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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Carly Simon, L-Tunes and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2006

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Carly Simon, “Into White” (Columbia) **

Carly Simon might actually be flattered if listeners fall asleep listening to this one. For the follow-up to 2005’s Grammy-nominated standards collection “Moonlight Serenade,” Simon takes on a set of traditional lullabies — among them, “Hush Little Baby,” “My Bonnie,” “I Gave My Love a Cherry (The Riddle Song)” and “You Are My Sunshine” — as well as nap-time arrangements of songs by the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Judy Garland and ex-husband James Taylor, among others. The results are mixed and, well, a little sleepy, but there are enough successes amidst the subtleties to keep this from being a complete snooze. One of those is the Everly Brothers coupling of “Devoted to You” and “All I Have to Do is Dream,” an inventive melodic combination that’s both soothing and stimulating. Simon adds a light polyrhythm and nice fl ute touches to Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna,” and Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes” becomes a family affair with harmonies by the couple’s children, Ben and Sally Taylor. Simon’s own songs are standouts, too. “Quiet Evening” is folky track with more harmonies from son Ben; while her new version of “Love of My Life,” originally done for the 1992 film “This is My Life,” has a stately, madrigal tone that complements the rest of the album. “Over the Rainbow” and “Scarborough Fair” are handled faithfully, but her slowed-down treatment of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” is far too reserved to really take fl ight, while the reggae touches on the Harry Belafonte-popularized “Jamaican Farewell” are a bit too understated. Then again, if they put you to sleep that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?


Various Artists, “L-Tunes: Music From and Inspired by ‘The L-Word’ ” (Twist/Columbia) ***

The companion piece to the forthright and controversial Showtime series is a convincing display of “chick power” both fresh and familiar. Established hits by Fiona Apple (“Sleep to Dream”) and PJ Harvey (“Down by the Water”) sit well alongside upstarts such as Kirsten Price (“Magic Time”), Prototypes (“Je Ne Te Connais Pas”), the Cliks (“Complicated”) and Johnny Boy (“Fifteen Minutes”). “L-Tunes” also gives the modern rock crowd a chance to sample the essential Nina Simone on the lusty blues of “Do I Move You,” and BETTY (a band) acquits itself well on the playful double entendres of “Barnyard.”

New and noteworthy:

DJ Hell, “Misch Masch, Vol. 3” (Fine) — A new set of grooves form the German electronic spinmeister.

Unwritten Law, “Hit List” (Rocket Science) — The “Seein’ Red” quintet from California makes its break from the major label world by re-recording 14 of its songs and dropping a pair of new ones in for good measure.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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