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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: High School Musical 2, Blaqk Audio and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2007

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Soundtrack, “High School Musical 2” (Walt Disney Records) **1/2

As the old adage says, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try ... Actually, Disney did succeed with “High School Musical” — spectacularly, to the tune of 7 million albums sold worldwide a catalog of DVDs (the “Encore Edition!,” the “Remix Edition!”), a concert tour, stage and ice shows, and lyrics that every adolescent on the planet knows by heart. So we shouldn’t be too surprised that “High School Musical 2” doesn’t dance too far off the beaten path. There are even direct references to “HSM’s” closing epic “We’re All in This Together” on the sequel’s opening track, “What Time is It?,” which sends the kids of East High School off for a summer vacation filled with the requisite romantic tribulations, light class warfare and, yes, a Midsummer Night’s Talent Show for everyone to strut their stuff. The “HSM” songwriting crew remains mostly the same and skews these 10 track towards hiphop beats and hooky pop melodies, and tracks such as “Work This Out,” the sports-themed “I Don’t Dance,” “Bet on It” and “All for One” make you feel like Backstreet’s not only back, but never left. The Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) vehicles “Fabulous” and “Humu humunukunukuapaua’a” fill the camp quotient, while Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) get their swoon on in the ballads “You Are the Music in Me,” “Gotta Go My Own Way” and “Everyday.” That the “High School Musical” legions will love “2” is a given, and if you’re not among that number, know now that resistance may well prove futile.


Blaqk Audio, “CexCells” (Interscope) **1/2

On this debut album from some (relatively) old friends, AFI principals Davey Havok and Jade Puget indulge their electronic pop jones on a dozen old school tracks that channel the likes of Depeche Mode, New Order and Erasure with entertaining but not necessarily groundbreaking ease. Layering the synthesizers and sequencers, they cover all the necessary ground, from the electro sprint of “Stiff Kittens” to the fast-paced techno of “Snuff on Digital and “On a Friday” to the gothlike structure of “Between Breaths,” with Havok mastering the sense of melodic detachment so prevalent in Blaqk Audio’s sonic models. They should still keep the day job, but we’ve certainly heard less successful side projects than this.


Ali & Gipp, “Kinfolk” (Universal) — The collaborative debut of the rap superduo formed by St. Lunatics’ Ali and Goodie Mob’s Big Gipp.

Terence Blanchard, “Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem For Katrina)” (Angel) — The New Orleans jazz trumpeter jumps off from his score for Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke” to pay further homage to his hometown.

California Transit Authority, “Full Circle”

(Street Sense) — Debut set from the group founded by former Chicago and Tower of Power members.

Eisley, “Combinations” (Warner Bros.) — The sibling quintet from Tyler, Texas, sought out a new producer (Richard Gibbs) for a bigger, guitar-dominated sound on its second album.

Great White, “Back to the Rhythm” (Frontier) — The original lineup of this ’80s rock troupe reunites for the first time in two decades and with its first album of new material since 1999.

Mae, “Singularity” (Capitol) — The Virginia modern rockers move to a major label after two releases on the indie Tooth & Nail.

Dean Martin, “Forever Cool” (Capitol) — An eclectic group, including country singer Martina McBride, Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, instrumentalists Dave Koz and Chris Botti, and “American Idol” finalist Paris Bennett, step up for some posthumous duets with the Rat Pack’s second most famous member.

Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds, “Live at Radio City Music Hall” (RCA) — A document of an epic April concert by Matthews and his main extraband collaborator and fellow guitarist Reynolds.

Lori McKenna, “Unglamorous” (Stylesonic/ Warner Bros.) — Write some songs for Faith Hill. Get signed to hubby Tim McGraw’s label. Sounds glamorous to us.

The Rentals, “Last Little Life E.P.” (Boompa) — Former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp and company offer a stop-gap set while they continue recording their third full-length album.

Lee Rocker, “Black Cat Bone” (Alligator) — The Stray Cats bassist covers Bob Dylan and Hank Williams on his latest solo outing.

Linda Thompson, “Versatile Heart” (Rounder) — The British folk/rock veteran’s first release in five years features Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Antony and her own children, Teddy and Kamila Thompson.

Turbonegro, “Retox” (Cooking Vinyl) — When these good-humored Norwegian headbangers ask “Do You Dig Destruction?,” even the pacifists among us might be entertained enough to say yes.

12 Stones, “Anthem For the Underdog” (Wind-Up) — The faith-based hard rockers drew inspiration for their third album’s songs from the post-Katrina wreckage in their Louisiana and Mississippi homes.

Paul Van Dyk, “In Between” (Mute) — The electronic auteur’s latest sonic creations feature David Byrne and the Pussycat Dolls’ Jessica Sutta, among other guests.

Dr. Cornel West, “Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations” (Hidden Beach) — The noted Princeton professor and social commentator brings his intellect to the music realm with help from Prince, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott and the late Gerald Levert.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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