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CD Reviews:
The LIstening Room: Death, Zac Brown Band, Blur, Josh Groban and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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Grade: B-

When Death's Bobbie Duncan sings about "living in a movie," that's no abstract concept. the hard rocking trio, which started in Detroit and is now based in Burlington, Vt., was an obscure musical footnote until the 2013 documentary "A Band Called Death" brought the group's tale of creative vision, unfulfilled dreams and tragic loss to the mainstream, or more mainstream, fore. Two years later the group delivers its first new recordings since 1975, mixing songs written during that period by the late singer-guitarist Bobby Hackney with new material by Duncan, who took his place when the group reactivated a few years ago. The result is a bit schizophrenic; Duncan's brand of rock is more straightforward and tuneful than Hackney's arty, staccato dynamics, and tracks such as the opening "Relief," "the hooky "Who Am I" and the pointed "Resurrection," which celebrates the "blessing" of "life after Death," go down easier than the fierce cascade of "Look at YOur LIfe," "Story of the World" and "At the Station." Lyrically Hackney and Duncan both pursue higher truths, although the former's psychedelic consciousness sounds just a touch dated four decades on. But it's still challenging music with next-level ambitions, as subversive now as it was back when Death was first conceived.

New & Noteworthy:

Blur, "The Magic Whip" (Parlophone): Five years after reuniting, the Britpop titans deliver their first new album in 12 years, working again with longtime producer Stephen Street.

Tyler Farr, "Suffer in Peace" (Columbia Nashville): The country upstart's sophomore album already has a hit in the first single, "A Guy Walks INto a Bar," as well as a duet with Jason Alden on "Damn Good Friends."

Josh Groban, "Stages" (Reprise): The classically trained vocal heartthrob returns to his musical theater roots on this collection of stage favorites, dueting with Kelly Clarkson, Audra McDonald and Chris Botti.

Raekwon, "Fly International Luxurious Art" (Ice H2O/EMI): The Wu Tang Clan member's sixth solo album, and first in four years, includes collaborations with Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, Ghostface Killah, Bustah Rhymes and others.

Various Artists, "Keep Calm and Salute the Beatles" (Cleopatra): Heart's Ann Wilson, Judy Collins, Todd Rundgren, Stephen Bishop and the late Jack Bruce, in his last recorded performance, pay tribute with acoustic versions of some of the Fab Four's favorites.

Zac Brown Band, "Jekyll + Hyde" (John Varvatos/Big Machine/Republic): The Southern group's latest has more than just the two personalities the title invokes and continues to expand the umbrella a group can play under and still call itself country. Sara Bareilles and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell are on board to help broaden those boundaries.

Also Out: Audio Adrenaline, "Sound of the Saints" (Fair Trade); Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, "35th Anniversary Tour" (Mailboat); Olivia Chaney, "The Longest River" (Nonesuch); Jesse Cook, "One World" (eOne); Dailey & Vincent, "Alive! In Concert" (Cracker Barrel); Everclear, "Black is the New Black" (The End); IZZ, "Everlasting Instant" (Doone); Brian Lisik, "Curtisinterruptedus" (Cherokee Queen); Mew, "+ -" (Pias America); Mg, "Mg" (Mute); Millencolin, "True Brew" (Epitaph); Ryan Montbleau, "Growing Light" (self-released); The Nighthawks, "Back Porch Party" (EllerSoul); Charlie Parr, "Stumpjumper" (Red House); Spoon, "Inside Out Remixes" (Loma Vista EP); The Weepies, "Sirens" (Nettwerk); Matthew West, "Live Forever" (Capitol Christian)

From The Vaults: Atkins May Project, "Anthology" (Gonzo Multimedia); Eric Clapton, "Forever Man" (Reprise); Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz, "Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz" (Real Gone); Rory Gallagher, "Irishman in New York" (Rockbeat); Insane Clown Posse, "The Marvelous Missing Link" (Psychopathic); Emmylou Harris & the Hot Band, "Amazing Grace Coffee House Evanston, Ill. 15 May 1975" (Echoes); Jethro Tull, "Minstrel in the Gallery: 40th Anniversary La Grande Edition" (Rhino); King Crimson, "Live at the Marquee 1971", "Live in Guildford 1972" (DGM); Dusty Springfield, "Faithful" (Real Gone)

New Music DVDs: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, "35th Anniversary Tour" (Mailboat)

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