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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Evanescence, Joe Jonas and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011

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**1/2 stars

“Hello, hello, remember me?” Evanescence’s Amy Lee asks on “What You Want,” the first single and opening track from the band’s third album. She certainly has reason to wonder; it’s been five years since we last heard from Lee and company, a period during which she got married, the band roster changed again and former compatriots from the lineup that made 2003’s mega-platinum “Fallen” tried its luck with a different singer under the moniker We Are the Fallen. So quite a bit has happened, but not so much to the Evanescence sound; the 12 tracks here – crafted with producer Nick Raskulinecz after earlier sessions will Steve Lillywhite and Will “Science” Hunt were abandoned – still reside in the dramatic, heavily orchestrated, gothy angst that’s Lee’s stock in trade, her emotive vocals soaring and twisting through the epic arrangements. She laments that she “will never find a way to heal my soul” and that “I have nothing left, and all I feel is this cruel wanting” – and sells it as if her life depended on it amidst metallic guitar crunch and thundering swells of sound on tracks such as “Made of Stone,” “The Other Side,” the Eastern-tinged “Sick” and the droney “End of the Dream.” “What You Want” offers a slightly more techno-tinged groove, while “Never Go Back” and “Erase This” drive at a faster gait that nicely counters the more leaden tempos of the rest of the album. “Swimming Home,” meanwhile, ends things on a quieter and even positive note, assuring us that a measure of peace has been found during the tumult of the previous years.


Joe Jonas, “Fastlife”(Hollywood) **

Given his track record of high-profile, seemingly love ‘em and leave ‘em relationships with Taylor Swift, Camilla Belle, Ashley Green and others, Joe Jonas seems like the last guy who should be promising undying love and dedication. But that’s just what he does in “All This Time” and “Just in Love” -- the first track and first single, respectively, of his debut solo album. Mostly, however, the middle Jonas brother spends his “Fastlife” time in the club, come-hithering his way through synth-laden productions by hitmakers Nate “Danja” Hills and Rob Knox, as well as a couple of intriguing co-writers (Chris Brown and Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt) and a Lil Wayne cameo on the “Just in Love” remix. The techy title track cooks a bit and “Love Slayer” has some real four-on-the-floor drive, but this is largely pro-forma dance-pop fare -- meaning he shouldn’t plan on abandoning his day job with his brothers just yet.

New & Noteworthy:

Ryan Adams, “Ashes & Fire” (PAX-AM/Capitol): The Americana standard bearer takes a quieter, gentler tone on his latest solo album, with Norah Jones and Tom Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench guesting.

Lauren Alaina, “Wildflower” (19/Interscope/Mercury Nashville): The “American Idol” runner-up`s debut features a dozen country songs. Previous “Idol” champ “Carrie Underwood co-wrote the track “Eighteen Inches.”

B-52’s, “The Wild Crowd: Live in Athens Ga” (Eagle Rock): The rock lobsters return to the love shack of their home town for their first-ever live album, recorded this past February.

Bjork, “Biophilia” (One Little Indian): The Icelandic singer/auteur taps into the theorized bond between humans and other living systems on her first album since 2007.

DJ Drama, “Third Power” (Aphilliates/eOne): The popular producer and remixer gets help on his third album from Wiz Khalifa, Roscoe Dash, Fabolous and more.

Electric Six, “Heartbeats and Brainwaves” (Metropolis): The durable Detroit group pulls out the synthesizers again for the spirited dance rock that made a name for the group in the first place.

Erasure, “Tomorrow’s World” (mute): The veteran electronic pop duo teams with hot dance producer Frankmusik on its first new album in more than four years.

Five Finger Death Punch, “American Capitalist” (Prospect Park): The Los Angeles headbangers could not have picked a more timely title and theme for their third studio album.

Peter Gabriel, “New Blood” (EMI): The former Genesis frontman’s orchestral tour to support his 2010 album “Scratch My Back” inspired these new recordings of favorites such as “Solsbury Hill,” “Red Rain,” “Don’t Give Up” and more.

Johnny Gill, “Still Winning” (Notifi/Fontana): The New Edition member steps out on his own again with his first solo album in 15 years.

John Wesley Harding, “The Sound of His Own Voice” (Yep Roc): Members of R.E.M., the Decemberists and the Minus Five, along with Rosanne Cash and Laura Veirs, help the British-born musician and novelist on his new set.

