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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Susan Boyle, Cee-Lo Green and more...

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, November 7, 2010

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Susan Boyle

“The Gift”



Susan Boyle’s British TV talent show notoriety is apparently “The Gift” that keeps on giving. The “Britain’s Got Talent” breakout’s 2009 debut, “I Dreamed a Dream,” has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, even if Boyle herself seemed distressingly too fragile to be a star of that magnitude. Her second shot is a hybrid, some carefully selected pop song covers combined with holiday songs in order to straddle a couple of different constituencies. On the pop we get an animated, orchestral rendering of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” a lush treatment of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and a snoozy version of Leonard Cohen’s ubiquitous “Hallelujah.” The seasonal fare is a bit more interesting, at least: Boyle’s “Aud Lang Syne,” with just spare accompaniment, is a worthy showcase for her voice, while the subtle dynamics of “O Holy Night” and “The First Noel” are form-fitted for quiet nights by the tree and crackling fireplace — and a fair spot better than the formless rendition of “Away in a Manger.” Ultimately, “The Gift” is too much like its predecessor — tame, gentle and genteel, without the sense of dramatic urgency that made Boyle such a sensation when we discovered her. At some point she needs to be unleashed to take on more challenging and especially upbeat material, to pair some personality with her estimable technique to make Boyle an artist rather than merely a singer.


Cee-Lo Green, “The Lady Killer” (Elektra/Roadrunner) ***

It’s been six years since former Goodie Mob member Green released a solo album, but we haven’t missed him thanks to his work in another duo, Gnarls Barkley, and its ubiquitous hit “Crazy.” Green certainly announced his return loudly with the viral sensation “F**k You,” an irresistibly melodic, if obviously profane, slice of pop-soul that certainly shined a spotlight on both Green and “The Lady Killer.” And the album deserves it, blasting forth with buoyant, Motown-worthy hooks and richly orchestrated melodies rooted in the ’60s and ’70s but with contemporaneous spins. “Bright Lights Bigger City” sounds like a lusher version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” while tracks such as “Wildflower,” “Satisfied” and “I Want You” are children of the Curtis Mayfield or Holland-Dozier-Holland songbooks. Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey (“Fool For You”) and Lauren Bennett (“Love Gun”) make guest appearances, but Cee Lo is the star of a set that’s “Killer” without filler.

New & Noteworthy

Alter Bridge, “AB III” (Alter Bridge/Capitol): Creed may be back together, but three-quarters of the band continue with the other group they started after its initial split.

Natasha Bedingfield, “Strip Me” (Phonogenic/Epic): The British singer co-wrote more than 50 songs and enlisted a formidable team of hitmakers for her third studio album.

Buckwheat Zydeco, “Bayou Boogie” (Music For Little People): The accordion master’s second children’s album comes 16 years after his award-winning “Choo Choo Boogaloo.”

Cradle of Filth, “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” (Peaceville): The British headbangers’ ninth studio album is its first without an instrumental track.

Kid Cudi, “Man on the Moon 2: The Legend of Mr. Rager” (Dream On/GOOD/Universal Motown): The Cleveland rapper’s second album features guest appearances by Kanye West, Mary J. Blige and Cee-Lo Green.

The Floacist, “Floetic Soul” (Shanachie): Floetry co-founder Natalie Stewart takes a solo course with help from Lalah Hathaway, Musiq Soulchild and Raheem DeVaughn.

Colin Gilmore, “Goodnight Lane” (self-released): The son of fellow Texas singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore releases his second full-length album, six years after his debut.

The Greenhornes, “****” (Third Man): The trio’s first album in eight years comes after the individual group members worked in the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather.

Gwar, “Bloody Pit of Horror” (Metal Blade): Zombies, carnivores, genocide and necromancers are among the subjects growled about on the Virginia thrash outfit’s latest outing.

Helloween, “7 Sinners” (SPV/Steamhammer): The 15th studio album from the German speed metal quintet.

Quincy Jones, “Q: Soul Bossa Nostra” (QWest): Jones’ first original album in 15 years recasts songs from throughout his career with a stack of guests that includes Usher, Amy Winehouse, T.I., B.o.B, Ludacris, Jamie Foxx, John Legend and many others.

Kevens, “We Are One” (Rumbum): The debut album by Marley family friend Kevens includes a cover of the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”

Dave Matthews Band, “Live in New York City” (RCA): The latest of the DMB’s many concert recordings preserves its July 2010 gig at New York’s Citi Field.

Reba McEntire, “All the Women I Am” (Starstruck/Valory): The country diva teams with hitmaker Dann Huff to co-produce her 26th studio album.

Motorfik, “Secret Things” (Modern Language): A side project by Working For a Nuclear Free City’s Phil Kay and French songwriter Idrisse Khelifi.

The Ocean, “Anthropocentric” (Metal Blade): The German hard rockers continue to mine socio-religious themes on this companion piece to “Heliocentric,” which came out just seven months ago.

Elvis Presley, “Viva Elvis — The Album” (Legacy): This 12-track companion to the Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas production reinvents The King’s music in a way that will have ardent fans spitting out their peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Underoath, “Disambiguation” (Solid State/Tooth & Nail/Roadrunner): The heavy metalists swap singer-drummer Aaron Gillespie for new member Daniel Davison from Norma Jean on their seventh album.

Various Artists, “Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn” (Columbia): Kid Rock, the White Stripes, Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson and Paramore are among the artists paying homage to Lynn on this set.

Various Artists, “Now 36: That`s What I Call Music” (Capitol): The hit-compiling series includes recent singles by Katy Perry, Adam Lambert, Nelly, Usher, B.o.B. and more.

Cassandra Wilson, “Silver Pony” (Blue Note): The jazz vocalist mixes live and studio tracks with help from guests John Legend and Ravi Coltrane.

Wise-McGraw, “How the Light Gets In” (Red House): The first duo recording in 25 years by tabla player Marcus Wise and guitarist Dean Magraw.

From the Vaults: Syd Barrett, “An Introduction to Syd Barrett” (Capitol/EMI); Bon Jovi, “Greatest Hits” and “Greatest Hits — The Ultimate Collection” (Island); Dio, “At Donnington UK: Live 1983 & 1987” (Niji); Vince Gill, “All American Country” (American Legends); Billy Joel, “The Hits” (Columbia/Legacy); Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan — “In Session” (Stax CD/DVD); Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Damn the Torpedoes (Deluxe Edition)” (Geffen/UMe); Poison, “Nothin` But a Good Time: The Poison Collection” (Capitol); Queensryche, “Empire (20th Anniversary Edition)” (EMI); Blake Shelton, “Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton” (Warner Bros.); 30 Seconds to Mars, “This is War (Deluxe Edition)” (Virgin).

New Music DVDs: Depeche Mode, “Tour of the Universe: Live in Barcelona” (Mute/Reprise); “Rock & Rule (25th Anniversary Edition)” (Unearthed Films); Various Artists, “Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010” (Rhino)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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