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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Daft Punk, Darius Rucker and more...

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2013

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Daft Punk

"Random Access Memories"

Daft LIfe/Columbia


The fourth album by the French duo Daft Punk may well go down as one of the best albums ever by an electronic dance music act -- except that it's not really an EDM album. This time out, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manual de Homem-Christo indulge a deep and genuine infatuation with the polished, disco-flavored R&B of the late 70s, particularly the smooth sounds that emanated from Los Angeles moreso than the grittier flavors of New York City. And they do it to a T, meshing it so seamlessly with Daft Punk's contemporary sensibilities that it sounds like it could have come out 35 years ago -- or tomorrow. And without taking anything away from Bangalter and de Homem-Christo, it's their high-cred collaborators who make "Random Access Memories" who insure the album's ultimate success, whether it's Chic's Nile Rodgers lending his trademark guitar to "Give Life Back to the Music" and the first single, "Get Lucky," Pharrell Williams giving voice to the latter as well as "Lose Yourself to Dance," Chilly Gonzales tickling the piano ivories on "Within," the Strokes' Julian Casablancas weighing in on "Instant Crush," EDM producer Todd Edwards singing the Hall & Oates-styled "Fragments of Time" or live drummers such as Omar Hakim and John "J.R." Robinson giving the tracks a tighter pocket than electronics can ever emulate. Famed disco producer Giorgio Moroder speaks about his career throughout the sweeping "Giorgio By Moroder" suite, while composer-singer Paul Williams voices another careening epic, "Touch," which he co-wrote. Daft Punk does revert back to EDM world at the end of the album, closing with Animal Collective's Panda Bear (Noah Lennon) on "Doin' It Right" and a swirling mass of space age sounds on "Contact," both satisfying reference points on an album the exponentially expands the duo's musical footprint.


Darius Rucker, "True Believers" (Capitol Nashville) ***

After two country chart-toppers, it's probably time to have some true belief in the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman's solo career. His third outing shows the benefit of taking a bit of time (three years) between albums and crafting something deeper than the annual ledger-satisfying exercises at which most country acts excel. Rucker gets into some genuinely deep subject matter here -- the title track is a clear-eyed look at the challenge of sustaining a long-term relationship -- but he has plenty of fun, too, on the honky tonk spirit of "Take Me Home," the soaring guitar rock of "Heartbreak Road" and the funky twang of "Radio." And his remake of the Old Crow Medicine Show/Bob Dylan collab "Wagon Wheel" with Lady Antebellum guesting is icing on top of an already tasty country cake.

New & Noteworthy:

Airbourne, "Black Dog Barking (Roadrunner): The third release from this British group holds to the same hard rocking path set by its two predecessors.

Alpine, "A Is For Alpine" (Votiv): The U.S. debut of the buzzed-about Australian sextet fronted by a pair of lead singers.

The Beach Boys, "Live -- The 50th Anniversary Tour" (Capitol): This two-disc souvenir of the group's 2012 reunion tour will rekindle warm memories -- and make you wonder why they're not doing it again this year.

Brand New Heavies, "Forward" (HeavyTone): Vocalist N'Dea Davenport is back on board for the British acid jazz group's first new release in seven years.

Clairy Browne & the Bangin' Rackettes, "Baby Caught the Bus" (Vanguard): Who can resist a name like this -- or the racket this bangin' Australian nine-piece makes on its first U.S. release?

Marshall Crenshaw, "Stranger and Stranger" (self-released): The second EP in the Berkley-born rocker's new subscription series includes a cover of the Carpenters' "Close to You" and a new recording of his own "Mary Anne."

Cold Satellite, "Cavalcade" (Signature Sounds): A second offering of Americana from the team of rocker Jeffrey Foucault and poet Lisa Olstein.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, "Seesaw" (J&R Adventures): The powerhouse vocalist's second rootsy collaboration with guitar hero Bonamassa comes just six weeks after her own new solo album.

Highness, "Hold" (Magic Bullet): The debut from New York/Virginia collective of members from Darkest Hour, Christie Front Drive, Antarctica, Forensics and other underground concerns.

Indigenous, "Vanishing Americans" (Blues Bureau): The Native American blues-rock group ventures deeper into Mississippi Hill Country on its latest release.

Bob James and David Sanborn, "Quartette Humaine" (OKeh/Sony): James and Sanborn bring their piano and saxophone master, respectively together for this tribute to Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.

James McCartney, "Me" (ECR): Beatle Paul's guitar-playing son issues his first full album after a pair of well-received EPs.

Bret Michaels, "Good Songs & Great Friends" (Poor Boy): The Poison frontman steps out solo again, loading his "Friends" list up with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Loretta Lynn, Miley Cyrus and pals from Aerosmith, Van Halen, KIss and beyond.

French Montana, "Excuse My French" (Coke Boys/Bad Boy/Maybach/Interscope): The debut album from the Moroccan-born New York rapper was overseen by Sean "Puffy" Combs and Rick Ross, who both guest along with Snoop Dogg, Birdman, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Ne-Yo and others.

Willy Moon, "Here's Willy Moon" (Island): The New Zealand rocker's debut sports a Wu-Tang Clan sample on the first single, "Yeah Yeah."

Laura Mvula, "Sing to the Moon" (Columbia): The first full-length outing from the soulful British singer-songwriter who's still riding a buzz from her South By Southwest performances in March.

The National, "Trouble Will Find Me" (4AD): The Cincinnati mood rock group fortifies its sixth album with guests such as St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, Doveman and members of Arcade Fire and Dark Dark Dark.

Chip Taylor, "Block Out the Sirens of This Lonely World" (Trainwreck): The adventurous Americana singer-songwriter ventures overseas to soak up the mood of post-2011 massacre Norway with the help of producer Goran Grini.

30 Seconds To Mars, "Love Lust Faith + Dreams" (Virgin/EMI): Jared Leto stays faithful to music with his band`s fourth album, which sports more electronic flavors than its predecessors.

John Zorn and Pat Metheny, "Tap, The Book of Angels Vol. 20" (Tzadik/Nonesuch): Metheny brings his virtuoso guitar skills to Zorn's Masada repertoire, assisted by drummer Antonio Sanchez.

From The Vaults: Captain Beyond, "Live in Texas -- October 6, 1973" (Cleopatra); David Crowder*Band, "All This For a King: The Essential Collection" (sixteps/Sparrow); The Moody Blues, "Live at the Isle of Wight 1970" and "Live at Montreux 1991" CD/DVD (Eagle Rock); Primus, "Sailing the Seas of Cheese (Deluxe Edition)"; Diana Ross, "Playlist: The Very Best of Diana Ross" (RCA/Legacy; Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, "Playlist: The Very Best of..." (Epic/Legacy)

New Music DVDs: Queen, "On Fire -- LIve at the Bowl" (Eagle Rock); The Rolling Stones, "Crossfire Hurricane" (Eagle Rock)

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