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Listening Room: The Verve, B.B. King and more...
The Verve, “Forth” (On Your Own) ***
When the Verve broke up in 1995 it came back together quickly and released its all time bestseller “Urban Hymns” — and its ill-fated smash single “Bittersweet Symphony,” which put a few more million dollars in the Rolling Stones’ pockets. This time it took the British quartet a decade to reunite, but “Forth” makes the wait worthwhile with 10 tracks of sweeping, epic arrangements flavored with the Northern soul that gave the Verve’s second album its title. Space is the real star of the album, a sonic environment that gives plenty of room for frontman Richard Ashcroft’s vocals and Nick McCabe’s finely detailed guitars and keyboards, but still housing a well-fortified bottom end from bassist Simon Jones and drummer Nick Salisbury. “Forth” fades in with the winding groove of “Sit and Wonder,” marked by Ashcroft’s typically rich and keening vocals and sharp guitar pings from McCabe. “Love is Noise,” meanwhile, is a single with the same hit potential as “Bittersweet Symphony,” with a call-and-response “ooh-ooh” vocal hook and a muscular dance groove, and “Noise Epic” lives up to the latter part of its title with its building and shifting dynamics and a taut rhythm that keeps the listener engaged through its eight minutes-plus length. “Rather Be,” “Judas,” “Valium Skies” and “Appalachian Springs” bring the soul component of the Verve’s sound to the fore, particularly in Ashcroft’s realm, while the trancey “Numbness” and the pleasantly meandering “Columbo” nod to a kind of Pink Floyd ambience. You certainly don’t want to wish for the Verve to break up again after “Forth” runs its cycle, but with the results these periods apart seem to draw out of the band, it’s tempting ...
B.B. King, “One Kind Favor” (Geffen) ***
Producer T. Bone Burnett scores with a hot idea for B.B. King’s first new studio album in three years: Having the legendary 82-year-old guitarist revisit songs he played at the very beginning of his career, including material by Big Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Mississippi Sheiks and others. King sounds inspired throughout the 12-song set, though the fire of his youth is replaced by a confident authority that’s bolstered by an ace band (Dr. John on piano, Nathan East on upright bass, Jim Keltner on drums) and tasteful horn arrangements that sound like they’re coming right off a nightclub bandstand. King and Burnett aren’t inventing any new wheels here, but they’re collaboration keeps the car rolling in an engagingly smooth fashion.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY:
Blues Traveler, “North Hollywood Shootout” (Verve Forecast): The veteran jam band follows its 2007 self covers album with its first set of all new material in three years.
Jonatha Brooke, “The Works” (Bad Dog): The New York-based singer-songwriter becomes the latest artist to get access to the Woody Guthrie archives, building new songs out of his leftover writings.
Eva Cassidy, “Somewhere” (Blix Street): A collection of unreleased material, including covers of Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline material, by the late singer-songwriter.
Delta Spirit, “Ode to Sunshine” (Rounder): The debut album from the highoctane San Diego quartet that made its name opening for Cold War Kids, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and others.
The Gabe Dixon Band, “The Gabe Dixon Band” (Fantasy): Nashville pianist Dixon co-wrote with hit makers Dan Wilson and Tia Sillers on his trio’s third release.
Dragonforce, “Ultra Beatdown” (Roadrunner): The British hard rock troupe’s fourth album comes in the wake of its main stage turn on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival.
George Duke, “Dukey Treats” (BPM/Heads Up): The jazz ’n’ funk keyboardist’s guest list on his latest album includes Sheila E., Christian McBride, Jonathan Butler, Teena Marie and other notables.
Electric Touch, “Electric Touch” (Justice): Glam rock lives in the hands of this energetic Texas quartet.
The Game, “L.A.X.” Black Wall Street/Geffen/ Interscope): The guest list on the West Coast rapper’s third album includes Lil Wayne, DMX, Nas, Ludacris, Ne-Yo, Common, Keyshia Cole, Raheem DeVaugh and former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker.
Solange Knowles, “Sol-Angel and the Hadley
Street Dreams” (Music World/Geffen): Beyonce’s lil’ sis worked on her sophomore album with Pharrell, Cee-Lo, Lil Wayne, Bilal, Estelle, Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry and Motown legend Lamont Dozier.
Little Feat, “Join the Band” (429): Bob Seger alert: He’s one of the guests on this all-star set, joining Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill and more in helping one of America’s tragically underappreciated bands get its just due.
Raine Maida, “The Hunter’s Lullaby” (Kingnoise): The Our Lady Peace frontman marches to a different set of beats on his first solo album.
Jody Porter, “Close to the Sun” (self-released): The Fountains of Wayne and Belltower guitarist is releasing his first solo album via iTunes.
The Silent Years, “The Globe” (Defend Music): The terrestrial release of the Detroit rockers’ latest album, which came out via iTunes two weeks earlier.
Slipknot, “All Hope Is Gone” (Roadrunner): The headbanging Iowa nine-piece rolls out new masks, new outfits — and a few new sonic tricks, including the melodic, acoustic guitar-driven “Snuff.”
Matthew Sweet, “Sunshine Lies” (Shout! Factory): The Nebraskaturned-California rocker takes a heavy psychedelic path this time out with vocal help from good pal Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles.
Thriving Ivory, “Thriving Ivory” (Wind-Up): The second album from the California quintet that hails from the anthemic rock school of U2 and Coldplay.
Uriah Heep, “Wake the Sleeper” (Noise/Sanctuary): The first new album in 10 years from the British hard rock veterans of “Easy Livin’ ” and “Stealin’ ” fame.
V.I.C., “Beast” (Collipark/Warner Bros.): The debut from the Atlanta rapper (real name Victor Ganz) features guest shots by Soulja Boy, Jermaine Dupri, Polow da Don and Hurricane Chris.
Jimmy Wayne, “Do You Believe Me Now” (Valory/ Big Machine): The North Carolina country singer’s sophomore album comes five years after his debut and features a duet with Patty Loveless.
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