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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Lady Antebellum, Alice Cooper and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2011

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Lady Antebellum

“Own the Night”

Capitol Nashville

**1/2 stars

Lady Antebellum certainly comes into its third album with a head of steam. The country trio’s 2010 effort “Need You Now” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, going triple platinum and snagging five Grammy Awards. And “Own the Night” already has a platinum single in its quiver with “Just a Kiss.” You’d think the group would be kicking up its heels a bit, but “Own the Night” is a decidedly soft, gentle and even dour affair, dominated by songs about lost love (curious since Lady A’s lady Hillary Scott announced her engagement this summer) and string-laden ballads clearly aimed at the heartstrings tugged by “Need You Now” — and particularly by its chart-topping title track. “Just a Kiss” in particular follows that mold, with Scott and Charles Kelley trading vocals and a big, lush bridge that sweeps the tune into a dramatic crescendo. There’s lots more where that came from, too, in tracks such as “Wanted You More,” “As You Turn Away” and “Heart of the World.” Lady A — which co-wrote 10 of the 12 tracks — is selling subtleties this time out, whether it’s the mandolin jangle of “We Owned the Night” or the smooth twang pushing the sentimental “Dancin’ Away With My Heart,” the Celtic flavor at the end of “Cold as Stone” or the easygoing country soul of “Singing Me Home.” “Friday Night,” one of the outside contributions, is the set’s lone rocker, melding guitar power chords with a plucky banjo tattoo and some frisky lyrical metaphors. There’s a great deal of craft and melodic sophistication at work here, but in raising one bar Lady A lost some of the breezy fun that marked its first two releases.


Alice Cooper, “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” (Bigger Picture/UME) *** stars

The Detroit-born shock rocker’s long-in-coming sequel to his 1975 concert album could have easily turned into a gimmick, but is instead one of the best releases of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career. With Bob Ezrin, an integral part of Cooper’s ’70s successes, back on board, this “Nightmare” is a dream combination of eclectic songs and key contributors, including the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band, longtime cohorts Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner and guests Vince Gill (on “A Runaway Train”) and Ke$ha (“What Baby Wants”). Highlights of the conceptually solid set include the biting riff-rocker “Caffeine,” the Rolling Stones homage “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” the chunky glam rock of “Ghouls Gone Wild,” the anthemic “The Congregation” and the Tom Waits-styled “Last Man on Earth.” All of that makes for a “Nightmare” you’re in no hurry to wake up from.

New & Noteworthy

Anthrax, “Worship Music” (Megaforce): The veteran headbangers’ first new album in eight years also marks the return of frontman Joey Belladonna after a 21-year absence.

Katy B, “On a Mission” (Columbia): The debut album from the new British pop sensation rolls out on these shores after a No. 2 April debut in her homeland.

The Bangles, “Sweetheart of the Sun” (Model Music Group): The ’80s hitmakers celebrate their 30th anniversary by regrouping for their first new album since 2003.

Blind Pilot, “We Are the Tide” (Expunged): The Portland, Ore., indie folk-pop duo has grown into a full band, with songs that reflect that, for its second album.

Blitzen Trapper, “American Goldwing” (Sub Pop): The sixth studio album from the rootsy Americana quintet from Portland, Ore.

Blondie, “Panic of Girls” (Eleven Seven): The New Wave troupe’s first set of new music since 2003 is an Amazon.com exclusive that features guest guitar work from the Cars’ Elliot Easton.

Bush, “The Sea of Memories” (Zuma Rock/E1): The British hard rockers’ first studio set in 10 years features two new members and a first-time collaboration with hitmaking producer Bob Rock.

Kristin Chenoweth, “Some Lessons Learned” (Sony Masterworks): Best known for her acting, Chenoweth shows she’s a country girl at heart on her fourth album.

The Devil Wears Prada, “Dead Throne” (Ferret): The Dayton, Ohio, headbangers’ fourth studio album was co-produced by Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage.

Dream Theater, “A Dramatic Turn of Events” (Roadrunner): The prog metal group’s 11th studio album introduces new drummer Mike Mangini, who replaced Mike Portnoy in 2010, as well as four new epics that weigh in at more than 10 minutes.

Foreigner, “Feels Like the First Time” (Razor & Tie): The enduring rockers’ latest set includes both acoustic and newly recorded electric covers of the group’s hits, as well as a concert DVD.

The Gourds, “Old Mad Joy” (Vanguard): The Texas Americana troupe’s latest release was recorded by Bob Dylan cohort Larry Campbell and recorded at Levon Helm Studios in upstate New York.

