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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Adam Lambert, Santana and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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Adam Lambert




Mood swing alert! Adam Lambert spends the first half of his sophomore post-"American Idol" album having the time of his life -- hitting the club, letting his voice dance through the swirling synthesizers and programmed up-beats and amiably going "Cuckoo" and calling for joyful "Naked Love." Eight songs in, though, we hit "Better Than I Know Myself," a heart-wringing apology song whose restrained, ambient verses give way to swelling chorus mea culpas -- and the darkness remains for the better part of the 12-song set as Lambert laments the loneliness of the long-distance "Idol" runnerup and lets us know that "Everybody wants to talk about a freak/No one wants to dig that deep...Still not that easy for me underneath." The sequencing is jarring and knocks "Trespassing" off its stride, turning an ebullient celebration -- featuring collaborations with the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams ("Kickin' In," the title track) and Chic legend Nile Rogers ("Shady") and a Bruno Mars co-write ("Never Close Your Eyes") -- into a pro-forma downer when mixing the moods might have enriched both sides of the emotional coin. Lambert does attempt a bit of social commentary on "Broken English" and "Outlaws of Love," and those who buy "Trespassing's" deluxe edition will find a happy ending as Lambert promises "we can escape to a higher plane" in "Nirvana," the last of the three bonus tracks. But you'll have to wade through a whole lotta pain to get there, and no one can be blamed for bailing on the way.


Santana, "Shape Shifter" (Starfaith)***

Carlos Santana is so fluid and distinctive as a player that it makes the idea of an instrumental album pretty compelling. So after a dozen years of "Supernatural" all-star collaborations we get Santana at its essence on this latest set, showcasing his guitar virtuosity as well as some defining keyboard work from Chester Thompson. Highlights include the aggressive, tribal-flavored title track, the thunderous "Nomad," the polyrhythmic attack of "Macumba in Budapest," Santana's fiery solo on "Canela" and "Mr. Szabo," a jazzy tribute to Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo, whose "Gypsy Queen" was an early Santana hit. The singer may make the song, but "Shape Shifter" shows us that the right player can really make his instrument "sing."

New & Noteworthy:

Beach House, "Bloom" (Sub Pop): The fourth studio album from the Baltimore dream-pop duo was recorded in Texas with previous producer Chris Coady.

Cherri Bomb, "This is the End of Control" (Hollywood): The debut outing by the all-female teen band from Los Angeles.

Cornershop, "Urban Turban" (Ample Play): The British pop troupe delivers its eighth album even as we're still trying to figure out what 1997's "Brimful of Asha" means.

Cribs, "In the Belly of the Brazen Bull" (Wichita): The British indie rock trio recorded its fifth album with the iconic Steve Albini and Flaming Lips' Dave Fridmann.

Glee Cast, "Glee: The Music, Season Three -- The Graduation Album" (Columbia): The Gleesters don the gowns and mortarboards to the tune of songs by Green Day, Queen, Alice Cooper, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and fun.

Godsmack, "Live & Inspired" (Universal Republic): The Boston headbangers' first live album was recorded in Detroit during 2010 and comes with a four-song EP of covers.

Hot Water Music, "Existers" (Rise): The hard-rocking Florida punk quartet regroups for its first new album in eight years.

I Love Lightning Bugs, "Kensington" (??): The Detroit trio accompanies its latest album with a special comic book starring the band members.

Killer Mike, "R.A.P. Music" (Williams Street): The Atlanta rapper's sixth album includes guest appearances by T.I., Bun B, Emily Panic and producer El-P.

Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra, "Dune" (Spiral Subwave): Fifteen tracks of modern flamenco from the German guitarist and his ever-shifting collective of players.

Willie Nelson, "Heroes" (Legacy): The music icon combines fresh takes on country hits with so new songs co-written with songs Lukas and Micah Nelson.

Mewithoutyou, "Ten Stories" (self-released): The Philadelphia rockers' fifth album features Parmore's Hayley Williams guesting on the track "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume."

The Nighthawks, "Damn Good Time!" (Severn): Another collection of spirited blues-rock that includes covers of songs by Jimmy McCracklin, Billy Price, Norm Nardini and Nat King Cole.

Owl City, "Shooting Star EP" (Universal Republic): A four-song sampler from Adam Young's next album, due in August, that includes a gust appearance by blink-182's Mark Hoppus on the song "Dementia."

John Pizzarelli, "Double Exposure" (Telarc): The guitarist puts his own jazzy spin on songs by the Beatles, Neil Young, James Taylor and more.

Lisa Marie Presley, "Storm and Grace" (Universal Republic/XIX): Grammy Award winner T-Bone Burnett produced the first album in five years from Elvis Presley's daughter, with guitar contributions from Detroit's Jackson Smith.

Royal Southern Brotherhood, "Royal Southern Brotherhood" (Ruf): The first album by the all-star quintet fronted by New Orleans veteran Cyril Neville and Gregg Allman's son Devon.

Shadows Fall, "Fire From the Sky" (Razor & Tie): The Massachusetts headbangers recruited Killswitch Engage's Adam Dutkiewicz to produce their seventh album.

Squarepusher, "Ufabulum" (Warp): British electronic artist Tom Jenkinson takes a solely synthetic approach on his latest album, eschewing anything that's live or organic.

Tenacious D, "Rize [cq] of the Fenix" (Columbia): The third album from the comic rocking duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass goes light on guest stars -- except for its videos.

Various Artists, "Occupy This Album" (Razor & Tie): A politically-themed set that collects songs from the well-known and unknown, including Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, Our Lady Peace and Michael Moore.

Andre Williams & the Sadies, "Night & Day" (Yep Roc): This latest release by the onetime Fortune Records star was recorded Key Club Studio in suburban Detroit with all-star guests including the Gories' Danny Kroha.

From The Vaults: Aerosmith, "Icon" (Geffen/UMe); Mariah Carey, "The Essential Mariah Carey" (Columbia/Legacy); Albert King, "I'll PLay the Blues For You" (Stax/Concord); Pantera, "Vulgar Display of Power (Deluxe Edition)" (Rhino); Small Faces, "1966 Set (Deluxe Edition)" and "From the Beginning (Deluxe Edition)" (UME); Thin Lizzy, "Fighting (Deluxe Edition)" and "Nightlife (Deluxe Edition)" (Mercury/UMe); The Tubes, "Outside Inside" (101)

Soundtracks: Original Broadway Cast, "Lysistrata Jones" (Broadway); Original Broadway Cast, "Newsies" (Ghostlight)

New Music DVDs: "No Room For Rockstars: The Vans Warped Tour Film" (Shout! Factory); Diana Ross, "LIve in Central Park" (Shout! Factory)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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