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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Prince, Sum 41 and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2007

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Prince, “Planet Earth” (Columbia) **1/2

We don’t expect Prince to change the world anymore — but it’s OK if he rocks it a little bit. And that’s just what happens on “Planet Earth,” the latest outing by the prolific Minneapolis pop auteur. Though the music landscape these days is such that it’s hard, if not impossible, for Prince (or anyone) to produce something as earth-shaking as “Dirty Mind,” “1999” or “Purple Rain,” he’s still capable of putting together as solid a set of songs as any of his peers from a stockpile that — as anyone who pays even cursory attention to his Web site knows — is immense. Though he raps his way through the come-hithers of “Mr. Goodnight,” Prince makes few nods to modern music this time out — which doesn’t necessarily mean “Planet Earth” is retro. Rather, it hews towards more timeless songcraft in recognizable old school forms such as the brass-laden funk workout “Chelsea Rogers,” rote slow jams such as “Somewhere Here on Earth” and “Future Baby Mama,” and an assortment of melody-heavy poprock tracks like “The One U Wanna C,” “All the Midnights” and the U2-inspired “Guitar.” It’s not one of his finest lyrical outings (“The main problem with war/Is nobody ever wins ...”), but he does bookend “Planet Earth” with grand statements — the ecologically conscious title track, a nearly six-minute epic that ends with a celestial guitar solo, and “Resolution,” whose peace, love and understanding sentiments are accented by vocal oohs and aahs. Longtime fans will note that Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman are part of the proceedings here, bringing a bit of Prince’s past into a still-potent present.


Sum 41, “Underclass Hero” (Island) **1/2

Sum 41 frontman (and Avril Lavigne’s husband) Deryck Whibley and his Canadian compatriots would be hardpressed not to acknowledge that there’s a bit of Green Day envy at work on their fourth full-length album. It’s more thematic than narrative, but it echoes “American Idiot” in the fierce political sloganeering of “The Jester,” “Confusion and Frustration in Modern Times” and “March of the Dogs” and in its sophisticated song arrangements, which also pay homage to Queen, Weezer and Linkin Park, among others. And “So Long Goodbye,” a wave to departed guitarist Dave Brownsound, ends the album on a decidedly “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” note. The growth does not feel gratuitous, though, and there’s still enough of the group’s snotty ’tude to keep the mosh pit happy.


Peter Criss, “One For All” (Mega Force) — The former Kiss drummer’s first solo album in 15 years is more “Beth” than “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

Billy Ray Cyrus, “Home at Last” (Disney) — Have “Dancing with the Stars” and “Hannah Montana” made us forget “Achy Breaky Heart”? Naaaaaaaaah ...

The Doors, “Live in Boston ’70”

(Bright Midnight/Rhino) — Three discs that break on through from the other side of two 1970 shows in Beantown.

Evans Blue, “Pursuit Beings When This Portrayal of Life Ends” (Pocket/Hollywood) — The Canadian quartet’s second album is a hard-rocking concept piece that will ultimately be accompanied by videos for each song.

The Go, “Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride” (Cass) — The long-lived Detroit garage rock outfit puts its latest set of tunes into wide release after a “soft” local release in April.

Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton, “What is Free to a Good Home” (Last Gang) — Better than mere leftovers from the Metric frontwoman’s solo album, “Knives Don’t Have Your Back.”

Hanson, “Walk” (Three Car Garage) — Thanks to a few delays, the DIY brother trio’s latest has taken the long “Walk” to its ultimate release.

Corey Harris, “Zion Crossroads”

(Telarc) — The singer-songwriter’s latest outing was inspired by his travels in Africa and explorations of ancient history there.

Juliette and the Licks, “Four on the Floor” (Militia) — The sophomore full-length from the modern rock group fronted by actress Juliette Lewis.

Manic Street Preachers, “Send Away the Tigers” (Red Ink) — The British group ends the three-year wait for its eighth studio album, with the Cardigans’ Nina Persson as a guest.

Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Roots, Rock, Remixed” (Quango Fontana) — Marley’s legendary reggae gets worked over by DJ Spooky, King Kooba and other luminaries of the remix scene.

Robbers on High Street, “Grand Animals” (New Line) — The third album from the New York trio hailed as one of Rolling Stone’s Artists to Watch.

Silverchair, “Young Modern” (ILG) — The Australian trio returns five years after its last album and frontman Daniel Johns’ dangerous bout with reactive arthritis.

Tegan & Sara, “The Con” (Sire/ London/Rhino) — The Canadian sister duo returns to make good on the 2004 success of “Walking with a Ghost.”

Billy Bob Thornton, “Beautiful Door” (New Door/UMe) — Graham Nash provides harmonies for three tracks on the actor-singer’s fourth album.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Is Is” (Fontana/Interscope) — An EP’s worth of songs recorded for but left off of the New York trio’s 2004 album “Show Your Bones.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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