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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Cam, Grimes, Talib Kweli, "The Wiz Live" and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015

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(Arista Nashville/RCA)

Grade: B+

Towards the end of her debut album, Camaron Ochs -- aka Cam -- announces that "if you're gonna go for something, better make it everything," which pretty much sums up the tenor of the singer and songwriter's debut album. The 11-song set is both slick and earthy, maybe the smoothest synthesis of country and pop since Taylor Swift or, a few years back, Shania Twain. Cam comes by her pop side honestly; born and raised in California she was mentored by Swift and P!nk collaborator Tyler Johnson, with whom she co-wrote for Miley Cyrus. Bring Jeff Bhasker (fun., Kanye West, Mark Ronson, etc.) and "Untamed" is well fortified for mass appeal. But Cam's natural twang and straight-talking demeanor -- especially in the numerous heartbreak odes that populate the album -- keep "Untamed" a grounded, whether it's the reflective melancholy of "Burning House" or the rootsy kiss-off "Half Broke Heart," or the fiery energy of "Runaway Train," "Country Ain't Never Been Pretty" and the title track. But the album's core is in its rich melodicism, and songs such as "Mayday," "My Mistake" and the empowerment anthem "Want It All" sound poised for format-crossing success. Cam's ultimately not as much of a wild child as "Untamed's" title suggests, but her Next Big Thing potential couldn't be more clear.

New & Noteworthy:

August Alsina, "This Thing Called Life" (Def Jam): The New Orleans singer/rapper/writer`s second album features guest appearances by Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Anthony Hamilton and Jadakiss.

Eva Cassidy, "Nightbird" (Blix Street): The latest entry from the late Cassidy's vaults sports a 31-song 1996 performance from Washington, D.C.

Neil Finn and Paul Kelly, "Goin' Your Way" (Omnivore): The two Down Under songsmiths troll their catalogs, including Split Enz, Crowded House and Messengers favorites, on this feral live set.

Grimes, "Art Angels" (4AD): The fourth album by the adventurous and electronic-minded Canadian artist gets a physical release after its digital debut during early November.

Talib Kweli, "F*** The Money" (Javotti Media): The Brooklyn rapper is, as always, topical and fiercely confrontational in his second release of the year, taking on police brutality, corporate greed and political corruption.

"The Wiz Live" (Sony Masterworks): The music from the NBC "event" features new versions of the songs sung by Stephanie Mills, Shanice Williams, Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo and more.

Also Out: Arcangel and DJ Julian, "Los Favoritos" (Pina); Narty Balin, "Good Memories" (Buckjoy); Battle Tapes, "Polygon" (Battle Arts); Egyptian Lover, "1984" (Egyptian Empire); Joyce Griggs and Michael J. Holmes, "Grainger: Music For Saxophones" (Naxos Classics); Harem Scarem, "Live at the Phoenix" (Frontiers); jennylee, Right On!" (Rough Trade); Allie Louise, "Allie Louise" (self-released); Meiko, "Live Songs From the Hotel Cafe" (Independent); John Raymond, "Real Feels" (Shifting Paradigm); Ringo Deathstarr, "Pure Mood" (RAP); Secrets, "Everything That Got Us Here" (Rise); Spelljammer, "Ancient of Days" (Riding Easy); Spoken, "Breathe Again" (Artery);

From The Vaults: Black Crowes, "A Texas Tornado" (Sutra); Johnny Cash, "The Complete Sun Releases and Columbia Singles 1955-1962" (Acrobat); Joe Cocker, "The Life of a Man" (Sony); Alice Cooper, "Muscle of Love" (Audio Fidelity); Miles Davis, "The Last Word -- The Warner Bros. Years" (Warner Bros./Rhino); Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price, "Big Hits Live From the Last Breed Tour" (Top Hat Tunes); Insane Clown Posse, "Riddle Box -- 20th Anniversary Special Edition" (Psychopathic); King Crimson, "Thrak: 40th Anniversary Edition" (DGM); Stevie Nicks, "Gold Dust Woman: Radio Broadcast" (Laser Media); Linda Ronstadt, "A Party Girl in Dallas" (All Access); Rush, "The Lady Gone Electric" (Sonic Boom); Spoon, "Gimme Fiction (Deluxe Edition)" (Merge)

Soundtracks: "Alvin & the Chipmunks: Road Chip" (Republic)

New Music DVDs: Harem Scarem, "Live at the Phoenix" (Frontiers)

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