tammy Wynette.

Jason Miles, “2 Grover With Love” (Koch): The New York keyboardist works with Maya, Gerald Veasley, Najee and others on his second salute to the late Grover Washington, Jr.

Shwayze, “Shwayze” (Suretone/Geffen): The hip-hop artist from MTV’s “Buzzin’” releases his first album after a couple of hit singles with co-star Cisco Adler.

Stereolab, “Chemical Chords” (4AD): The British alt rockers bring strings and brass into the mix on their first full-length album since 2004.

The Stills, “Oceans Will Rise” (Arts & Crafts): The Montreal rockers move to a worldwide label deal for their third album.

The Sugar People, “The Sugar People” (selfreleased): The debut album from the beat- and ambientleaning rock ’n’ R&B group from Ann Arbor.

Toadies, “No Deliverance” (Kirtland): The first new album in more than seven years from the reunited Fort Worth rock troupe.

The Walkmen, “You & Me” (Gigantic): The New York indie rockers’ fifth album hits the streets officially after an online charity pre-release for the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“Young @ Heart — Mostly Live” (Rhino): More music from the senior citizen chorale from the affecting “Young @ Heart” documentary, including performances of songs by the Rolling Stones, the Police, Neil Young, Lou Reed and OutKast.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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