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Listening Room: Extreme, Irma Thomas and more...
Extreme, “Saudades de Rock” (Open E Records) ***
A reunion of Extreme is something most of us never expected to see — and, frankly, didn’t expect to be particularly good, much less better than the group was the first time around. But the Boston quartet re-emerges from a 13-year hiatus sounding like a band refreshed and renewed by its time apart, during which singer Gary Cherone infamously stepped in as Van Halen’s third frontman and guitaristbandleader Nuno Bettencourt worked with a variety of projects, including Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party. And if we best remember Extreme for its acoustic ’90s hits such as “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted,” the group is clearly out to change that perception on “Saudades de Rock,” opening with a blast of vocal harmonies on the vintage power rocker “Star” and keeping the octane high for stomping tracks such as “Comfortably Dumb,” “Last Hour,” “Flower Man” and the Led Zeppelinstyled “Sunrise.” Extreme also branches out to gets it funk on for the likes of “Slide” and “King of the Ladies,” while “Take Us Alive” delves in a rockabilly direction. The group does let it’s quiet side air out, too, on the acoustic “Interface” and the solemn album-closer “Peace,” while “Ghost” marks its Coldplay-style ambience with piano and strings. Mostly, though, “Saudades de Rock” does rock. Plenty of comebacks fall flat, but Extreme’s return is whole-hearted — and all the better for it.
Irma Thomas, “Simply Grand” (Rounder) ***1/2
After a Grammy Award-winning career and status (along with her father, the late Rufus Thomas) as an R&B legend, Irma Thomas doesn’t have to prove or reinvent herself. But she lives up to the title of “Simply Grand” on her latest album, a collection of 14 songs performed with notable pianists such as Dr. John, Randy Newman, Norah Jones, Ellis Marsalis, Jon Cleary and Marcia Ball. Make no mistake that Thomas’ voice is the star here as she absolutely kills on versions of Jones’ “Thinking About You,” Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” the new Burt Bacharach tune “What Can I Do” and the unreleased Dr. John/Doc Pomus song “Be You.” But her rapport with the instrumentalists is palpable, giving “Simply Grand” the feel of an intimate, after-hours club session that, of course, we never want to end.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
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Daddy Yankee, “Talento De Barrio” (Machete): The Puerto Rican reggaeton star’s release doubles as the soundtrack to his first feature film.
Chris Difford, “The Last Temptation of Chris” (Airline): The second solo album by Squeeze’s lyricist follows its predecessor by six years.
East Village Opera Company, “Olde School” (Decca): The New York troupe transforms 11 opera classics with rock-style arrangements.
Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, “An Invitation” (Everloving): The daughter of the late Little Feat founder Lowell George teams with the famed Beach Boys (and more) collaborator on her second recording venture.
Jonas Brothers, “A Little Bit Longer” (Hollywood): The sibling trio is already “Burnin’ Up” the charts thanks to the lead single from their third album, which was recorded in a mobile bus studio while on tour with Mylie Cyrus.
Janelle Monae, “Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition)” (Atlantic): OutKast’s Andre “Big Boi” Patton produces this genre-blending, sci-fi flavored outing by the vocal collaborator from his group’s “Idlewild” project.
New Kids on the Block, “Greatest Hits” (Columbia/ Legacy): The onetime boy (now men) band celebrates its 20th anniversary and its reunion with a collection that includes a few bonus track rarities.
David Sanborn, “Here and Gone” (Decca): The saxophonist pays tribute to some of his heroes (Hank Crawford, Ray Charles, etc.) with help from guests Eric Clapton, Joss Stone, Sam Moore, Derek Trucks and others.
Sick of Sarah, “Sick of Sarah” (Adamant): The debut album from the allfemale Minneapolis quintet that’s been compared, favorably, to forebears such as the Breeders and Sleater-Kinney.
James “Munky” Shaffer, “Fear and the Nervous System” (Emotional Symphon): The former Korn guitarist’s solo project features contributions from Limp Bizkit refugee Wes Borland and Faith No Moore’s Billy Gould, among others.
The Silent Years, “The Globe” (Defend): The Detroit rock quintet’s third album is a conceptual song cycle about human experience, both concrete and gleefully abstract.
Anya Singleton, “The Other Side” (Hybrid Music): The first full-length album from the New York singer who was born in Tunisia and raised in South Africa and England.
S.M.V., “Thunder” (Heads Up): Jazz bassists Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten work some bottom-end magic with help from friends Chick Corea, George Duke and others.
Tab the Band, “Long Weekend” (North Street): The second release by the Boston trio was recorded at the home studio of two members’ father, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.
Ben Weaver, “The Ax in the Oak” (Bloodshot): The Minneapolis singer-songwriter traveled to Chicago to record his sixth studio album.
Yung Berg, “Look What
You Made Me” (Yung Boss/ Koch): The Chicago rapper’s full-length debut features guests such as Twista, Ray J, Eve, Lloyd, Amerie and Trey Songz.
Frank Zappa, “One Shot Deal” (Zappa): A collection of archival live and studio recordings present the late Zappa in his heaviest, most guitar-centric guise.
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