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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Jimmy Buffett, Sting and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, October 9, 2006

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Jimmy Buffett “Take the Weather With You” Mailboat **1/2

Jimmy Buffett debuted 36 years ago with an album called “Down to Earth,” and now he’s singing about a “Party at the End of the World.” In between, Buffett has fashioned a music-lifestyle link that makes his albums predictable affairs — but pleasantly so. “Take the Weather With You” has its share of Buffett’s stock-in-trade, island-infl uenced party songs (“Hula Girl at Heart,” “Duke’s on Sunday,” “Cinco De Mayo in Memphis”) and witty, country-fl avored tracks such as “Bama Breeze” and “Everybody’s on the Phone.” But Buffett’s greatest virtue is his excellent taste in songs, which he integrates into his own breezy style with mostly successful results. Light steel drum tattoos bring new character to his otherwise faithful treatment of the Crowded House-written title track (with members of Scotland’s Gomez providing vocal harmonies) and to a version of Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings.” Buffett and his Coral Reefer crew treat Mary Gauthier’s “Wheel Inside the Wheel” with a rolling Louisiana rhythm fortifi ed by Sonny Landreth’s slide guitar and shuffle through Gillian Welch’s “Elvis Presley Blues.” Former Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfl er, meanwhile, provides an assist on his own “Whoop De Doo.” On “Nothin’ But a Breeze,” Buffett calls himself “the type of guy that likes it right down the middle,” but on “Take the Weather ...” he shows that the center isn’t necessarily straight and narrow.


Sting “Songs from the Labyrinth” Deutsche Grammophon **

Sting has made plenty of left turns during his career, but this is certainly the most far afield. This time out, the eclectic former Police man sojourns convincingly into 16th- and 17th-century lute music, mostly composed by Britain’s John Dowland. Recorded with Sarajevan lutist Edin Karamazov, “Labyrinth” is a heady but intriguing affair; not unlike the bluegrass revival of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” it rewards repeated listens and is actually more readily accessible than you might imagine. But be forewarned that it does take some work and an open mind, and some will undoubtedly find it easier to just slap on “Desert Rose” or “Fields of Gold.”

New and noteworthy

A Static Lullaby, “A Static Lullaby” (Fearless) — The California hardcore rockers offer their second set, three years after their well-received debut.

Lloyd Banks, “The Rotten Apple” (G-Unit/ Interscope) — The most successful member of 50 Cent’s posse welcomes Young Buck, Tony Yayo, Timbaland, Mobb Deep and others on his second solo album.

Blood Brothers, “Young

Machetes” (V2) — The Seattle quintet keeps things as heavy and punky jagged as ever on their fi fth album.

Cobra Starship, “While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets” (Decaydance/ New Line) — Former Midtown frontman Gabe Saporta’s new band shows what it’s got beyond the title song to “Snakes on a Plane.”

Lloyd Cole, “Antide pressant” (One Little Indian) — After a brief reunion with his band, the Rattlesnakes, the British-born singer-songwriter muses on happiness and sadness on his latest venture.

Wayne Hancock, “Tulsa” (Bloodshot) — The juke-joint swing man spent just 2 1 /2 days making this, his first studio set in fi ve years.

Gladys Knight, “Before Me” (Verve) — The R&B and pop vet takes a midnight train to the Great American Songbook, covering classics made famous by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and the like.

Kultur Shock, “We Came to Take Your Jobs Away” (Koolarrow) — The fourth album from the insurgent Seattle rock troupe, whose members hail from four countries.

Brad Paisley, “Brad Paisley Christmas” (Arista Nashville) — After netting the Academy of Country Music’s Album of the Year, Paisley goes the holiday route, adding four originals to the seasonal selection.

Pompeii, “Assembly”

(Eyeball) — The debut set from the buzz-generating modern rock quintet from Austin, Texas.

Senses Fail, “Still Searching” (Vagrant) — The anxiously awaited sophomore album from the headbanging New Jersey quintet.

Sister Hazel, “Absolutely” (Adrenaline/ Wandering Hazel) — The earthy Florida rock troupe enlisted Richard Marx as one of its collaborators for the band’s seventh album.

Mindy Smith, “Long Island Shores” (Vanguard) — The much-praised singer-songwriter follows her lauded debut with a song cycle about her New York state upbringing.

Rod Stewart, “Still the Same ... Great Rock Classics of Our Time” (J) — Stewart sets aside the standards and cracks open a new Songbook, covering Bob Seger, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles and others.

Trivium, “Crusade”

(Roadrunner) — The march is on for the Florida headbangers’ third album to do as well as 2005’s aptly titled “Ascendancy.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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