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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Black Veil Brides, Flaming Lips, Taylor Swift and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2014

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Yusuf/Cat Stevens

Tell 'Em I'm Gone


Grade: B+

The world generally knows what it wants from Cat Stevens -- and doesn't have a clue about Yusuf, the name he adopted when he became a practicing Muslim ?? years ago. A bit of confusion may reign, but the veteran troubadour's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year has certainly raised his profile in the pop mainstream that loved him during the 70s. Rest assured, however, that "Tell 'Em I'm Gone," Yusuf/Stevens' first new albumin five years, is nothing like we've ever heard him do before. This time out he taps into the blues and R&B influences of his youth, both in his own songs -- including aural memoirs such as "Editing Floor Blues" and "Cat & the Dog" -- and covers such as Luther Dixon's "Big Boss Man," Edgar Winter's "Dying To Live" and the traditional "You Are My Sunshine." All are rendered in tasteful, mostly subdued and vibey arrangements, although his rendition of Procol Harum's "The Devil Came From Kansas" kicks up some loud electric guitar dust. Yusuf/Stevens gets some good help on these 10 songs as well, including from guitar aces Richard Thompson and Matt Sweeney, harmonica hotshot Charlie Musselwhite and the Mali troupe, Tinariwen, whose indigenous vocals draw an illuminating line to the blues' roots in Africa. It's not exactly "Tea For the Tillerman," but it is proof positive that Yusuf/Stevens is not resting on his formidable laurels.

New & Noteworthy:

Black Veil Brides, "IV" (Lava/Universal Republic): The hard rock troupe returns to straight-up songs after last year's "Wretched and Divine" concept album, this time working with producer Bob Rock.

The Flaming Lips, "With a Little Help From My Fwends" (Warner Bros.): The Oklahoma tripmeisters turn in a full-length reimagining of the Beatles' classic "Sgt. Pepper's...," enlisting "fwends" such as Moby, Maynard James Keenan, Grace Potter, Foxygen and, yes, Miley Cyrus.

Jerry Lee Lewis, "Rock & Roll Time" (Vanguard): The Killer returns to Memphis, where it all began nearly 60 years ago, for a spirited set that generally lives up to its title.

Taylor Swift, "1989" (Big Machine): Swift goes all-out pop on her fifth album with nary a banjo in sight and help from hitmakers such as Ryan Tedder, Shelllback, Max Martin and fun.'s Jack Antonoff.

T.I., "Paperwork" (Grand Hustle/Columbia): The Atlanta rapper switches labels for his ninth studio album, which features guests Usher, Pharrell, The-Dream, Chris Brown and more.

James Williamson, "Re-Licked" (Leopard Lady): The Stooges guitarist recruits friends from the Kils, the Dead Weather, Primal Scream, the Orwells and more to help out on this newly recorded collection of the band's rarities.

Also Out: At The Gates, "At War With Reality" (Century Media); Wade Bowen, "Wade Bowen" (Amp); KJ-52, "Mental" (TPC); Danity Kane, "DK3" (Mass Appeal); Dave Davies, "Rippin' Up Time" (Red River); Eric Gales, "Good For Sumthin" (Cleopatra); Hard Working Americans, "The First Waltz" (Melvin); Dave Hollister, "Chicago Winds...The Saga Continues" (eOne); Home Free, "Full of Cheer" (Columbia); Sam Hunt, "Montevallo" (MCA); Jagged Edge, "J.E. Heartbreak II" (BMG); Eric Johnson and Mike Stern, "Electric" (Heads Up); Kiesza, "Sound of a Woman" (Island); Kiss, "Love Gun" (UMe); Live, "The Turn" (Think Loud); Logic, "Under Pressure" (Def Jam); Lonesome River Band, "Turn Me On a Dime" (Mountain Home); Barry Manilow, "My Dream Duets" (Verve); Rancid, "...Honor is All We Know" (Epitaph); Riot, "Unleash The Fire" (Steamhammer/SPV); Run the Jewels, "Run the Jewels 2" (Mass Appeal); Chris Tomlin, "Love Ran Red" (sixstepsrecords); Devin Townsend, "Z-squared" (Inside Out); Dionne Warwick, "Feels So Good" (10 Spot)

From The Vaults: Afghan Whigs, "Gentlemen at 21 (21st Anniversary Edition)" (Rhino); The Hollies, "50 At Fifty" (Parlophone/Rhino); Led Zeppelin, "IV" and "Houses of the Holy" (Atlantic/Rhino); Paul McCartney, "New" (Expanded) (Concord); Stevie Ray Vaughan, "The Complete Epic Recordings Collection" (Epic/Legacy); The Who, "Who Hits 50" (UMe)

Soundtracks: Various Artists, "Rudderless" (Lakeshore)

New Holiday Albums: The Living Sisters, "Harmony Is Real: Songs For a Happy Monday" (Vanguard); LeAnn Rimes, "One Christmas: Chapter 1 (Red General); Tom Wopat and John Schneider, "Home For Christmas" (Tom Wopat Inc.; Various Artists, "It's Christmas on Mack Avenue" (Mack Avenue)

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