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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Diana Ross, Coco Montoya and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, January 15, 2007

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Diana Ross, “I Love You” (Manhattan/EMI) **

She may not necessarily love all of what’s in “Dreamgirls,” the hit musical-turnedmovie about her Supremes past, but Diana Ross surely welcomes the extra hype it provides for her fi rst new album since 1999. With a title like “I Love You,” she’s obviously not recounting romantic turmoil, but rather, with the assistance of producers Peter Asher and Steve Tyrell, dipping into some of her favorite love songs from the pop and R&B worlds. The familiarity quotient is high, but the fact is that the Motown diva, while not a songwriter herself, has such a unique voice that she’s always done best with songs that have been written for her rather than interpreting existing works. That makes “I Love You” a mixed — and mostly mellow — bag, with nothing that really stands out as a definitive cover, although Asher and Tyrell deserve props for not loading the arrangements up with lush trappings. It’s nice to hear Ross sing deeper and with more body on an otherwise tepid arrangement of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful,” but she doesn’t possess the kind of ethereal sexiness to sell Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” or to carry the sultry sway of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “The Look of Love.” The uptempo selections — the Spiral Staircase’s “More Today Than Yesterday” and the Drifters’ “This Magic Moment” — are OK but lightweight, and the Platters’ “Only You” is slowed to an absolutely somnolent pace. Ross does do a nice job on the Beatles’ “I Will” and Jackie Wilson’s “To Be Loved” (written by ex-beau and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.), but even those aren’t quite enough to make “I Love You” a comeback to embrace.


Coco Montoya, “Dirty Deal” (Alligator) ***

No relation to Inigo Montoya, Mandy Patinkin’s swashbuckling character in “The Princess Bride,” this former Albert Collins drummer wields a guitar like a sword — and a sharp one at that. His sixth solo album — produced by Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and featuring several members of the band as guests — slashes through Latin fl avors, R&B melodies and New Orleans rhythms, as well as straight-up blues, with fi erce takes on “Ain’t No Brakeman,” Lowell Fulson’s “It’s All Your Fault” and Otis Rush’s “It Takes Time,” as well as an aching rendition of Johnny Copeland’s “It’s My Own Tears.” This is one “Deal” where being a little “Dirty” is a virtue.

New and noteworthy

America, “Here & Now”

(Burgundy 5) — A gaggle of modern rockers, including Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket, Nada Surf and producers Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins, A Perfect), salute America on the duo’s latest, delayed release.

Crowded House, “Farewell to the World”

(Capitol) — The Down Under trio’s final performance still sounds sublime more than a decade later.

Al Green, “Defi nitive Greatest Hits” (Capitol) — Even a nondefinitive set from Green is great, so this 21-song grouping can’t help but please.

The Holmes Brothers, “State of Grace” (Alligator) — The sibling trio blend blues and gospel with help from Rosanne Cash, Larry Camp bell and The Band’s Levon Helm, in his first recording since overcoming throat cancer.

Stacie Orrico, “Beautiful Awakening”

(Virgin) — The Grammy-nominated R&B and gospel singer returns from a three-year break, during which she spent time working as a waitress.

Frank Sinatra, “Romance: Songs From the Heart” (Capitol) — The Chairman bats his ol’ blue eyes on this set of 21 amorous favorites.

The Skids, “Saints Are Coming: The Best of the Skids” (EMI) — It’s a cash-in on the U2/Green Day cover of “Saints,” but it’s still a worthwhile opportunity to spend some time with this largely overlooked Scottish punk group.

The Smithereens, “Meet the Smithereens!”

(Koch) — A track-by-track tribute to the Beatles’ fi rst U.S. release, with love from them to you.

Stars of Track and Field, “Centuries Before Love and War” (Wind-Up) — The Portland modern rock trio’s debut goes into wide release after a couple months run at indie and online outlets.

The Stranglers, “Suite XVI” (Capitol/EMI) — The British punk veterans live on, with 11 new tracks on their 16th studio album.

The Wyrd Sisters, “Wholly” (Wyrd Sisters) — The fourth album from the Canadian folk trio that kicked up a fuss about the rock band (the Weird Sisters) in “Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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