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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Maroon5, Counting Crows, Jezzy, KEM and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, September 1, 2014

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While "Moves Like Jagger" and 2012's "Overexposed" album raised a few eyebrows -- alarmed "Songs About Jane" fans wondered what happened to their earnest little pop band -- "V" makes more sense. Maroon5's fifth album (duh!) shows the sextet learned plenty of lessons in making the tentative, uneven "Overexposed," honing its contemporary vision to a fine point and making better use of hitmaking collaborators such as OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, Benny Blanco, Stargate, Shellback and more. "V" is slick, sleek and infectiously confident, with a swing and easy melodicism that was missing -- at least in a consistent fashion -- from its predecessor, as well as touches of EDM incorporated to good and not gratuitous effect. The soulful, rhythmic template that dominates "V" puts Maroon5 on a footing with OneRepublic and Imagine Dragons, the latter of whom echoes on "Animals," the tribal "In Your Pocket" and the anthemic "Coming Back For You." The grooving chill of "It was Always You" channels vintage Seal, while fun.'s Nate Ruess injects his band's pompy flavor into "Leaving California," which he co-wrote, and "Sugar" and "Feelings" offer buoyant, old school R&B/disco as infectious as Pharrell's "Happy." Frontman Adam Levine remains a convincing balladeer on "Unkiss Me," and he duets with Gwen Stefani, his new fellow judge on "The Voice," on the album's airy, building "My Heart is Open." "V" marks a transition that might not sit well with some fans, but rest assured many will be turning their chairs around for this.

New & Noteworthy:

The Call featuring Robert Levon Been, "A Tribute to Michael Been" (Lightyear): The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club frontman pays tribute to his late father on this CD/DVD concert set.

Nick Carter and Jordan Knight, "Nick & Knight" (BMG)): The Backstreet Boy and New Kid on the Block team-up for a 10-song set they'll be promoting on their upcoming joint tour.

Counting Crows, "Somewhere Under Wonderland" (Capitol): Adam Duritz and company's first set of all-new material in six years kicks off with the eight-minute-plus epic "Palisades Park."

Jeezy, "Seen It All: The Autobiography" (CTE World/Def Jam): The Georgia-born rapper's seventh album gets personal, as the title indicates, with guest help from Jay Z, Rick Ross, The Game, Future, Akon and more.

KEM, "Promise To Love" (Motown): The Detroit R&B singer's fifth album pays tribute to the classic Motown sound, including string arrangements by Motown's own Paul Riser.

Killjoy Club, "Reindeer Games" (Psychopathic): Insane Clown Posse teams up with Da Mafia Six on this hip-hop "supergroup" project.

Johnny Winter, "Step Back" (Megaforce): The late guitar icon's final release features guest appearances from Eric Clapton, Leslie West, Aerosmith's Joe Perry and many of his other musical pals.

Also Out: The Bad Plus, "Inevitable Western" (Okeh/Sony Masterworks); David Childers "Serpents of Reformation" (Ramseur); Earth, "Primitive & Deadly"

( Southern Lord); Frank Foster, "Rhythm and Whiskey" (Malaco); Justin Furstenfeld, "Songs From an Open Book" (Up Down): Ben Glover, "Atlantic" (self-released); The Haunted, "Exit Wounds" (Century Media); Jesse Jo, "Down Your Drain" (Jo Stark Music); Louisiana Swamp Donky, "Redneck Revival" (self-released); Brian Pounds "Strikes and Gutters" EP (self-released); The Roys, "The View" (Rural Rhythm); Vines, "Wicked Nature" (Wicked Nature Music); Kim Waters, "Silver Soul" (Red River); Yob, "Clearing the Path to Ascend" (Neurot)

From The Vaults: Big Star, "#1 Record," "Radio City" (Stax); Richie Kotzen, "Essential Richie Kotzen" (Loud & Proud); Santana, "Live at Ryndearson Stadium, Ypsilanti" (Klondike); Stephen Stills, "Bread & Roses Festival 4th September 1978" (Klondike)

Soundtracks: Sinoia Caves, "Beyond the Black Rainbow"; Brian Reitzell, "Hannibal Season 1, Volume 1" and Hannibal Season 1, Volume 2" (Lakeshore); Brian Tyler, "The Expendables 3" (La-La Land); Various Artists, "God Help the Girl" (Milan)

New Music DVDs: Swedish House Mafia, "Leave the World Behind" (Shout! Factory); Various Artists, "Under the Electric Sky" (Universal)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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