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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Caleb Johnson, Sinead O'Connor, Brian Setzer and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014

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Caleb Johnson




Give "American Idol" props for striking while the iron's hot with this season's winner, Caleb Johnson. The debut album from the big-voiced North Carolina rocker comes just three months after he was crowned Season 13 champ -- unlike last year's Cndice Glover, whose album took eight months to emerge. "Idol's" hardest rocker since Chris Daughtry, Johnson sounds hot-off-the-set urgent and energetic on these 10 songs and is treated with tender but rocking care by producer Howard Benson -- who also handled Daughtry. The opening "As Long As You Love Me" is a glammy roller coaster ride written by the Darkness' Justin Hawkins, who also provides backing vocals, but besides the Dap-Kings horn section's appearance on the convincingly soulful "Only On" Johnson goes light on the big names and just rocks -- from the rootsy shuffle of "Save Me" and the grungey attack of "Devil`s Daughter" to the gritty oomph of the title track and the bouncy soul-pop of the hit-in-waiting "Another Life." Johnson, who co-wrote seven of the songs here, takes on a few power ballads as well, the most convincing of which is the keening mea culpa "Change," on which he's accompanied solely by piano and other keyboards. It's not exactly the arrival of a game-changing new rock voice, but it's certainly a polished and prepared effort and one of the most cohesive winner's debut albums to come out of the "Idol" world.

New & Noteworthy:

Kris Allen, "Horizons" (+180): Allen delivers his third album since winning "American Idol's" Season 8, teaming with producer Charlie Peacock (the Civil Wars, Switchfoot).

Die Antwoord, "Donker Mag" (Zef): The South African hip-hop group's third album features Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs on the track "Rat Trap 666."

Brian Setzer, "Rockabilly Riot! All Original" (Surfdog): The former Stray Cats frontman gets back to his rockabilly roots, pompadour and all, on this 12-song set.

The Gaslight Anthem, "Get Hurt" (Island): The New Jersey rockers recorded their fifth studio album at Nashville's famed Blackbird Studios.

Sinead O'Connor, "I'm Not Bossy I'm the Boss" (Nettwerk): The provocative Irish songstress' latest was originally titled "The Vishnu Room" but was changed, along with its cover art.

Tank, "Stronger" (Atlantic): The R&B singer's sixth album follows last year's TGT collaboration with Tyrese and Ginuwine.

Also Out: Dilated Peoples, "Directors of Photography" (Rhymesayers); Diplo, "Random White Dudes Be Everywhere" (Mad Decent); Heartist, "Feeding Fiction" (Roadrunner); Lucero, "Live From Atlanta" (Liberty); Shawn Mendes, "Shawn Mendes" (Island); Porter Robinson, "Worlds" (Astralwerks); Eric Roberson, "Box" (Blue Erro Soul); Walter Salas-Humara, "Curve and Shake" (The Orchard); SOJA, "Amid the Noise and Haste" (ATO); Watsky, "All You Can Do" (Welk)

From the Vaults: The Animals, "The Best of the Animals" (ABKCO); Suzanne Vega, "Close-Up Series" (Razor & Tie)

New Music DVDs: Devo, "The Men Who Make the Music..." (MVD); Elvis Presley, "Elvis: That's The Way It Is 2001" (Warner); Steely Dan, "Do It Again: The Story of Steely Dan" (Laser Media)

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