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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Ariana Grande, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Blake Shelton and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2016

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Ariana Grande

"Dangerous Woman"


Grade: B

It's been more than a year since Ariana Grande broke up with Detroit rapper Big Sean, and her third album makes it sound like she's spent the time feeling liberated -- and libidinous. "Dangerous Woman" is a sex-drenched 11-song (not counting deluxe edition bonus tracks) romp that finds the capable and cutesy Grande trading in her trademark cat points for bunny ears and an S&M-style mask, posing as a "Greedy" partner who can't seem to get enough of any man she's with, leaving listeners in need of a cold shower and maybe some antibiotics. Image? Let Grande tell you in the closing "I Don't Care" that "I used to feel so obligated to be so much more/I used to let some people tell me how to live and what to be/But if I can't be me then (what's) the point?" That defiance suits her well, however, as Grande maneuvers her sultry and melodically pliable voice through fat-free arrangements that range from the light, string-laden torch of "Moonlight" to the slinky, guitar-driven title track, the electronic chill vibes of "INto You" and "Be Alright," the reggae lope of "Side To Side" (with Nicki Minaj) and the buoyant joy of "Greedy," which hearkens to the 80s and 90s Minneapolis productions of Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. Grande particularly shines on "Leave Me Lonely," a muscular duet with Macy Gray, and on the jazzy "I Don't Care," both of which let her push her voice into more challenging and advanced directions. How much of a "Dangerous Woman" Grande is at 22 remains to be determined, but she's clearly having fun trying to be one.

New & Noteworthy:

Barenaked Ladies, "BNL Rocks Red Rocks" (Vanguard): A live set that features Men At Work's "Who Can It Be Now" with the group's Colin Hay and a closing cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll."

Bob Dylan, "Fallen Angels" (Columbia): Dylan does Sinatra again on his second dunk into the Great American Songbook.

Eric Clapton, "I Still Do" (Surfdog): The guitar god reunites with 70s producer Glyn Johns and pens a pair of originals to go with covers of Bob Dylan, Skip James, Robert Johnson and JJ Cale songs.

Mudcrutch, "2" (Reprise): Tom Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band is back with its second set since reforming back in 2007.

Blake Shelton, "If I'm Honest" (Warner Music Nashville): The country star and "The Voice" coach's 10th studio album includes "Go Ahead and Break My Heart," a duet with girlfriend Gwen Stefani.

The Highwaymen, "Live: American Outlaws" (Columbia/Legacy): A box set featuring concert audio and video and the bona fide supergroup featuring Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. "The Very Best of the Highwaymen" (Columbia/Legacy) compiles the group's top studio recordings.

Also Out: Adult Jazz, "Earrings Off!" (Tri Angle); Bent Knee, "Say So" (Cuneiform); Clarence Bucaro, "Pendulum" (2020); Car Seat Headrest, "Teens of Denial" (Universal); Albert Castiglia, "Big Dog" (Ruf); Brett Dennen, "Por Favor" (Elektra); Kacy & Clayton, "Strange Country" (New West); Lords of Acid, "Smoking Hot" (Metropolis); Marky May, Blues Heaven" (Connor Ray Music); The Mighty Orq, "Love In a Hurricane" (Connor Ray Music); Marissa Nadler, "Stranger" (Sacred Bones); Nefesh Mountain, "Nefesh Mountain" (Nefesh Mountain); Pantha Du Prince, "The Triad" (Rough Trade); Plaitum, "Jagwa" (Harvest); Paul Reddick, "Ride The One" (Sony Plain); Tom Rhodes, "Who You Were" (self-released); Rachael Sage, "Choreographic" (MPress/ILS/Caroline); Tiny Moving Parts, "Celebrate" (Triple Crown);

From The Vaults: Terry Allen, "Juarez" (Paradise of Bachelors); Tom Petty & Bob Dylan, "Live On Air/ Radio Broadcast 1986" (LMP)

Soundtracks: "Brooklyn Crush (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording)" (Broadway)

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