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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Beyonce, Drake, Martina McBride, Rob Zombie and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2016

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Grade: A

Beyonce apparently isn't "Drunk In Love" anymore. "Lemonade," her sixth studio album -- surprise released on April 23, selling on Tidal and streaming on iTunes until its May 6 physical release -- is getting plenty of attention for what she has to say, explicitly calling husband Jay Z out for his cheating ways and asserting her own strength in working angrily through he hurt. "You ain't married to no average b****, boy," she declares in the reggae flavored "Hold Up," and even the conciliatory tone of "All Night" has an edge of uncertainty. But the 12-track "Lemonade" also deserves props for how it sounds; it's Beyonce's most stylistically varied outing yet, both as a singer -- from the coos of the airy album opener "Pray You Catch Me" to the urgent, barely hinged angst of "Don't Hurt Yourself" with Jack White, the near-country swagger of "Daddy Lessons," the gospel-tinged soulfulness of "Sandcastles" -- and as a song stylist. There's an appealing spareness to most of the arrangements and a wealth of inventive samples (Andy Williams' "Can't Get Used To Losing You?" Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks?") and wide-ranging, "OMG!" flavors from collaborators such as White, Diplo, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koening, Father John Misty, Animal Collective, Mike WILL Made-It and duet partners Kendrick Lamar, James Blake and The Weeknd. The already controversial "Formation" and "Freedom," meanwhile, place Beyonce's heartache in a broader context. Like the drink it's named after, "Lemonade" is tart and tangy, with plenty of kick -- but also a hint of melodic sweetness that takes some of the hurt off the hard-knock life lessons she describes.

New & Noteworthy:

Drake, "Views From The 6" (OVO Sound/Young Money/Republic): The Toronto rapper's fourth full-length weighs in at a whopping 20 tracks with guest appearances by Jay Z, Kanye West, Pimp C and more.

The Jayhawks, "Paging Mr. Proust" (Thirty Tigers): R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck is among the co-producers of the Americana favorite's first new album in five years.

Martina McBride, "Restless" (Nash Icon): The country veteran duets with Keith Urban and Buddy Miller on her 13th studio album.

"On Your Feet!: Original Broadway Cast Recording" (Masterworks Broadway): A trip, literally for fans of Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine thanks to the companion to the hit biographical stage musical.

Sixx A.M., "Prayers For the Damned, Vol. 1" (Eleven Seven): The troupe's fourth album and first since Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba left Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses, respectively, has the theatrical bombast of a band that's realized its identity and is finally playing for keeps.

Rob Zombie, "The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration" (UMe): More industrial-flavored metal madness from Zombieland, introducing us to Satanic Cyanide, a Teenage Rock God and a Dedicated Gore Whore.

Also Out: Aesop Rock, "The Impossible Kid" (Rhymesayers); Boxer Rebellion, "Ocean By Ocean" (Kobalt); Andra Day, "Cheers To The Fall" (Warner Bros.); John Doe, "The Westerner" (Cool Rock); Brian Eno, "The Ship" (Warp); Fallujah, "Dreamless" (Nuclear Blast); Haken, "Affinity" (Inside Out); Lonestar, "Never Enders" (Shanachie); Low Mentality, "Everything Lasts Forever" (Generation Recordings); Pepper, "Ohana" (Law); Rockabye Baby, "Lullaby Renditions of Adele" (Rockabye Baby); Rogue Wave, "Delusions of Grand Fur" (Easy Sound); Jennifer Saran, "Walk With Me" (Tarpan); Skinny Puppy, "Culcha Vulcha" (Ground Up); Tremonti, "Dust" (Fret12); Various Artists, "NOW Broadway" (NOW); Various Artists, "NOW That's What I Call Music 50" (NOW);

From The Vaults: Bad Company, "LIve in Concert 1977 & 1979" (Rhino)

Soundtracks: "An American Victory: Studio Cast Recording" (Broadway); "Empire: Original Soundtrack, Season 2 Volume 2" (Columbia); "On Your Feet: Original Broadway Cast Recording" (Masterworks Broadway); "Sing Street: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Republic)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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