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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Justin Bieber, Scorpions and more...

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010

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Justin Bieber

“My World 2.0”


** 1/2

“It’s a big world/It’s easy to get lost in it,” Justin Bieber coos on the penultimate track of his second commercial release and first full-length album. This is one kid, however, that’s anything but lost in the mix. The 16-year-old from Stratford, Ontario, has gone from viral sensation to platinum recording artist with last fall’s seven-song EP “My World,” and Biebermania has only grown since then — partly thanks to the ubiquitous crying toddler video online. It’s easy to view Bieber as a new incarnation of a mall-generated star like, say, Aaron Carter, but he’s actually more akin to an early-career Michael Jackson — a youth with estimable musical talent, including songwriting (he has co-writing credits on all 10 songs here), who’s taken under wing by a proven starmaker, in this case Usher, who beat out Justin Timberlake in the Bieber bidding war. “My World 2.0” is lushly produced pop ’n soul, with songs that occasionally sound a bit too mature to be coming out of Bieber’s mouth (“Let me show you what you’re missin’/Paradise/You’re with me winning, girl”) but mostly offer various permutations of puppy love or brokenhearted pining that give him a chance to show off the hint of a soulful wail he’s developed since his first hits caused all that ruckus on YouTube. The best thing here is “U Smile,” a gentle confection with a chorus melody tailor-made for slumber party singalongs. Sean Kingston outclasses Bieber on “Eenie Meenie,” but Ludacris dials down for a feature that works on the first single, “Baby.” “Somebody to Love” and “Never Let You Go” are equally easy on the ears, and Bieber even holds his own amidst the halting groove and sophisticated textures of “Runaway Love.” Al Green doesn’t have to sweat, of course. Neither does Michael Jackson’s legacy. But “My World 2.0” has rare and genuine potential, so prepare for more — and maybe even deserving — mania.


Scorpions, “Sting in the Tail” (UMe) **

The veteran German rockers say this is their last album ever, which will certainly be a sting in the hearts of fans who have headbanged to the likes of “Animal Magnetism,” “Blackout” and “Love at First Sting.” The quintet is going out on a nostalgic note, at least, from the opening “Raised On Rock,” which recasts “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (and even references it in the lyrics), through big-beat anthems such as “The Spirit of Rock” and “Slave Me” and power ballads like “The Good Die Young” (with Finnish singer Tarja Turunen), “Sly” and “The Best is Yet to Come.” “Rockzone” offers a touch of psychedelic blues, but this is mostly familiar fare and will have to tide fans over — at least until the inevitable reunion.

New & Noteworthy:

Mose Allison, “Way of the World” (Anti-): Rochester Adams grad Joe Henry was the force behind the octogenarian blues and jazz singer’s first new album in 13 years, and his first to feature a duet with daughter and fellow singer Amy Allison.

Andrew W.K., “Close Calls with Brick Walls” (Steev Mike): The Ann Arbor-raised “Party Hard” rocker delivers a new version of his 2006 album, which was released in Japan and Korea first, with only limited distribution on these shores. He’s added a second CD of rarities, “Mother of Mankind,” to the mix.

Joe Bonamassa, “Black Rock” (J&R): For his 10th album, the guitar wiz brings in B.B. King for a duet on Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” and also covers songs by Jeff Beck, Leonard Cohen, Otis Rush, John Hiatt and others.

Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova, “One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels” (Saddle Creek): The two Nebraska bands revisit their 2004 EP project, adding four brand new songs to the mix.

Bettie Serveert, “Pharmacy of Love” (Second Motion): The ninth outing by this Dutch quartet comes after a digital EP, “Deny All,” released earlier this year.

The Bird and the Bee, “Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates” (Blue Note): The duo of Inara George (Lowell’s daughter) and Greg Kurstin play a little rock ’n soul on the first of a series of tribute albums they plan.

The Deadly Syndrome, “Nolens Volens” (self-released): The Los Angeles buzz band takes the digital route for its second album.

Dillinger Escape Plan, “Option Paralysis” (Season of Mist): The avant garde hard rockers welcome a new member, drummer Billy Rymer, into the fold for its fourth studio album.

Drink Up Buttercup, “Born and Thrown on a Hook” (Yep Roc): Fourteen songs populate this full-length debut by the Beatleesque Philadelphia pop quartet.

Goldfrapp, “Head First” (Mute): The British electronic duo’s fifth studio album has already blasted off thanks to its first single, “Rocket.”

Dave Holland Octet, “Pathways” (Dare2 Record): The bandleader and former Miles Davis cohort debuts his new eight-piece ensemble.

Sonya Kitchell, “Convict of Conviction” (429): A jaunt touring with Herbie Hancock kept singer-songwriter Kitchell busy, but she still managed to hit the studio for this six-song EP to tide fans over until her next full-length album.

Monica, “Still Standing” (J): The singer/actress/reality TV star’s sixth album is stocked with guest collaborators, including Ludacris, Missy Elliott and Jazmine Sullivan.

Coco Montoya, “I Want It All Back” (Ruf): Keb’ Mo’ co-produced the latest outing by the blues guitarist, which nods to Motown with covers of the Marvelettes’ “Forever” and Mary Wells’ “The One Who Really Loves You.”

Neon Trees, “Habits” (Mercury): The debut album by the Porvo, Utah, quartet and Killers compatriots.

Pet Shop Boys, “Pandemonium Live” (Astralwerks): A CD/DVD document of the synthpop duo’s December 2009 show at London’s O2 arena.

Radar Brothers, “Illustrated Garden” (Merge): The sixth album by the indie rock group from Los Angeles — who, by the way, are not siblings.

She and Him, “Volume Two” (Merge): The team of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward penned 11 original songs for their sophomore release, adding covers of NRBQ’s “Ridin’ in My Car” and Skeeter Davis’ “Gonna Get Along Without You Now.”

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, “Rise & Shine” (Cumbancha): Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin produced this sophomore album from the film-documented group formed in refugee camps in Guinea during their homeland’s civil war.

Snoop Dogg, “More Malice: Deluxe Album and Movie” (Priority): A mish-mash from the superstar MC, blending five songs from last year’s “Malice N Wonderland” with five new songs and two remixes, plus a mini-movie featuring cameos by Jamie Foxx, Nisey Russell, Xzibit and more.

Social Code, “Rock ’n Roll” (Fifth Season Music): The Canadian quartet’s U.S. debut delivers exactly what the title claims, no more or less.

Various Artists, “The Runaways — Music From the Motion Picture” (Atlantic): Stars Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart deliver their own takes of the notorious all-female band’s songs, alongside the real thing and cuts from the MC5, the Stooges and David Bowie.

From the Vaults: Chuck Berry, “Have Mercy: His Complete Chess Recordings (1969-1974)” (Hip-O Select); Disturbed, “The Sickness: 10th Anniversary Edition” (Reprise); Jack’s Mannequin, “The Glass Passenger Deluxe Edition” Elvis Presley, “On Stage February 1970: Legacy Edition” (RCA/Legacy); Paul Revere & the Raiders, “Complete Columbia Singles” (Collector’s Choice); Saliva, “Greatest Hits: Moving Forward in Reverse” (Island); Sum 41, “All Killer No Filler: 10th Anniversary Edition” (Island); Various Artists, “Live at Knebworth” (Eagle Rock); The Who, “Greatest Hits Live” (Geffen)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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