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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Kelly Rowland, Joss Stone and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, July 24, 2011

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Kelly Rowland

“Here I Am”

Universal Republic

★★ 1/2

Kelly Rowland’s third solo album has not had an easy time of it. The former Destiny’s Child co-founder (and perennial second-fiddle to groupmate Beyoncé) spent more than two years making “Here I Am,” under a variety of titles and exploring a variety of directions, changing course when a pack of early singles failed to generate much enthusiasm. The resulting 10-track effort does have the feel of being micro-managed, with its something-for-everyone breadth and its cadre of hitmaking producers both traditional (Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, C. “Tricky” Stewart, RedOne, Rico Love) and cutting edge (David Guetta, the Runner, the Wav.s). It also feels more episodic than unified, a collection of songs put together for representation rather than flow. That said, many of the moments are good, whether it’s the slinky “Motivation” with Lil Wayne or the buoyant come-on “Lay It On Me” featuring Detroit rapper Big Sean. “I’m Dat Chick” and “Work It Man” are the album’s requisite dose of “Independent Women” empowerment (“I’m not cocky/I just love myself”). Rowland works the slow jams convincingly on “Feeling Me Right Now,” “All of the Night” and “Keep It Between Us,” but “Here I Am” really shines when she takes it to the club — and especially when she gives herself over to the likes of Guetta on the thumping “Commander” and to a RedOne-led consortium on the album-closing “Down For Whatever,” a dynamic floor-cutter that sweats with a kind of envelope-pushing, adventurous exertion Rowland needs to experiment with more in her music.


Joss Stone, “LP1” (Stone’d/Surfdog) ★★★

British singer Joss Stone has one of those force-of-nature voices that’s the star attraction of whatever she performs — which certainly takes the onus off the material. Fortunately, the 10 songs on “LP1,” Stone’s first outing for her own Stone’d label, measure up and provide rootsy, soulful and even spiritual showcases for those formidable pipes. Recorded in Nashville and produced and co-written by Dave Stewart, Stone’s bandmate (along with Mick Jagger, A.R. Rahman and Damian Marley) in the “supergroup” Super Heavy, “LP1” soars with a spirit of passion and liberation evident from the gospel-flavored opening track, “Newborn” through the slinky funk of “Karma” to “Don’t Start Lying to Me Now” and the bluesy husk of “Landlord.” “Boat Yard” is an emotive, swelling highlight, while “Drive All Night” has an old-school soul lope and “Last One to Know” shows Stone at her torchy best — big, but always in the best interests of the song.

New & Noteworthy

All Shall Perish, “This is Where It Ends” (Nuclear Blast): Alexandre Erian of Despised Icon helps out the deathcore group from Oakland, Calif., on its fourth studio album.

America, “Back Pages” (eOne): The “Horse With No Name” duo covers favorites by James Taylor, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel (“America,” of course) and more.

Black Rob, “Game Tested, Street Approved” (Duck Down Music): The New York rapper gets back into the game after serving four years in jail for grand larceny.

Bodeans, “Indigo Dreams” (429): Group member Kurt Neumann produced the duo’s 10th studio album at his home studio near Austin, Texas.

Vanessa Carlton, “Rabbits on the Run” (Razor & Tie): The Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter returns with her first new album in four years, recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in England.

Eric Church, “Chief” (EMI): Country upstart Church wrote all but one of the 11 songs on his third album, including the single “Homeboy” and his homage to Bruce, “Springsteen.”

iwrestledabearonce, “Ruining It For Everybody” (Century Media): The Louisiana headbangers follow up their 2009 debut with an 11-song set that informs us “Deodorant Can’t Fix Ugly.”

Jasta, “Jasta” (eOne): Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta gets help from Zakk Wylde and members of Lamb of God, All That Remains and As I Lay Dying on this solo outing.

Kindred The Family Soul, “Love Has No Recession” (Shanachie): The fourth studio album from the high-minded (and married) neo-soul duo from Philadelphia.

Little Dragon, “Ritual Union” (Peacefrong): The third album by the Swedish electro-pop quartet that helped out Gorillaz during the interim between albums.

Theophilus London, “Timez Are Weird These Days” (Warner Bros.): The Trinidad-born, Brooklyn-based MC works with a variety of producers on his debut album, as well as guest vocalists Sara Quin (of Tegan & Sara) and Holly Miranda.

Edwin McCain, “Mercy Beyond” (429): The South Carolina troubadour’s 10th album rekindles his creative relationship with singer-songwriter Maia Sharp, which began in 2004.

Ronnie Milsap, “Country Again” (Bigger Picture Music Group): He’s never really left the genre, but Milsap plays up the twang on his latest release.

Randy Montana, “Randy Montana” (Mercury Nashville): Emmylou Harris guests on the debut album from the New York-born son of hitmaking country songwriter Billy Montana.

Release The Sunbird, “Come Back to Us” (Brushfire): Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave steps outside his band for a side project he formed and recorded in Bloomington, Ind.

Dex Romweber Duo, “Is That You in the Blue?” (Bloodshot): The Flat Duo Jets co-founder rolls out a new two-piece with his sister, Sara, playing drums this time.

Roxette, “Charm School” (Capitol/EMI): The Swedish duo’s first new album in a decade finds singer Marie Fredriksson recovered from the brain tumor that sidelined her in 2002.

Rival Sons, “Pressure & Time” (Earache): The Los Angeles blues rockers’ second album comes out at home after charting in the U.K. last month.

Sugarwall, “Full Circle” (10 Cent Millionaire): The lauded Los Angeles modern rock group expands its EP of the same title into a full-length debut album.

Jimmie Vaughan, “More Blues, Ballads and Favorites” (Shout! Factory): The follow-up to his Grammy Award-nominated 2020 set finds the former Fabulous Thunderbird covering more songs by Ray Charles, Nappy Brown, Jimmy Reed, Bobby Charles and more.

Wu-Tang, “Legendary Weapons” (Wu-Tang/eOne): The New York rap collective convenes in various configurations for this 14-track set.

From The Vaults: Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies” (Wounded Bird); Soundtrack, “Family Way” (Varese Sarabande); Roxette, “Greatest Hits” (Capitol/EMI); Mick Taylor, “Mick Taylor” (Iconoclastic); Robin Trower, “Live” (Iconoclastic); T-Bone Walker, “Essential T-Bone Walker Collection” (Rock Beat)

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