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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Amy Winehouse, Black Keys and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, December 4, 2011

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Amy Winehouse

"Lioness: "Hidden Treasures"

Universal Republic


This isn't exactly the planned third album from the late Amy Winehouse. Rather, it's an odds 'n' sods set, but the rare kind of compilation that's more than mere throwaways or unearthings to cash in on some macabre notoriety. As is evident from a couple of the tracks here that date back to 2002, when the British singer was just 19 years old, Winehouse had dazzling pipes and formidable interpretive chops from a young age and a way to make most anything that came out of her mouth -- even this kind of vaulted and unreleased fare -- sound like her own. Doubt it? Check out the jazz scats on her fresh, turbo-charged "Girl from Ipanema" to prove how she could elevate even the most well-worn and hackneyed material. And "Lioness" is loaded with even more illuminating material, such as the original, ballad-styled version of "Tears Dry" from her "Back in Black" album, her toe-to-toe romp with rapper Nas on "Like Smoke," soaring collaborations with producer Mark Ronson and the Dap-Kings on Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and the Zutons' "Valerie," a reggae reworking of Ruby & the Romantics' "Our Day Will Come" and the vibey jazz-soul of "Halftime." One of "Lioness' " tracks, the doo-wop flavored "Between the Cheats," was indeed headed for Winehouse's third album, while her final recording -- the Grammy Award-nominated "Body & Soul" duet with Tony Bennett -- is a welcome inclusion. But the most telling track may be the album-closing rendition of Leon Russell's "Song For You" from 2009; what could have been a plaintive melancholy farewell is, in Winehouse's hands, tough and muscular, a chin-out ode to survival that let's us know Winehouse's music was built to last, even if she wasn't.


The Black Keys, "El Camino" (Nonesuch) ***1/2

The rootsy Akron duo has taken a slow ride to mass notoriety, finally arriving with 2010's "Brothers" and its hit "Tighten Up." Its successor raises the bar another notch, refining the Keys' fruitful relationship with producer Danger Mouse and incorporating even more sonic enhancements such as keyboards and lush backing vocal arrangements. The result is still-gritty garage rock soul that mixes the punky urgency of tracks such as "Lonely Boy," "Money Maker" and Mind Eraser" with greater rhythmic and melodic sophistication on "Hell of a Season," "Little Black Submarines" and the sublime "Stop Stop." This is one musical vehicle that doesn't seem in danger of running out of gas any time soon.

New and Noteworthy:

Chevelle, "Hats Off to the Bull" (Epic): The Bernie Madoff scam inspired "Face to the Floor," the first single from the Chicago trio's sixth album.

Elvis Costello & the Imposters, "The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!!" (Hip-O): This CD/DVD/vinyl document of Costello's spirited recent tour is big fun, but even he has publicly spoken out about its high price tag.

Sean Costello, "At His Best -- Live" (Landslide): A posthumous concert set from the rockin' Philadelphia bluesman who died in 2008 from an accident drug overdose.

Doris Day, "My Heart" (Arwin): The chanteuse's first "new" U.S. album in 17 years mines a couple decades' worth of recording, including material written for her by the Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston and Day's late son Terry Melcher.

The Dead Milkmen, "The King in Yellow" (self-released): The first new studio album in 16 years from the Philadelphia punk rockers, who reunited in 2008 after a 13-year hiatus.

Dia Frampton, "Red" (Universal Republic): The debut solo album from the Meg & Dia alumnus and runner-up from "The Voice."

Glee Cast, "Glee: The Music 7" (Columbia): The TV show's latest compendium covers hits by Adele, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Tom Jones and more.

Lucero, "Mi Secreto De Amor" (Universal Music Latino): The Mexican singer keeps the love light on for her latest Spanish language album.

Korn, "The Path of Totality" (Roadrunner): The headbangers worked with a variety of electronic artists on its 10 studio album, adding dubstep, drum and bass, electro house and other flavors to the sonic mix this time out.

Nils Lofgren, "Old School" (Vision Music): The E Street Band guitarist's first solo album in five years is dedicated to the late Clarence Clemons and features guest appearances by Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm and Sam Moore.

Loves It!, "Yay!" (self-released): Melodic, across-the-board roots music from the Austin, Texas, couple originally hail from West Virginia and Connecticut.

The Maine, "Pioneer" (Action Theory): The Arizona modern rockers came up with more than 40 songs for their third studio album, which they winnowed down to 13 for the finished product.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "The Magic of Youth" (Big Rig): The Boston ska-punk troupe is still pounding away, as big and brassy as ever.

Peter Murphy, "The Secret Bees of Ninth" (Nettwerk): The former Bauhaus frontman follows his return to solo work, "Ninth," with his EP that features four new songs.

Gary Numan, "Dead Son Rising" (Mortal): The British electro rocker's first new album in five years was released during September in his homeland.

Rammstein, "Made in Germany" (Vagrant): The controversial German hard rockers' compilation comes in three different edition, including a disc of remixes and three DVDs.

The Roots, "Undun" (Island Def Jam): The hip-hop troupe's latest effort is a concept piece about a fictional street hood who reviews his life from the Great Beyond. Poignant, powerful and still musically engrossing, even if Michelle Bachmann's not likely to want a copy.

Carl Thomas, "Conquer" (Verve Forecast/UMe): The R&B singer and one time Puff Daddy protege's first new release in four years finds him collaborating with producers Andre Harris, the Internz and Rex Rideout, among others.

T-Pain, "rEVOLVEr" (Nappy Boy/Konvict/RCA): The Florida rapper's fourth studio album boasts a guest list that includes Wiz Khalifa, Lily Allen, Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Chris Brown and Ne-Yo.

Robin Thicke, "Love After War" (Star Trak/Interscope): The smooth-voiced soul man's fifth album includes a Lil Wayne feature on the single "Pretty Lil' Heart."

Various Artists, "Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Volume 4" (Evil Teen): Gov't Mule, Bob Weir & Friends, John Hiatt, Robert Randolph and others appear on this document of Haynes' annual Christmas Jam, with proceeds going to the Asheville, N.C., chapter of Habitat For Humanity.

Various Artists, "This One's For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark" (Icehouse Music): Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, John Prince, Lyle Lovett and Rodney Crowell are among those celebrating Texas singer-songwriter Clark's 70th birthday on this two-CD set of his compositions.

Vektor, "Outer Isolation" (Heavy Artillery/Megaforce): The third album by the thrash metal band from Phoenix.

From The Vaults: Allman Brothers Band, "S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook (Live 9/19/71)," "One Way Out," "Hittin' The Note" (Peach/ABB Recording Company); Craps, "File Under Sacred Music: Early Singles 1978-1981" (Munster); Neil Diamond, "Very Best of Neil Diamond" (Columbia/Legacy); Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Live at the Mar Y Sol Festival '72" (Shout Factory!); Fleetwood Mac, "Preaching the Blues" (RSEC); The JB's and Fred Wesley, "The Lost Album featuring Waltermelon Man" (Hip-O Select); Magnum, "Evolution" (Steamhammer/SPV); Phish, "Hampton/Winston-Salem '97" (JEMP); Various Artists, "Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland Ohio" (Numero)

Soundtracks: Original Cast, "The Burnt Part Boys" (Yellow Sound); William Ross, "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" (Varese Sarabande)

New Holiday Albums: Le'Andria Johnson, "Christmas Best" (Music World Entertainment); Michel Legrand, "Noel! Noel!! Noel!!!" (Verve); Little River Band, "A Little River Band Christmas" (335 Records);

New Music DVDs: Beyonce, "Live at Roseland: The Elements of 4" (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia)

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