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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Switchfoot, Family Values and more

Posted: Sunday, December 24, 2006

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Switchfoot, “Oh! Gravity” (Columbia) •••

These faith-based San Diego rockers certainly felt the weight of gravity last year, when its gratuitously headbanging “Nothing is Sound,” despite a gold certifi cation, fell far short of the double-platinum mark set by its predecessor, “Beautiful Letdown.” Switchfoot has regrouped, however, wisely re-embracing its pop smarts for a set of solid songcraft that’s the best offering so far in its six-album career. But fear not; the group hasn’t embraced its inner Osmond or anything like that. And songs such as “Awakening,” “American Dream” and the title track — all of which fl aunt social/political messages from frontman Jon Foreman — show that the group still has plenty of muscle in its mix. But variety is the hallmark of this Switchfoot effort, from the trippy ebb and fl ow of “Dirty Second Hand” and “Circles” to the dry, garagey feel of “Amateur Lovers,” the epic New Wavey wash (think Echo & the Bunnymen) of “Head Over Heels (In This Life)” and “Burn Out Bright,” and the non-stop tunefulness of “4:12,” with its delightful dynamic shifts and irresistible bridges and choruses. On the quiet tip, Switchfoot has a lighter-waving hit-in-waiting with the poignant “Yesterdays,” while “Let Your Love Be Strong” closes “Oh! Gravity” on a hopeful note. Foreman may ask “Why can’t we seem to keep it together?” in the title track, but this time out Switchfoot fi nds admirable cohesion in diversity.


Various Artists, “Family Values Tour 2006” (The Firm) ••½

This hodge-podge but potent bit of headbanging is culled from the Boston stop of the Korn-headlined summer package, on which fellow northern California nu rockers deftones provided a heavy hitting onetwo punch at the top of the bill. The real treats are in the collaborations: deftones frontman Chino Moreno recreating the Ice Cube rap on Korn’s “Wicked;” Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor joining the headliner for “Freak on a Leash;” and Filter/Army of Anyone singer Richard Patrick dueting with Flyleaf’s Lacey Mosley on a faithful, albeit heavier, version of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Korn, deftones, Flyleaf and 10 Years acquit themselves well on their own songs, and Deadsy’s acoustic “Carrying Over” provides a bit of calm at the end of the storm.

New and noteworthy

Steven Curtis Chapman, “Now and Then” (Sparrow) — The Christian singer-songwriter follows Christmas with this two-CD set — one of hits and the other of new songs.

DC Talk, “Jesus Freak (10th Anniversary Edition)”

(Forefront) — It’s technically been 11 years, but fans will certainly praise the two-CD version of this landmark Christian rock release.

Enigma, “LSD: Love, Sensuality and Devotion — The Remix Collection”

(Virgin) — Ethereal music that gets that much trippier in this remixed version of the Spanish group’s 2001 greatest hits set.

Gang Starr, “Mass Appeal: The Best of” (Virgin) —A 21-track survey of the groundbreaking rap duo’s career.

Incognito, “Bees + Flowers + Things” (Narada) — An “unplugged”-style album of harmony-laden songs from the British soul/jazz troupe.

Matisyahu, “No Place To Be/Live in Jerusalem”

(Epic) — A CD/DVD follow-up to the Hassidic rapper’s “Youth” album that includes new tracks, remixes and a concert from Jerusalem in December of 2005.

N.W.A., “The Best of N.W.A.: The Strength of Street Knowledge” (Priority) — A thorough overview of the gangsta rap pioneers’ controversial late ’80s/early ’90s run.

Various Artists, “His & Hers” (Thrive) — Oasis, Ryan Adams, Goldfrapp and Nina Simone are among the artists featured on this conceptual “lifestyle” collection put together by fi lm veterans Amanda Scheer Demme and George Augusto.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, “The Ultimate Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Real Deal, Vol. 1” (Epic/Legacy) — Another repackaging of the late Texas guitar legend’s work, but these 16 tracks will put you in anything but a “Rude Mood.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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