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Listening Room: Sheryl Crow, Lenny Kravitz and more...
Sheryl Crow, “Detours” (A&M) ***
When Sheryl Crow opens her sixth studio album with the raw “God Bless This Mess,” she’s fixin’ to clean up a whole heap of trouble. The album’s 13 tracks take on the domestic and global political climate, Crow’s own bout with breast cancer and her breakup with cycling champ Lance Armstrong. In the wake of all that, it seems remarkable that she comes to the conclusion that “Love is All There Is,” but the latent hippy optimism that’s always coursed through Crow’s music remains intact on “Detours,” ensuring that she’s still standing no matter how messy things get. Co-produced by Bill Bottrell — clearing up another personal mess with the once-estranged producer of her multiplatinum 1993 debut “Tuesday Night Music Club” — the front half of “Detours” bashes Bush (George, that is) and particularly the war in Iraq with barbed political commentaries (the shimmering anthem “Shine Over Babylon,” the beatnik groove of “Gasoline,” with Ben Harper guesting) and earnest hopes for a better tomorrow in the trippy “Peace Be Upon Us” — with Arabic lyrics sung by Ahmed Al Hirmi — and Spanish-flavored “Out of Our Heads.” Crow takes a winsome turn on the bouncy “Love is Free,” but the personal reflections of the record’s second half get more harrowing, particularly the scorched romantic ruminations of “Diamond Ring” and “Now That You’re Gone” and the haunting cancer treatment chronicle “Make it Go Away (Radiation Song).” “Lullaby For Wyatt,” Crow’s adopted son, closes “Detours” on a proper note — both hopeful and pensive, warmly loving but with a wary eye toward the future and a resolve to protect and persevere. Love may be free, she’s telling us, but it still comes with a cost.
Lenny Kravitz, “It Is Time For A Love Revolution” (Virgin) ** 1/2
Lenny Kravitz has been letting love rule since he started putting out records 18 years ago, so a “... Love Revolution” is hardly a revolutionary concept for him. And his latest studio set doesn’t veer too far from the vintage rock amalgamation that’s his stock in trade, sliding from the crunchy, Led Zeppelinstyled blues rock of “Bring It On” to the psychedelic riff-rock of “A Love Revolution” to the mannered dynamics of “If You Want It,” the psychedelic, Beatles-flavored melodicism of “Good Morning” and “A New Door,” and the James Brown/ Sly Stone workouts “Will You Marry Me” and “Love Love Love,” while “Vietnam” harks back to Neil Young’s Crazy Horse side. Kravitz covers a lot of ground here, even if it isn’t exactly new territory.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Foxy Brown, “Brooklyn’s Don Diva” (Koch) — The Brooklyn rapper sheds a variety of legal entanglements to release her first album in seven years.
Taylor Dayne, “Satisfied” (Adrenaline) — The New York singer’s first album in 10 years includes a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.”
Kenny G, “Rhythm and Romance” (Starbucks/ Concord) — The alto saxophonist follows his 2006 covers set “I’m in the Mood For Love ...” with an album of Latin romance music.
Paul Hardcastle, “Hardcastle 5” (Trippin & Rhythm) — The British jazz fusionist is enjoying a hit with this album’s first single, “Lucky Star.”
HorrorPops, “Kiss Kiss Kill Kill” (Hellcat) — The Danish-formed rockabilly trio continues to mine film and noir styles on its third album.
Hot Chip, “Made in the Dark” (Astralwerks) — The British electronic rock quintet turns in a group-produced effort, sampling Todd Rundgren on the track “Shake a Fist.”
Jack Johnson, “Sleep Through the Static” (Republic) — The Hawaiian singer-songwriter’s fifth studio album is his first recorded on the U.S. mainland (in L.A.).
k.d. lang, “Watershed” (Nonesuch) — The Canadian singer’s first set of all-new material in eight years also marks the first self-produced album in her 25-year career.
Bob Mould, “District Line” (Anti-) — The former Husker Du frontman returns to hard-hitting form, with Fugazi drummer Brenand Canty in town, on his latest solo outing.
Nada Surf, “Lucky” (Barsuk) — The trio’s fifth release includes guest appearances by members of Death Cab For Cutie and the Long Winters as well as Ed Harcourt.
Dax Riggs, “If This is Hell Then I’m Lucky” (Fat Possum) — The Louisiana singer-songwriter steps out from deadboy & the Elephantmen to record under his own name.
Arlen Roth, “Toolin Around Woodstock” (Aquinnah) — The highly regarded guitarist joins forces with The Band’s Levon Helm as well as guests Sonny Landreth, Bill Kirchen and Helm’s singing daughter Amy.
Soundtrack, “Honeydripper” (Rhino Theatrical) — The companion to the new John Sayles film is laden with new blues tracks from Ruth Brown, Keb’ Mo’, Gary Clark Jr., and actor Danny Glover.
Soundtrack, “Step Up 2 the Streets” (Atlantic) — Two new Missy Elliott joints and Flo Rida’s chart-topping “Low” highlight this 16-song set.
State Radio, “Year of the Crow” (Ruff Shod/Nettwerk) — The trio’s first release since winning the Boston Music Award for Outstanding Live Act of the Year.
They Might Be Giants, “Here Come the 123’s” (Disney Sound) — The idiosyncratic duo plays the numbers on its second children’s-themed album.
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