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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Herbie Hancock, Ozzy Osbourne and more...

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2010

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Herbie Hancock

“The Imagine Project”

Hancock Records/RED


To say Herbie Hancock’s got the whole world in his hands on the follow-up to 2007’s “River/The Joni Letters” — the surprise winner of the Grammy Award for Best New Album — is no understatement. The venerable jazz keyboardist and “River” producer Larry Klein trekked to some 15 studios in seven countries in order to make a Big Statement about peace, love and cross-cultural understanding on these 10 tracks. They also assembled a guest list with as much firepower as a Grammy ceremony audience. The title track, for instance, finds Pink, Seal, India Arie and Jeff Beck turning the John Lennon song into a rich, Caribbean-flavored chorale, while Hancock trades licks with guitarist Derek Trucks while his wife, Susan Tedeschi, sings lead on a gritty, gospelized take on Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain.” Los Lobos and Canadian rapper K’Naan join the Malian Tuareg troupe Tinariwen on a trancey coupling of the latter’s “Tamatant Tilay” with Bob Marley’s “Exodus,” Dave Matthews delivers an understated but effective performance of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Chaka Khan, Wayne Shorter and Anoushka Shankar are part of the epic, Indian-toned rendition of Klein’s “The Song Goes On.” Other integral contributions are from James Morrison (Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”), Lisa Hannigan, the Chiefains and Toumani Diabate on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’Changin’” and the duo of Pink and John Legend (Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up”). Hancock, meanwhile, holds his own throughout all this as a visionary and pianist, playing just enough to be present but also playing a gracious host to his distinguished guests.


Ozzy Osbourne, “Scream” (Epic) **1/2

It’s not like we haven’t heard the Ozzman say “Let Me Hear You Scream” oh, about a hundred times at every one of his concerts, so having him turn that command into a song — not to mention the lead single from his first solo album in three years — seems like a no-brainer. The good news is there’s a reinvigorated energy to “Scream” that comes from a new corps of players, including Firewind’s Gus G. in place of longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde and Detroit-born drummer Tommy Clufetos (Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie). The fresh blood has certainly goosed Osbourne on a heavyhitting, 11-track set on which he sounds fully engaged and focused, from the opening declaration that “I’m a rock star” to the closing appreciation of his fans’ dedication, “I Love You All” (another frequent concert salutation). Longer tracks such as “Diggin’ Me Down,” “I Want It More” and “Let It Die” recall vintage Black Sabbath’s temposhifting approach, while sludgy grooves bring some muscle to “Soul Sucker” and “Fearless.”

New & Noteworthy

Laurie Anderson, “Homeland” (Nonesuch):

The experimental songstress adds acoustic touches to her usual synthesizers and social commentary, with help form husband Lou Reed.

Norman Brown, “Sending My Love” (Peak): The Kansas City-raised guitarist and former Motown MoJazz artist’s new album includes “Celebrate Me Home,” dedicated to U.S. troops — and specifically his daughter, who’s serving in Iraq.

The Chemical Brothers, “Further” (Astralwerks): The British electronic duo still has plenty of love for its synthesizers and demonstrates it on this psychedelic-flavored eight-track set.

Mark Chesnutt, “Outlaw” (Saguaro Road): The veteran country artist pays homage to the outlaw movement, covering songs by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and their spiritual brethren.

Miley Cyrus, “Can’t Be Tamed” (Hollywood): Miss “I’m not trying to be slutty” goes for a more grown-up sound on this new set, which includes a remake of Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

Danzig, “Deth Red Sabaoth” (The End/Evillive):

The first set of new music by underground metal hero Glenn Danzig and company in six years.

Macy Gray, “The Sellout” (Concord): The idiosyncratic R&B singer’s first release in three years features collaborations with Bobby Brown, Kaz James of the Bodyrockers and hard rockers Velvet Revolver.

Griffin House, “The Learner” (Evening): The singer-songwriter’s fifth full-length album includes harmony vocals by Alison Krauss on “River City Lights.”

Sarah Harmer, “Oh Little Fire” (Zoe/Rounder):

Canadian singer-songwriter Harmer returns from rural seclusion to make her first new album in four years.

Marah, “Life is a Problem” (Valley Farm Songs): The Philadelphia group adds some rootsy and melodic touches to the gritty rock of its previous releases.

Jaron and the Long Road to Love, “Getting Dressed in the Dark” (Jaronwood/ Universal Republic): The debut album by the new band fronted by half of the sibling duo Evan & Jaron.

Cyndi Lauper, “Memphis Blues” (Downtown): The girl just wants to have fun on Beale Street this time, making music with B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, Jonny Lang and other blues and R&B luminaries.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Live From Freedom Hall” (Roadrunner/Loud & Proud):

The Southern rockers’ latest live set hails from a 2007 show in Louisville in tribute to departed members Billy Powell and Ean Evans.

Vince Neil, “Tattoos & Tequila” (Eleven Seven): The Motley Crue frontman covers Aerosmith, Elton John, Cheap Trick, the Sex Pistols and others on his first solo album in 15 years.

Kele Okereke, “The Boxer” (Glassnote): The Liverpoolborn modern rocker goes solo for the first time, though he promises the Block Party is not over.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band, “We Walk This Road” (Warner Bros.): The sacred steel guitar hero’s first studio outing in four years was produced by Grammy-winner T-Bone Burnett and features guests Ben Harper, Leon Russell and Doyle Bramhall III.

The Roots, “How I Got Over” (Def Jam): The socially conscious “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” house band features a batch of guests, including John Legend, the all-star Monsters of Folk and up-andcomers Dice Raw and Phonte.

Paul Thorn, “Pimps and Preachers” (Perpetual Obscurity): The latest outing by the Mississippi singer-songwriter Rolling Stone magazine once dubbed “a Southern-rock Bob Seger.”

The Derek Trucks Band, “Roadsongs” (Sony Masterworks): The sometimes Allman Brothers guitarist and his own band turn in two discs of jams recorded during their 2009 tour.

Uncle Kracker, “Happy Hour: South River Road Sessions” (Top Dog/Atlantic):

The Detroit singer recasts a half-dozen songs from his “Happy Hour” album with a bit more twang, adding good pal Kid Rock for a duet on “Good To Be Me.”

Various Artists, “Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine” (Oh Boy): My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, Josh Ritter and Deer Trick are among the artists paying homage to Prine on this tribute set.

Dweezil Zappa, “Return of the Son Of...” (Razor & Tie): Frank Zappa’s oldest son and his band recreate the patriarch’s music on this two-CD collection.

From The Vaults: Clint Eastwood, “Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites” (ABKCO); The Germs, “Live at the Starwood” (Rhino Handmade); Jackson 5, “Live at the Forum” (Hip-O Select/Motown); Terry Knight & the Pack, “Terry Knight & the Pack”/”Reflections” (ABKCO); Smokey Robinson, “The Solo Albums, Vol. 1” (Hip-O Select); Jimmy Smith, “Respect”/ “Livin’ It Up” (Hip-O Select); Various Artists, “Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1” (ABKCO); Various Artists, “This is the Blues, Volumes 1 & 2” (Eagle Rock).

New Music DVDS:

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Live at Montreux 1997” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); The Moody Blues, “Threshold of a Dream: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); The Rolling Stones, “Stones in Exile” (Eagle Rock).

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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