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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: R. Kelly, Satellite Party and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

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R. Kelly, “Double Up” (Jive) **1/2

Say what you will about R. Kelly — he’s not lazy. The Chicago R&B auteur has kept a steady stream of new releases coming each of the last six years, including his winding soap opera “Trapped in the Closet.” He’s also covered a wide sonic terrain on his albums, a practice he continues on “Double Up,” his ninth studio album. Up front, the 19-track effort is loaded with thumping, guestloaded club jams as Kelly parties with Snoop Dogg on the title track, Nelly on “Tryin’ to Get a Number,” Chamillionaire on “Get Dirty,” Huey on “Hook it Up” and the duo of Ludacris and Kid Rock on “Rock Star.” But there’s plenty here for fans of the loverman Lothario, too, as Kelly coos his way through come-ons explicit enough to make the late Barry White blush on “Sweet Tooth,” “Leave Your Name,” “Sex Planet,” an “I’m a Flirt” remix with T.I. and T-Pain and “The Zoo,” in which he proclaims he and his lover are like “coconut and banana trees.” Kelly and Usher get busy on the genuinely funny “Same Girl,” but the album’s mood sobers at the end when he dedicates the gospelflavored “Rise Up” to the victims of the Virginia Tech University shootings (proceeds from digital sales of the song are going to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund). It’s a lot to digest, and that’s kind of the rub with Kelly — a prolific nature that champions quantity over quality. He certainly has the vision and personality, not to mention work ethic, to validate his R&B superstardom, but here we get an album of good, very good and occasionally weak tracks rather than front-to-back excellence, with an undeniable formula that hews a bit too close to all the Kelly albums that have come before it. He likes to sing about getting busy, but maybe Kelly should pull back a bit to insure more than just businesslike results.


Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party, “Ultra Payloaded” (Columbia) ***

Former Jane’s Addiction/ Porno For Pyros frontman and Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell has been working on Satellite Party since Jane’s last breakup in 2004, and the heady concept of “Ultra Payloaded” — about a group of artists, the Solutionists, charged to save the world after partying in the heavens with the late Doors singer Jim Morrison — showcases the time he’s spent in this thematic place. It may sound hippie-dippy but nevertheless resonates in this age of global warming, and it’s bolstered by an eclectic musical attack of airy, ambient paeans and chunky grooves — including the frenetic “Ultra-Payloaded Satellite Party,” the Latin-flavored “Hard Life Easy” and the Rare Earth-incorporating “One Love, Let’s Celebrate.” Ex-Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt is Farrell’s primary musical partner, and a guest list that includes members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fergie, Hybrid and others makes sure there’s a payoff to “Payloaded.”


The Actual, “In Stitches” (Soft Drive) — Debut album by the first signing to Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland’s label. Frontman Max Bernstein is the son of Nora Ephron and Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein.

Jason Aldean, “Relentless” (Broken Bow) — The country singer follows his platinum debut, paying tribute to “Johnny Cash” on the first single.

Herb Alpert, “Rise” (Shout! Factory) — The trumpeter’s hot 1979 “comeback” album returns with spruced-up sound and a couple of bonus tracks.

Cary Brothers, “Who You Are” (Bluhammock/ Procrastination) — The Los Angeles troubadour releases his debut after attention-getting tracks on the “Garden State” and “Last Kiss” soundtracks.

Danzig, “Lost Tracks of Danzig” (Megaforce) — The devil-referencing headbanger offers some previously unheard material from the vaults — or, in his case, the crypt.

Dinosaur Jr., “Live From the Middle East” (Image Entertainment) — The celebrated alt.rock trio’s first DVD filmed in Boston and at other stops on its 2005 tour.

Frank Smith, “Heavy Handed Peace and Love” (Ye Olde Records) — The indie/ Americana group (a band, not a man) releases its debut on fellow artist Juliana Hatfield’s label. Hatfield also joins them on the simultaneously released EP, “Sittin’ in a Tree.”

Gary Moore, “Close as You Get” (Eagle Rock) — The former Thin Lizzy and Colosseum II guitarist accents his own songs with covers of Chuck Berry and Sonny Boy Williamson material.

Johnette Napolitano, “Scarred” (Hybrid) — The former Concrete Blonde leader recorded her first full-fledged solo album in London and Los Angeles, covering Coldplay’s “The Scientist” in the process.

Paul Rodgers, “Live in Glasgow” (Eagle Rock) — The DVD companion to the live CD the Free/Bad Company/Firm/ Law/Queen frontman released in April.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, “In Glorious Times”

(The End) — The Oakland, Calif.-based group gives us “rock against rock” — i.e., avant-gardeish stuff, much of it made with the musicians’ own homemade instruments.

Richard Thompson, “Sweet Warrior” (Shout! Factory) — The understated British guitar hero delivers his first all-electric set since 2003’s “The Old Kit Bag.”

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