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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Regina Spektor and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012

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Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes




Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes hail from Los Angeles but sound like a group that came together in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury circa 1967 -- and never bothered to flip that calendar. There's nothing wrong with that, though; in 2012 we could use a few more folks willing to declare that "love is something to believe in." Though there's nothing quite as infectious on "Here" as, say, "Home" from the octet's 2009 debut "Up From Below," there's an even deeper emotional heft and a relaxed, communal ambience to these nine songs that's both solemn and life-affirming. "Man of Fire" references Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," with frontman and producer Alex Ebert announcing that his sole desire is to get "the whole damn world to come dance with me." "That's What's Up" has an upbeat, jamboree feel, while "Dear Believer's" sultry soul swells with brass and organ accents. "I Don't Wanna Pray" makes its social commentary ("I don't wanna pray to my maker/I just wanna be what I see") amidst an olde tyme [cq] rural gospel arrangement, "Fiya Wata" mixes aching torchiness with off-kilter, atonal sonics, and chorale vocals (and hums) mark "Mayla" and "One Love to Another." "All Wash Out," meanwhile, caps the album with a delicate folk melody with a genial, gentle-tempered chorus that sticks from the first listen. Though a few more tracks would be welcome, "Here" will indeed make you a believer, in the message and in the band.


Regina Spektor, "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats" (Sire) ***

Six albums in, Russian-born singer, songwriter and pianist Regina Spektor isn't getting any less idiosyncratic. But that doesn't make her inaccessible. Yes, there are odd touches on her latest album -- vocal percussion and lip trumpet, oddly skewed dynamics and dramatic arrangements -- but always with a strong melodic center and lyrical focus that dominates the proceedings. "...Cheap Seats" reunites Spektor with co-producer MIke Elizondo, and the two -- working from new songs as well as some Spektor's been performing throughout her career and never recorded -- score with the ebb and flow of "Small Town Moon" and "The Party," the spectral ambience of "Ballad of a Politician," the propulsive cascade of "All the Rowboats and the island flavors of the new version of "Don't Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)" from Spektor's 2002 set "Songs." All told, the view from the "...Cheap Seats" is not bad at all.

New & Noteworthy:

Bachman & Turner, "Live at Roseland Ballroom, NYC" (Eagle Rock): The onetime Bachman Turner Overdrive partners are still talkin' care of business on this hit-filled two-disc live set recorded in 2010.

David Benoit, "Conversation" (Telarc): The pianist fuses elements of jazz, classical, Latin, pop and world music wtih help from guitarists Jeff Golub and David Pack, flutists Tim Weisberg and others.

Rory Block, "I Belong to the Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis" (Stony Plain): The New Jersey roots 'n' blues artist pays homage to her onetime mentor on this spirited 11-songs survey.

Elenowen, "Elenowen" (Dualtone): The debut EP from the Nashville folk duo that came up through the same ranks as the Civil Wars.

Rebecca Ferguson, "Heaven" (Syco/Columbia): The British singer's debut hits these shores after a No. 3 debut in her homeland earlier this year.

For Today, "Immortal" (Razor & Tie): The Iowa headbangers move to a new, and larger, label with their fourth album, recorded earlier this year in New Jersey.

Foreigner, "Alive & Rockin' " (Eagle Rock): The current lineup of the group delivers the hits on this concert set, which was recorded at a 2006 festival appearance in Germany.

Juanes "TR3s Presents Juanes MTV Unplugged" (Universal Music Latino): The Colombian singer-songwriter recorded this special set in February in Miami Beach, Fla., with Paula Fernandes and Joaquin Sabina helping out.

King Tuff, "King Tuff" (Sub Pop): The underground rock hero chose Bobby Harlow of Detroit group The Go to produce this 12-song set.

DJ Tony Okungbowa and JoJo Flores, "A Night to Remember" (Unidisc Music): Ellen DeGeneres' TV DJ puts together a two-CD, 32-track mix of songs that he hopes will keep his boss, and everyone else, dancing.

Travis Porter, "From Day 1" (Porter House/RCA): The Georgia rap trio's first album follows a slew of mixtapes and features guest appearances by Tyga, 2 Chainz, Jeremih, Mac Miller and Southfield's Mike Posner.

Public Image Ltd., "This is PiL" (PiL Official): John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) is back with his latest PiL incarnation and the group's first new album in 20 years.

Chris Richards and the Subtractions, "Get Your La La's Out" (Gangplank): The Detroit power pop trio is at its melodic best on this 10-song set recorded with Dave Feeny at his Tempermill Studios in Ferndale.

Rachael Sage, "Haunted By You" (MPress): Dar Williams, Katie Costello and "The Blair Witch Project's" Joshua Leonard join the New York singer-songwriter on her 10th recording.

Sigur Ros, "Valtari" (XL): The sixth studio album by the Icelandic ambient rock troupe includes lengthy pieces such as "Ekki mukk" ("Not a Sound"), "Fjogur piano" ("Four Pianos") and the title track, which means "Roller.")

Steve Smith & Vital Information, "Live: One Great Night" (Varese Fontana): The former Journey drummer and his jazz troupe celebrate their 30th anniversary with this CD/DVD concert document.

2:54, "2:54" (Fat Possum): The debut full-length from the noisy British sister duo follows the "Scarlet EP" Colette and Hannah Thurlow released in March.

Various Artists, "Paper Cuts #1" (Paper): A compilation of electronic cut-and-paste pieces, some with jazzy overtones, from the likes of Proviant Audio, KeyBoy, the Bionics and more.

Ian Tyson, "Raven Singer" (Stony Plain): The veteran Canadian singer-songwriter of Ian and Sylvia fame delivers his first new album in four years on the heels of two books about him, including his own memoir.

The Walkmen, "Heaven" (Fat Possum): Still together with the same lineup 10 years after its debut, the New York quintet recorded its sixth album in Seattle with Fleet Fox's Robin Pecknold adding harmonies to two tracks.

Bill Wence, "Analog Man in a Digital World" (615): The honky tonk singer and piano player enlists an all-star cast, including Bekka Bramlett, Charlie McCoy, Gretchen Peters and the Jordanaires, to help him pound through is 11-song collection.

From The Vaults: Harry Belafonte, "Playlist: The Very Best of" (Columbia/Playlist); Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, "Playlist" (Columbia/Playlist); Rodney Crowell, "Playlist" (Columbia/Playlist); Raheem DeVaughn, "Playlist" (Sony/Playlist); Mick Fleetwood's Zoo, "I'm Not Me" (Real Gone); Fugees, "Playlist: The Very Best of the Fugees" (Columbia/Playlist); Grateful Dead, "Dave's Picks, Volume 2: Dillion Stadium, Hartford, CT, July 31, 1974" (Deadnet/Rhino); Heather Hedley, "Playlist: The Very Best of..." (Sony/Playlist); Kenny Loggins, "Playlist" (Columbia/Playlist); Prong, "Playlist" (Sony/Playlist); Rose Royce, "Flashback" (Rhino Flashback); The Small Faces, "Small Faces (Deluxe Edition)" and "From the Beginning (Deluxe Edition)" (both Hip-O); The Supremes, "At the Copa (Expanded Edition)" (Hip-O Select); Tonex, "Playlist" (Sony/Playlist); Twisted Sister, "Live at Hammersmith '84" and "Club Daze, Vol. 2: Live in the Bars" (both Eagle Rock);

Soundtracks: Danny Elfman, "Men in Black 3" (Sony Classics)

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