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Listening Room: Ashley Tisdale, George Thorogood and more...
At the start of her second album, Ashley Tisdale promises that "I'll give you something to talk about/It's another side of me." We've seen a few sides already, of course -- as Kim in "Donnie Darko," Maddie Fitzpatrick in the Disney Channel show "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and, most importantly, as Sharpay Evans in the phenomenally successful "High School Musical Franchise." "Headstrong" in 2007 sounded like the kind of pop album Sharpay would make, but the newly brunette and Britney-ized Tisdale's contention is that "Guilty Pleasure" is more mature and, having co-written three of its 14 tracks, more about her; as she also sings, "Don't you judge by the cover/It's so far from what you see/I'm losing all my patience waiting for you to believe." What we can certainly believe here is that's Tisdale and her handlers have certainly paid attention to pop radio of the past decade, and "Guilty Pleasure" echoes with borrows and lifts, melodically and attitudinally, from the likes of Ms. Spears, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Ashlee Simpson and...well, you get the idea. Tisdale at 24 is a composite of her musical peer group, from the electro bounce of "Masquerade" to the big chorus swells of "It's Alright, It's OK," "Hot Mess" and "What If," the guitar-led rock touches of "Acting Out" and "Erase & Rewind," and balladic torch of "What If" and "Me Without You." "How Do You Love Someone" is the album's "statement," a reasonably engaging view of divorce from a child's perspective, while "Delete You" mixes synthesizers, reggae overtones and an eighth-note chug into winning ambitious, if slightly messy, melange. It's certainly better than "Headstrong," and the album has already rolled into the Top 10 in Germany, Spain and Austria, so there are clearly corners of the world that don't feel guilty about liking Tisdale's latest work. Their definition of pleasure, however, is a bit suspect...
George Thorogood & the Destroyers, "The Dirty Dozen" (Capitol/EMI) ***: George Thorogood doesn't have a big bag o' tricks; after all, his biggest hit, "Bad to the Bone," had just one chord -- and he not only acknowledges that but celebrates the simplicity. What isn't so easy, however, is feel, and that's where Thorogood and his Destroyers shine. "The Dirty Dozen," the group's studio album in three years, displays Thorogood and company's deft touch for freshening blues and country favorites with bar band energy but also musical chops so tight you'd call them virtuoso if there were a few more notes involved. Half of these are new recordings, including the highway chug of Willie Dixon's "Tail Dragger" a gritty, brassy rendition on Sleepy John Estes' "Drop Down Mama" and a Louisiana-flavored take on the Holmes Brothers' "Run Myself Out of Town." Three of the other half-dozen, meanwhile, have been out-of-print in the U.S., furthering enhancing a thoroughly enjoyable covers collection.
New & Noteworthy:
Angus Khan, "Black Leather Soul" (Nickel and Dime): A hard rock set that really is designed to sound like AC/DC's Angus Young brawling with Gengis Khan. Suffice to say it sounds better played loud.
Bad Boy Bill, "The Album" (Nettwerk): The full-length debut by the house music DJ features vocals by Alyssa Palmer on the single "Falling Anthem."
Band of Skulls, "Baby Darling Doll Face Honey" (Shangri-La Music): The U.K. trio's singer-bassist, Emma Richardson, is also an established painter whose work dresses up this debut album's graphics as well as the video for the first single, "I Know What I Am."
Terri Clark, "Live: Road Rage" (self-released): A new concert set, featuring the country singer's version of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," that's available at her shows and through her web site.
The Features, "Some Kind of Salvation" (Bug Music/Kings of Leon/429): The U.K. group adds one new track to its self-released debut as it brings it to wider release courtesy of Kings of Leon's new label.
The Ghost is Dancing, "Battles On" (Sonic Unyon): The Canadian quintet is intact for its sophomore full-length after losing several members between albums.
Trevor Hall, "Trevor Hall" (Vanguard): The South Carolina singer-songwriter wrote and recorded the lead single from his debut album, "Unity," with Matisyahu.
Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle, "Havana Winter" (Celery Music): Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson guest on the Barenaked Ladies multi-instrumentalist's fifth extra-band outing.
Holiday Shores, "Columbus'd the Whim" (twosyllable): [cq] A set of summery tunes populate the first CD from singer-songwriter Nathan Pemberton, a native of Holiday Shores Court on the Florida panhandle where he grew up.
Mark Isham and Kate Ceberano, "Bittersweet" (Universal): The American trumpet virtuoso (Isham) teams with Australian singer Ceberano on this set of jazz standards that's already a hit in her homeland.
Jamie Jones, "Celebrity Music" (X-Posure): The 21-year-old urban-pop singer gets autobiographical about her multi-racial background on "I'm a Mutt" from her debut album.
Laurent Korcia, "Cinema" (APM): The French violinist applies his strings to 20 songs from, as the title indicates, a variety of films.
Joe McBride, "Lookin' For a Change" (Heads Up): The singer-pianist takes pop hits by Gnarls Barkley, Coldplay, John Mayer and others in a straightforward jazz direction.
Michael Olatuja, "Speak" (Backdrop): The debut album by the Nigerian-born, British-based bassist who's worked with Terence Blanchard, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and others.
Owl City, "Ocean Eyes" (Universal Republic): The iTunes success of the first single, "Fireflies," help push Minnesota pop auteur Adam Young's debut album up from its original September release date.
RX Bandits, "Mandala" (Sargent House): The ska-flavored Orange County, Calif., modern rock quartet returns to recording duty after a three-year album gap.
Soundtrack, "Funny People" (Concord): The new Judd Apatow film includes rare versions of John Lennon and Neil Diamond songs, as well as exclusive live tracks by James Taylor and Wilco.
Various Artists, "A Boy Named Blue: The Bluegrass Tribute to the Goo Goo Dolls" (CMH): The popular series takes on the Goos' body of work, including "Iris," "Name," "Slide" and "Black Balloon."
Melinda Watts, "People Get Ready" (Razor & Tie): The debut set from the Season Three winner of "Gospel Dream," the "American Idol" of the Gospel Music Channel.
From the Vaults: Blur, "Midlife: A Beginner's Guide to Blur" (Capitol/EMI); Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Live at Woburn" (Dagger); Gary Moore, "Essential Montreaux" (Eagle Rock); Elvis Presley, "From Elvis in Memphis: Legacy Edition" (RCA/Legacy) -- Gary Graff
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