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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Aretha Franklin, Bush, Neil Diamond, Slipknot and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014

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Aretha Franklin

"Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics"


Grade: B

This one's a bit of a head-scratcher on paper; Aretha Franklin is, after all, a diva of some repute in her own right, and has more than enough of her own classics from more than five decades of recording. She really needs to sing other people's hits? Well, when Franklin sings them like she does here, then yes, she does. "Great Diva Classics" has the occasional stumble (a shrilly take on Barbra Streisand's "People" in particular) but is mostly filled with the vocal swoops, growls and emotive pyrotechnics that are Franklin's trademarks. Working with producers Babyface, Andre 3000, The Underdogs and others, her renditions here are mostly faithful though a few are spiced up with clever Queen of Soul mash-ups -- Franklin's already pulverizing version of Adele's "Rolling In the Deep" morphs into the Supremes' "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" trips into Destiny's Child's "Survivor" and Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman" pumps into Franklin's own "Respect." Franklin's treatment of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" has an urgent dance floor energy, while both Dinah Washington's "Teach Me Tonight" and the smart inclusion of The Family's swinging take on Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" show off her jazz chops. Simply put, The Queen adds a regal touch that makes these familiar songs fresh again.

New & Noteworthy:

Susan Boyle, "Hope" (Syco/Columbia): The "Britain's Got Talent" darling is back with a sixth album, this time lending her formidable pipes to songs by Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, John Lennon and more.

Bush, "Man on the Run" (Zuma Rock): Gavin Rossdale and company deliver Bush's sixth studio album, which he's been promoting by being a guest mentor for wife Gwen Stefani's team on NBC's "The Voice."

Neil Diamond, "Melody Road" (Capitol): The veteran troubadour's first set of new songs in six years was produced by Detroit native Don Was and alt.rock denizen Jacknkife Lee.

Billy Idol, "Kings and Queens of the Underground" (??): Idol dances with some interesting others on his first new album in nine years, including producers Trevor Horn and, on two songs, contemporary hitmaker Greg Kurstin.

Live, "The Turn" (Think Loud): The modern rockers live another day after a nearly eight-year hiatus spent replacing original frontman Ed Kowalczyk and reuniting with Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, who produced the quartet's top-selling early releases.

Slipknot, ".5: The Gray Chapter" (Roadrunner): The masked Iowa headbangers hit hard and dark on their first album in six years, and first after the death of bassist Paul Gray and firing of drummer Joey Jordison.

Also Out: Amaranthe, "Massive Addictive" (Spinefarm); Billy Boy Arnold, "The Blues Soul of Billy Boy Arnold" (Stony Plain); Rory Block, "Hard Luck Child" (Stony Plain); The Blues Magoos, "Psychedelic Resurrection" (Kayos); Andrea Bocelli, "Opera" (Decca/Sugar); Boyz II Men, "Collide" (BMG); Eliot Bronson, "Eliot Bronson" (Saturn 5); Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls, "Soul Brothers" (Catfood); Cold War Kids, "Hold My Home" (Downtown); Brad Colerick, "Tucson" (Back 9); Dennis DeYoung, "Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles" (Frontiers); D. Edward, "Love Is" (10th & Clay); Elliott Brood, "Work and Love" (Paper Bag); Derek Fawcett, "Feels Better" self-released); The Hello Strangers, "the Hello Strangers" (IMI); Ben Howard, "I Forget Where We Are" (Island); Jukebox The Ghost, "Jukebox The Ghost" (Yep Roc); Steed Kettles and Jeff Eno, "The Jake Leg Chronicles" (Indian Proud); Kindness, "Otherness" (Mom+Pop); Simo Lagnawi, "The Gnaws Berber" (Riverboat); Annie Lennox, "Nostalgia" (Blue Note); Little Big Town, "Pain Killer" (Capitol Nashville);

Mark Lanegan Band, "Phantom Radio" (Vagrant); Primus, "Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble" (Prawn Song/ATO); Marlene Ver Planck, "I Give Up, I`m in Love" (Audiophile); Jessie Ware, "Tough Love" (PMR)

From The Vaults: Coheed and Cambria, "In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth" (Equal Vision./Legacy); Gavin DeGraw, "Finest Hour: The Best of Gavin DeGraw" (RCA); Jerry Garcia, "GarciaLive Volume 5: December 31st 1975 Keystone Berkeley" (Rhino); Iron Maiden, "The Complete Albums Collection 1980-1988" (Sanctuary); Joey Ramone, "Don't Worry About Me" (Ingrooves)

New Holiday Albums: Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Mahal, "Talkin' Christmas" (Sony Music Masterworks); Earth, Wind & Fire, "Holiday" (Legacy); Farmer Jason, "Christmas on the Farm" (Courageous Chicken); Anthony Hamilton, "Home For the Holidays" (RCA); Pentatonix, "That's Christmas To Me" (RCA)

New Music DVD: Alice Cooper, "Raise the Dead: LIve From Wacken" (UDR); Deep Purple, "Live in Verona" (Eagle Rock); "Looking For Johnny: the Legend of Johnny Thunders" (MVD Visual)

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