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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Common, Korn and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2007

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Common, “Finding Forever” (G.O.O.D. Music/Geffen) ***1/2

Early on his seventh album, on a track called “The People,” Chicago rapper-actor Common (Lonnie Rahsid Lynn Jr.) declares that “my daughter found Nemo/I found the new Primo.” He’s talking specifically about Kanye West, the fellow Chicagoan who produced most of “Finding Forever” and its acclaimed predecessor, 2005’s “Be.” But Common could just as easily be talking about the style he’s discovered on these two albums; simplistically labeled “conscious rap,” it’s a highly musical mix of live instrumentation and inventive old school R&B (the Isley Brothers, Nina Simone) and smooth jazz (George Duke) sampling to support lyrics that deal with far more than standardissue thug material (but, public funerals aside, still drop the occasional N-word). Good cases in point include “Black Maybe,” which builds off Stevie Wonder’s song of the same name into a jazzy track that weaves Common’s raps over vocals by Bilal; the phatter, will.i.am-produced “I Want You”; the aggressive attack of “The Game,” with scratches by Gang Starr’s DJ Premier; the soulful, spiritually tinged “Misunderstood,” which samples Simone’s rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”; and the swinging “So Far to Go,” which was helmed by the late Detroit auteur J Dilla and features vocals by D’Angelo. British sensation Lily Allen accents Common’s speedy flow on the pop-flavored “Drivin’ Me Wild,” while the sociopolitical title track, which stretches to 7 1 /2 minutes, is propelled by the martial beat of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” West is indeed all over the album, producing nine of the 12 tracks and appearing on two of them. He clearly has the vision that elevates Common above the hip-hop fray, but it’s the rapper’s own sensibility that clinches the effort.


Korn, “Untitled” (Virgin) ***

You can teach old rock dogs new tricks; that’s what comes through loud (’natch) and clear on Korn’s eight studio album. “Untitled” doesn’t make wholesale changes in the headbanging trio’s densely textured, industrial-strength brand of metal, but it does expand the soundscape significantly, from more melodically accessible contributions by pop hitmakers The Matrix to the drumming of guest Terry Bozzio, which drives Korn in an ambitious, prog-rock direction on the album-closing “I Will Protect You.” Touring keyboardist Zac Baird also makes a significant contribution to the set, and songs such as the groove-accented “Love and Luxury” and the trippy, pianolaced “Kiss” find welcome new territories that will still keep listeners’ heads banging.


DevilDriver, “Last Kind Words” (Roadrunner) — A third album of heavyweight noise from former Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara and company.

Chris Duarte Group, “Blue Velocity” (Shrapnel) — The fifth album from the Texas blues-rocker and his trio.

Five Finger Death Punch, “Way of the Fist” (Firm Music) — Debut album from the Los Angeles metal quintet, a second stage act on Korn’s Family Values Tour.

G. Love & Special Sauce, “Year and a Night with ...”

(Brushfire) — A CD/DVD combo that tells the whole story about the soulful Philadelphia jam band.

Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding, “The King and I”

(Rykodisc) — Longtime collaborators Gordon and Spedding reunite, and add the Jordanaires, for this 15-track commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.

Charlie Hunter, “Mistico”

(Fantasy) — The guitarist changes labels for his most diverse set yet, but without abandoning his firmly planted jazz roots.

Keith Murray, “Rap-Murr-Phobia” (Koch) — The rapper’s first solo album in four years was overseen by Def Squad mate Erick Sermon and features Tyrese, Method Man, Redman and more.

Placebo, “Extended Play ’07”

(Virgin) — An EP of elongated versions of five favorites and three live tracks to hype the edgy British trio’s run on this year’s Projekt Revolution tour.

The Raspberries, “Live on Sunset Strip” (Rykodisc) — Bruce Springsteen wrote the liner notes for the document of the power pop legends’ 2005 West Coast show.

Josh Rouse, “Country Mouse City House” (Nettwerk) — The Nebraska-born singersongwriter vents a little Americana pride on his fifth album.

Shivaree, “Tainted Love: Mating Calls and Fight Songs”

(Zoe/Rounder) — Ambrosia Parsley and her cohorts tred an amorous terrain via idiosyncratic covers of songs by R. Kelly, MIchael Jackson, Gary Glitter, Mötley Crüe and more.

Soullive, “No Place Like Soul” (Stax) — The New York organ trio add a singer (the single-monikered Toussaint) for their first-ever all-vocal album.

Soundtrack, “Bratz”

(Geffen) — Black Eyed Peas, Jibbs, Lifehouse and Ashlee Simpson are among those bringing music to the live-screen adaptation of the popular toys line.

Various Artists, “The Chicago LP” (S&S) — This dancer’s delight features a 33-track, two-disc survey of the Chicago house music scene.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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