Mayer Hawthorne, “How Do You Do” (Universal Republic): The Ann Arbor-raised singer recorded most of his second album in Detroit, with guest appearances by Snoop Dogg and former Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey.

Hunter Hayes, “Hunter Hayes” (Atlantic Nashville): The hit single “Storm Warning” has put some buzz on the debut album from this 20-year-old country singer and songwriter.

Joe Henry, “Reverie” (Anti-): Producer/artist and Rochester Adams grad Henry cranks up the volume a bit for his latest release.

Marketa Irglova, “Anar” (Anti-): The Czechoslovakian-born female half of the Swell Season steps out on her own with her very first solo album.

Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, “Gift Horse” (Vanguard): The fifth album from the Massachusetts rock quartet.

Martina McBride, “Eleven” (Republic Nashville): The country singer co-produced her 11th album (get it?) and also covers the Train song “Marry Me” in addition to her originals.

James Morrison, “The Awakening” (Island): The soulful British singer’s third album draws inspiration from the death of his father as well as the birth of Morrison’s own daughter since his last album came out in 2008.

Radiohead, “Tkol Rmx 1234567” (TBD): A new collection of 19 remixes from the British group’s 12-inch vinyl series.

Rich Robinson, “Through a Crooked Sun” (Circle Sound/Thirty Tigers): The Black Crowes guitarist returns to the solo realm while the group takes another hiatus.

Michael Schenker, “Temple of Rock” (Inakustik): The German guitar hero’s latest outing features guest appearances by fellow rock vets Leslie West, Carmine Appice, Chris Slade and...William Shatner (!).

William Shatner, “Seeking Major Tom” (Cleopatra): The “Star Trek” star loads up on the dilithium crystal for a set of classic rock covers aided by Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Winter, Brad Paisley and more.

Britney Spears, “B in the Mix: The Remixes, Vol. 2” (RCA): The pop diva culls together remixes of songs from her last three albums, plus “3” from “The Singles Collection” in 2009.

Nick Swisher, “Believe” (ABKCO): The New York Yankees star plays children’s music on this charity album. Here’s hoping he has a long off-season to promote it.

Various Artists, “ZZ Top: A Tribute From Friends” (Show Dog-Universal): Nickelback, Wolfmother, Daughtry and the all-star M.O.B. led by Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood are part of this salute to the long-lived and long-bearded Texas rock trio.

Dale Watson & the Texas Two, “The Sun Sessions” (Red House): The Alabama singer-guitarist hits legendary Sun Studios in Memphis to get a more authentic rockabilly sound for his 14 new originals.

Wednesday 13, “Calling All Corpses” (self-released): The Murderdolls member takes another solo turn on this new set of horror rock.

Rachael Yamagata, “Chesapeake” (Frankenfish): The singer-songwriter used fan donations to finance her first studio album in three years.

From The Vaults: James Brown, “Singles 11: 1979-1981” (Hip-O Select); Johnny Cash, “Bootleg Volume 3: Live Around the World” (Columbia/Legacy); Ray Charles, “Blues Before Sunrise,” “Blues is My Middle Name” (both Pazzazz); Ben Folds, “The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective” (Epic/Legacy); Judas Priest, “The Chosen Few” (Sony Legacy); Nina Simone, “Mood Indigo” (Atom); The Two Things in One, “Together Forever: The Music City Sessions” (Omnivore)

Soundtracks: Harry Belafonte, “Sing Your Song: The Music” (Sony Music Masterworks); Mark Isham, “Dolphin Tale” (Varese Sarabande); Original Off-Broadway Cast, “Death Takes a Holiday” (P.S. Classics); Various Artists, “A.N.T. Farm” (Walt Disney); Various Artists, “Drive” (Lakeshore); Various Artists, “Janie Jones” (Nettwerk); Various Artists, “Norman” (Mom+Pop)

Holiday Albums: Tony Bennett, “The Classic Christmas Album” (Columbia/Legacy); Joey + Rory, “Farmhouse Christmas” (Sugar Hill); Mannheim Steamroller, “Christmas Symphony” (American Gramaphone)

New Music DVDs: Cream, “Royal Albert Hall London 2005” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); Peter Gabriel, “New Blood Live in London” (Eagle Rock); Iggy & the Stooges, “Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans” (MVD)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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