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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Trick Trick, Butch Walker and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, November 9, 2008

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Trick Trick, “The Villain” (Koch) **1/2

On his second album, Detroit rapper Trick Trick informs us that he’s “only trying to be blessed ... only trying to be less stressed.” In that context, we can see “The Villain,” through its 15 tracks, two skits and an intro, as an exercise in stress relief, with the husky-voiced MC venting and spitting and purging himself of a wealth of ills that range from haters to his own past of drug dealing, incarceration and struggles in the rap game that included a bumpy ride with Universal Motown on his 2005 debut “The People Vs.” He’s gangsta with a heart, and his tales of lessons learned come through on “The Villain” with a convincing sincerity — and a tough enough attitude that makes questioning him seem unwise. Like so many of his colleagues, Trick Trick (ne Christian Mathis) has a bit too much to say and lets “The Villain” run too long; given the company he keeps, however, it’s hard to blame him for trying to cram everything in. The marquee collaboration is with good pal and “Welcome 2 Detroit” partner Eminem, resurfacing after a long hiatus on three tracks here — in his Slim Shady guise on “Who Want It” and as the co-writer and producer of the slapdash “Follow Me” and the moody, textured “Crazy.” Kid Rock, Esham and the late Proof trade rhymes over the spare slap beat of “2getha 4eva!!!,” while Dr. Dre brings a slinky guitar line and husky tone to “Hold On” and his former N.W.A. mate Ice Cube makes a sly reference to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s legal woes on the Southern-flavored “Let It Fly.” Trick Trick also gets help from Detroit mainstays Paradime, Guilty Simpson and Royce da 5’ 9”, and his Mathis Family Choir brings righteous harmonies to the gospelflavored “Let Go.” He’s a little long-winded, perhaps, but Trick Trick is ultimately the kind of “Villain” we can root for.


Butch Walker, “Sycamore Meadows” (Power Ballad/Stay Platinum/Original Signal) ***

Butch Walker is better known as a producer (Pink, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and more) than an artist, but that doesn’t make the former Marvelous 3 frontman any less potent when he’s making his own music. “Sycamore Meadows,” in fact, is a career highpoint, a weighty and poignant set of songs written in the wake of losing his Malibu home, including his studio and all his master recordings, in last year’s California wildfires. It’s heavy stuff, but there’s a spirit of resilience that winds through the album, starting with the opening notes of “The Weight of Her” and continuing through the Spectorian pop opuses “Ponce De Leon Ave.,” (featuring Pink), “Vessels” and “Closer to the Truth...” But there’s also plenty of reflection, a bit of smirking sentimentality on “Going Back/Going Home” and a heartfelt paean to his home town of Atlanta on “ATL.” There’s pain here, but Walker deftly turns it to his listener’s gain.


David Archuleta, “David Archuleta” (Jive): This year’s “American Idol” runner-up sneaks out his debut a week before winner David Cook delivers his.

Christina Aguilera, “Keeps Getting Better: A Decade of Hits” (RCA): The pop songstress adds two new songs and remakes of “Genie in a Bottle” and “Beautiful” to this survey of her first 10 years.

Tracy Chapman, “Our Bright Future” (Elektra): The “Fast Car” singer-songwriter’s eighth album was produced by Grammy-winner Larry Klein (Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell).

Cheap Trick, “Live at Budokan: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Epic/Legacy): The veteran group’s breakthrough album is celebrated across three CDs and a DVD filled with previously unreleased material.

Kevin Costner & Modern West, “Untold Truths” (Universal Republic/ Universal Records South): Costner — yes, that Costner — steps away from the camera and picks up a guitar for this dozen song set of earnest Americana.

David Foster, “Hit Man: David Foster and Friends” (Reprise): Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Celine Dion, Kenny G., Blake Shelton and more are part of this CD/DVD celebration of the superstar producer’s career.

Flaming Lips, “Christmas on Mars” (Reprise): The Oklahoma group’s long-awaited psychedelic film finally rolls out, along with a companion CD of its music.

Genesis, “Genesis: 1970-1975” (Rhino): The British prog rock heroes’ third box set captures its Peter Gabrielfronted heyday, adding a DVD to each album along with a full disc of extras.

Gnarls Barkley, “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” (Atlantic): The hip duo’s latest single is an excuse to fill out an EP with different versions of the song as well as the new tune, “Mystery Man.”

Live, “Live at the Pardiso — Amsterdam” (Vanguard): The anthemic rock quartet cranks through hits such as “Lightning Crashes” and “I Alone” on its first-ever concert CD and DVD.

Morley, “Seen” (Wrasse): The New York singer-songwriter’s strong support cast for her third album includes Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Toshi Reagon and pedal steel virtuoso Larry Campbell.

Mudcrutch, “Extended Play Live” (Reprise): A foursong concert EP from Tom Petty’s reunited original band.

Randy Owen, “One on One” (Broken Bow): The former Alabama lead singer’s solo debut was produced by Big & Rich’s John Rich.

The Police, “The Police Certifiable” (Cherrytree/ A&M): A CD and DVD souvenir of the trio’s reunion tour, including a full concert and a documentary directed by drummer Stewart Copeland’s son.

Seal, “Soul” (Warner Bros.): Seal teams with producer David Foster for this set of R&B covers, taking on favorites by Al Green, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, James Brown and the Impressions.

Styles P, “Phantom

Gangster Chronicles, Volume 1” (Koch/D-Block): The Lox member’s mixtape rolls through nine rare recordings and comes with a DVD featuring six videos.

T-Pain, “Thr33 Ringz” (Jive): The Florida-born rapper rolls out his third album, working out with Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Kanye West and DJ Khaled, among others.

Various Artists, “Voices

of a Grassroots Movement” (Hidden Beach): Music by Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Kanye West and others blends with Barack Obama speeches on this disc previously sold only on the Obama Web site.

Various Artists, “Red House 25: A Silver Anniversary Retrospective” (Red House): Troubadours like John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, Loudon Wainwright III and others light up this comprehensive look at the label’s history.

Taylor Swift, “Fearless” (Big Machine): The teen country star picked a good time to sing about “Change,” collaborating with Colbie Calliat and John Rich on her sophomore album.

Happy Holidays

This week’s hottest holiday-themed releases:

Enya, “And Winter Came” (Reprise); Martha’s Trouble, “Christmas Lights” (Aisling); Billy Bob Thornton & the Boxmasters, “Christmas Cheer” (Vanguard); Various Artists, “A Brushfire Holiday, Vol. 1” (Brushfire).

)Hot new music DVDs

Hitting stores this week:

Clutch, “Full Fathom Five, Video Field Recordings” (Weathermarker Music); Merle Haggard, “Legendary Performances” (Shout! Factory); Alison Krauss, “A Hundred Miles or More: Live From the Tracking Room” (Rounder); Smashing Pumpkins, “It All Goes Wrong” (Coming Home Media); Tracey Ullman, “Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union” (Eagle).

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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