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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: K'Jon, Modest Mouse and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, August 2, 2009

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K’Jon, “I Get Around” (Universal Republic) **1/2

Detroit singer and songwriter Kelvin Johnson, aka K’Jon, exults at the beginning of his national debut album that “I’m finally getting around,” and he’s been waiting a long time for this moment. K’Jon has spent years releasing albums on his own as well as working behind the scenes with Ludacris, Ginuwine, Ne-Yo, T-Pain and others, with only a cameo on the “2 Fast 2 Furious” soundtrack five years ago to get his own name, well, around. Now, however, he has a hit in “On the Ocean,” a lush track that proclaims that his ship is coming in and confesses that “I’ve been waiting too long for this moment.” But outside of those two songs you’ll get little sense of the suppressed desire and frustrations K’Jon has felt all these years; the other 11 songs on “I Get Around” are mostly slow jam odes to romance, with occasional come-hither (“After the Club”) and only rare moments where the tempo swings up, such as “Doin’ It Big” and “On Everything” with rapper Several.Fusing vocal influences such as Marvin Gaye, Keith Sweat and Earth, Wind & Fire, K’Jon explores a jazzy tip on “Fa Sho” and old school New Jack vibes in “Fly Away” and “This Time.” Even when he incorporates hip-hop sonics on “Summer Rain,” “I Know U See It,” “What’s Really Good” (with Lady Te) and “On Everything” (with Seven The General), K’Jon never veers too far away from the pillowy vocal blends and mellow tempos that are closer to someone like KEM than any other Motor City forebears. K’Jon’s a bit too fresh to be steaming full-speed on the open seas at this point, but as a maiden voyage “I Get Around” offers some pretty smooth sailing.


Modest Mouse, “No One’s First and You’re Next” (Epic) ***

You seldom hear about Isaac Brock and the rest of Modest Mouse suffering from writer’s block, but this eight-song EP of well-worth-hearing outtakes from the group’s last two studio albums is a testament to the band’s prolificacy. The tracks careen between styles — from the lo-fi grit of “Sto the light, ringing touches of “Guilty Cocker Spaniels” and “I’ve Got It All (Most),” the rootsy lilt of “Autumn Beds” and the foreboding, Cure-like ambience of “The Whale Song” — in a manner not unlike a standard Modest Mouse album, but the set’s brevity heightens their eclectic impact. And who can resist any disc that has a song with a title like “History Sticks to Your Feet?”

New & Noteworthy

Anjulie, “Anjulie” (Hear Music): The Toronto pop singer has been chosen as a member of this year’s mtvU Freshman 5 class.

Assjack, “Assjack” (Curb): The first official release from Hank Williams III’s hard-rocking “psychobilly” outfit.

Steve Azar, “Slide On Over Here” (Dang/Ride): Azar, who opened most of the shows on Bob Seger’s last tour, wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs on his fourth studio album.

Bill Champlin, “No Place Left to Fall” (DreamMakers): The Sons of Champlin and current Chicago member’s first solo album in more than a decade becomes a family affair when he’s joined by his wife and son on the track “Tuggin’ on Your Sleeve.”

Dorrough, “Dorrough” (E1): The Dallas rapper delivers his debut album in hopes of proving he has more to offer than just the early hits “Ice Cream Paint Job” and “Walk That Walk.”

Gloriana, “Gloriana” (Emblem/Warner Bros.): The debut album from the Nashville quartet whose single “Wild at Heart” is the best-selling song from a new country act so far this year.

Ali Hoffman, “This Side of Morning” (Wing Court): The Philadelphia native displays a wide range of influences, from Sun Records rockabilly to Blue Note jazz, on her debut album.

Iron Age, “The Sleeping Eye” (Tee Pee): The sophomore outing by the hardcore quintet from Austin, Texas, comes after several years of touring to support its 2006 debut, “Constant Struggle.”

Jessy J, “True Love” (Peak): The Portland-born saxophonist sports a packed resume that includes stints with Michael Bolton, “Blast!,” Michael Buble, Jessica Simpson, the Temptations, the Latin Jazz Project and the Guitars and Saxes tours.

Mac McAnally, “Down By the River” (Show Dog Nashville): The 11th solo album from the singer, songwriter and current member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.

Medeski, Martin & Wood, “Radiolarians III” (Indirecto): The avant trio releases its third set of songs culled from improvisational writing retreats.

John Patitucci Trio, “Remembrance” (Concord Jazz): The bassist teams with usual sidemen Joe Lovano on sax and Brian Blade on drums, expanding the trio with guests that include his wife, Sachi Patitucci on cello.

Soundtrack, “Degrassi Goes Hollywood” (Bulletproof): Two of the Canadian teen soap’s stars, Cassie Steele and Jake Epstein, are featured on the soundtrack to the TV show’s big-screen movie, but where’s heartthrob-turned-hip hopper Drake?

Sugarland, “Live on the Inside” (Mercury Nashville): The group’s Jennifer Nettles has been sidelined by vocal problems recently,. but that will never affect your ability to see and hear her on this in-concert CD/DVD set.

Suicide City, “Frenzy” (The End): Members of Biohazard, Kittie and the Groovenics are part of this supergroup of sorts, whose overdue full-length album follows the 2005 EP “Not My Year.”

Tantric, “Mind Control” (Silent Majority): The hard rocking quartet’s fourth album, and follow-up to 2008’s “comeback” set “The End Begins,” was produced by former Creed bassist Brett Hestla.

Walter Trout, “Unspoiled By Progress” (Provogue): The John Mayall and Canned Heat alumnus celebrates his 20th anniversary as a solo artist with a compilation that features three new tracks along with unreleased live and studio material.

Robin Trower, “What Lies Beneath” (V-12): The British guitar vet’s first studio album in four years follows a live album recorded at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

Various Artists, “What Love Can Do” (429): Brian Wilson, Kenny Loggins, Kris Kristofferson, Burt Bacharach and more are among the artists who have teamed to re-record older songs and create new ones in this love-themed song celebration.

From the Vaults

Miles Davis & Sonny Rollins, “The Classic Prestige Sessions 1951-1956” (Concord); The Miracles, “Depend on Me; The Early Albums” (Hip-O Select)

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