JJ Grey & Mofro, “Brighter Days” (Alligator): A CD/DVD set documenting the in-concert potency of these funk-soul (and rock) brothers.

Mason Jennings, “Minnesota” (Stats & Brackets/Thirty Tigers): The Hawaiian-born, Pittsburgh-raised singer-songwriter named his ninth album “Minnesota” as a metaphor — not because he’s a Twins or Vikings fan.

Ladytron, “Gravity the Seducer” (Nettwerk): The British electropop quartet takes a thematic course on its fifth album, which has been preceded by the singles “White Elephant,” “Ambulance” and “Mirage.”

Nick Lowe, “The Old Magic” (Yep Roc): Paul Sexsmith, Paul Carrack and Jimmie Vaughan guest on the revered British troubadour’s first release in more than four years.

Madina Lake, “World War III” (Razor & Tie): The heavy rockers from Chicago return to active duty after bassist Matthew Leone suffered near-fatal injuries in 2010.

Laura Marling, “A Creature I Don’t Know” (Ribbon Music): The award-winning British songstress teams once again with producer Ethan Johns on her third album.

Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton, “... Play the Blues — Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center” (Reprise): This 10-song chronicle of the duo’s 2010 shows in New York includes a rendition of Clapton’s “Layla” and guest appearances by Taj Mahal.

Mates of State, “Mountaintops” (Barsuck): The Lawrence, Kan., pop group’s sixth album comes after a pair of 2010 appearances on “Yo Gabba Gabba.”

Primus, “Green Naugahyde” (Prawn Songs/ATO): The avant rock trio’s first studio set in 11 years marks the return of short-lived early drummer Jay Lane.

Reckless Kelly, “Good Luck & True Love” (No Big Deal): The Austin, Texas-based country-rock troupe returns to its own music after 2010’s tribute to songwriter Pinto Bennett.

Saves the Day, “Daybreak” (Razor & Tie): The Princeton, N.J., modern rockers introduce a pair of new members and a five-part title track suite on its seventh studio album.

Spyro Gyra, “A Foreign Affair” (Amherst): The jazz group continues its exploration of international sounds, with Keb’ Mo’ appearing on one of the three vocal tracks.

Staind, “Staind” (Atlantic): The Massachusetts hard rockers nearly broke up during the making of their seventh album, chronicling the schism on a documentary that comes with deluxe editions of the set.

Trombone Shorty, “For True” (Verve Forecast): The New Orleans horn player welcomes guests Kid Rock, Jeff Beck, Lenny Kravitz, Ledisi, various Neville Brothers and others on his latest funky foray.

Umphrey’s McGee, “Death By Stereo” (ATO): The Notre Dame-formed jam band’s sixth studio album is its first for the Dave Matthews co-owned ATO Records label.

We Came as Romans, “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be” (Equal Vision): The Troy-based modern hard rock sextet gets back with producer Joey Sturgis, who helmed its 2009 debut “To Plant a Seed.”

Soundtacks: Various Artists, “Boardwalk Empire Volume 1: Music From the HBO Original Series” (Elektra Asylum); Various Artists, “Grey’s Anatomy Original Soundtrack Volume 4” (Chop Shop/Atlantic)

From The Vaults: Basia, “From Newport to London: Greatest Hits Live & More” (E1); Shirley Brown, “Woman To Woman” (Stax); The Dramatics, “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” (Stax); Jimi Hendrix, “Hendrix in the West,” “Winterland” (Experience Hendrix/Legacy); Meat Loaf, “Essential Meat Loaf” (Epic/Legacy); Laura Nyro, “Essential Laura Nyro” (Columbia/Legacy); Todd Rundgren, “(Re)Production” (Gigatone); Bob Seger, “Live Bullet” and “Nine Tonight” (Capitol/EMI); Phil Spector, “The Essential Phil Spector” (Phillies/Legacy); George Strait, “Icon”’ (MCA Nashville/UMe); Rufus Thomas, “Do the Funky Chicken” (Stax); Hank Williams, “The Legend Begins” (Time Life)

New Music DVDs: Jimi Hendrix, “Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight” and “Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show” (Experience Hendrix/Legacy); “Hesher” (Lionsgate); The Pretenders, “Loose in L.A.” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); Procol Harum, “Live at Union Chapel” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); Paul Rogers & Friends, “Live at Montreux 1994” (Eagle Rock); The Supremes, “The Best of the Supremes on the Ed Sullivan Show” (UMe); The Temptations, “The Best of the Temptations on the Ed Sullivan Show” (UMe); Various Artists, “Motown Gold from the Ed Sullivan Show” (UMe); Yes, “Symphonic Live” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray)

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