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Listening Room: Audioslave, Billy Gilman and more
Audioslave “Revelations” Epic ***
For a band that’s subjected to more breakup rumors than a Hollywood couple, Audioslave sounds like it’s aiming for forever on its third album. Even the most successful acts need to grow and explore new terrain, even if they have the supergroup pedigree of this fusion of former Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine members, and Audioslave does just that, finding more than a few musical “Revelations” in these 12 tracks without gratuitously altering a sound that nobody is really tired of yet. This will go down as Audioslave’s soul album, with grooving funk references laced throughout the disc, starting with the title track and continuing through the jagged dynamics of “One Road the Same,” “Broken City” and “Jewel in the Summertime.” It’s the sound of musicians who wore out the grooves of their Led Zeppelin albums but also gave a little turntable — yes, turntable — time to Sly & the Family Stone, the Gap Band and early Kool & the Gang, among others. But “Revelations” is still fundamentally a rock album, evidenced by the fi erce fi rst single “Original Fire,” the stomping attack of “Sound of a Gun” and the leaden crunch of “Moth,” while “Wide Awake” builds a furious post-Katrina political statement over an ambient, restrained rhythm. Tom Morello continues to deploy guitar effects that keep things even more interesting but still serve the songs, while Chris Cornell delivers an elastic, diverse vocal performance that’s perhaps the best he’s ever committed to a single album. Audioslave had its doubters in the beginning, but “Revelations,” like its two predecessors, assures us something special is going on here. Not bad for a band that’s reportedly splitting on any given day.
Billy Gilman “Billy Gilman” Image *1/2
Gilman — or “Billy the Kid” as he introduces himself at the start of his sixth album — feels like “the price of fame is on my head.” And that price is being forever remembered as the 11-year-old with the big pipes who hit big with “One Voice” in 2000. Now, however, he’s 18 and, like LeAnn Rimes before him, is trying to grow from boy to man. He doesn’t quite make it, though. If the adolescent Gilman sounded older than his years, the voting-age singer’s voice is a bit too thin and high-pitched to convey some of this material — particularly “Almost Over (Gettin’ Over You),” a Texas swing duet with Pam Tillis. He’s best served at this juncture by uptempo tracks such as “Designated Driver” and “Young Love,” but even that doesn’t eclipse the Gilman we’ve known, and many have loved, for the past eight years.
New and noteworthy:
• Beyoncé, “B’day”
(Columbia) — The former Destiny’s Child leader celebrates her 25th birthday with her second album, and with boyfriend Jay-Z in tow for the single “Déja Vù.”
• Black Ice, “Death of Willie Lynch” (Koch) — The politically charged poet/rapper gets help from Musiq, China Black and Floetry’s Natalie Stewart on his debut album.
• Billy Bremner, “No Ifs, Buts, Maybes” (Gadfl y) — A new solo set from the former Rockpile member, which is his first with a full band since the mid-’80s.
• The Fray, “How to Save a Life” (Epic) — The Denver quartet’s hit debut album is expanded with a 45-minute bonus DVD.
• The Hourly Radio, “History Will Never Hold Me” (Kirtland) — The idiosyncratic Dallas quartet delivers its debut in the “flesh” after a two-plus-month run as a digital download.
• Iron Maiden, “A Matter of Life and Death”
(Sanctuary) — The veteran British headbangers bring their latest set stateside after making a lot of noise overseas.
• Jars of Clay, “Good Monsters” (Essential) — The Christian rockers welcome formers Sixpence None the Richer singer Leigh Nash on their ninth album.
• Kinky, “Reina”
(Nettwerk) — The engaging Mexican rock troupe relocated to California to record its third album.
• The Klezmatics, “Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah” (JMG) — The contemporary klezmer troupe lights it up on this collection of Guthrie holiday songs.
• Various Artists, “Gigantour” (Image Entertainment) — Live music from Megadeth, Dream Theater, Fear Factory and others, just in time for the launch of this year’s Gigantour.
• Various Artists, “My Name is Earl: The Album”
(Shout! Factory) — New songs from Uncle Kracker, John Hiatt and Matthew Sweet are hooked up with some of actor Jason Lee’s own picks from Young M.C., The Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
• Tony Joe White, “Uncovered” (Swamp) — The veteran Nashville songwriter keeps some good company on this latest effort under his own name, with guests including Eric Clapton, Michael McDonald, Mark Knopfler and the late Waylon Jennings.
• The Wiggles, “Crunchy Munchy Music” (Koch) — Few albums come with as selfexplanatory a title as the latest from this kids’ favorite. Just don’t leave crumbs ...
• William Elliott Whitmore, “Song of the Blackbird” (Southern) — The Iowa troubadour and farmer hangs up the overalls and picks up a guitar for his latest set of songs.
• George Winston, “Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions: A Hurricane Relief” (RCA) — The New Age pioneer pays tribute (and raises money) for the gulf coast with a set that draws inspiration from New Orleans greats such as James Booker, Dr. John, Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint.
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