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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Gorillaz, Ben Waters and more...

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2011

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“The Fall”



It would have been enough of Gorillaz had just played shows -- and they were jaw-dropping ones -- during its fall 2010 trek through North America. But the ostensibly “cartoon” group brainchild of Blur’s Damon Albarn and comic artist Jamie Hewlett decided to fill its spare time making the collective’s third album -- on an iPad, using an assortment of apps, no less. It could easily have been a gimmick, but instead “The Fall” is another cohesive and accomplished entry in Gorillaz catalog, not as epic as its predecessors but still boasting all the imaginative and experimental hallmarks that have marked those other albums and an open, breathing quality that serves the music well. Released first to fan club members and streamed on the group’s web site in December, “The Fall” is an aural travelogue of songs inspired by Gorillaz’s travels, with specific locations name-check in titles -- including the techno-flavored “Detroit,” the spacey “Shy-town,” a funked-up “The Snake in Dallas,” the balladic “Amarillo” and the burping, synth-driven opener “Phoner to Arizona.” The album is lighter on big-name guests than Gorillaz’s other releases, but Clash alumni Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, who were part of the touring party, drop in on “HillBilly [cq] Man” and “Aspen Forest,” respectively, and Bobby Womack gives voice to the acoustic soul tune “Bobby in Phoenix.” Other highlights are the aggressive and abrasive “The Joplin Spider,” the wobbly industrial waltz of “The Parish of Space Dust” and “Revolving Doors,” a genuinely pretty slice of ethereal shimmer accented by ukulele. Gorillaz have certainly made the most of the studio in the past, but “The Fall” shows its creativity is not merely a product of that space.


Ben Waters, “Boogie 4 Stu: A Tribute to Ian Stewart” (Eagle) ***

The fact that many of you may ask “Who’s Ian Stewart” is exactly the reason for this album to exist. Besides one of the best boogie-woogie pianists on the British music scene, Stewart was a founding Rolling Stone who was cast aside for not being pretty enough but remained as an adjunct musician, tour manager and de facto sixth member. So fellow pianist Ben Waters’ salute to Stewart, who died in 1985, appropriately reunites the Stones’ 1975-92 lineup -- with Bill Wyman back on bass -- for a pumping version of Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow,” while guitarist Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts (who plays with Waters in the A, B, C & D of Boogie Woogie band, each appear on several other tracks. PJ Harvey joins Waters for a smokey take on Ray Charles’ “Lonely Avenue,” and Jools Holland plays dual piano on three songs, while Stewart himself is heard on a closing rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Consider this an essential education.

New & Noteworthy

Tab Benoit, “Medicine” (Telarc International): The Louisiana guitar wiz wrote seven new songs with Anders Osborne for his seventh album, on which he also plays one of B.B. King’s famed Lucille instruments.

Blackfield, “Welcome to My DNA” (Snapper/Kscope): Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson and Israeli rocker Aviv Geffen get together for a third time on another set of pro-leaning material.

Kimberly Caldwell, “Without Regret” (Vanguard/Capitol): The debut album from the second season “American Idol” finalist and TV Guide Network personality includes songs by Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger and former “Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi.

Cam’ron & Vado, “Gunz N’ Butta” (eOne): The rapper and Dipset frontman teamed with protege Vado for their first collaborative outing.

Dengue Fever, “Cannibal Courtship” (Fantasy): The genre-blending CAlifornia group continues its globe-trotting ways with songs sung in Khmer (Cambodian) as well as English.

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, “Unida Cantina” (Thirty Tigers): The Arizona quartet’s sixth studio album finds the frontman taking stock of life in his early 40s, though it’s one of the group’s hardest rocking sets to date.

“Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers” (Columbia): The popular TV franchise spins off a disc from its “other” vocal troupe, including covers of songs by Destiny’s Child, Train, Wings, Katy Perry, Barbra Streisand and Rod Stewart. Will it ever end...!?

Richard X. Heyman, “Tiers/And Other Stories” (Turn-Up): The veteran underground rocker’s latest is a two-CD, 31-song set that was actually conceived as two separate but complementary albums.

Laura Kahle, “Circular” (Dark Key Music): The trumpeter and wife of drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts makes her debut as a bandleader, with help from her husband, Chilean vocalist Cluadia Acuna and vibraphonist Monte Croft.

Duff McKagan’s Loaded, “The Taking” (Eagle Rock): With Velvet Revolver still on hiatus, and after a brief turn with Jane’s Addiction, former Guns N’ Roses bassist McKagan leads his [i]other[/i] band through its third full-length outing.

Steve Miller Band, “Let Your Hair Down” (Space Cowboy/Roadrunner/Loud & Proud): Miller’s second album in as many years continues to covers route of 2010’s “Bingo!,” including tracks from the songbooks of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy and others.

Tracy Nelson, “Victim of the Blues” (Delta Groove Music): The Grammy Award-nominated roots artist’s 26th album includes guest appearances by Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli and John Cowan.

Pendragon, “Passion” (Madfish/Snapper): The ninth album by the veteran British prog-rock outfit.

Bob Schneider, “Perfect Day” (Kirtland): The Austin, Texas singer-songwriter essays on his desire to marry Penelope Cruz and have a baby with Elizabeth Taylor and other unlikely scenarios on his latest album.

Brian Setzer, “Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!”(Surfdog): The Stray Cats guitarist adds banjo to his repertoire on his first all-instrumental album.

The Trews, “Hope & Run” (The Trews): The Toronto rock troupe’s fourth album was co-produced by the Tragically Hip’s Gord Sinclair.

Jeff “Tain” Watts, “Family” (Dark Key Music): The drummer and 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival’s Artist in Residence releases his seventh album as a bandleader, featuring tributes to Pontiac’s Elvin Jones (“Jonesin’ (for Elvin)”) and playwright August Wilson (“Of August Moon”).

From The Vaults: The Kinks -- “Kinks,” “Kinda Kinks,” “Kinks Kontroversy” (all Sanctuary Records)

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