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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Diddy, Vince Gill and more
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Rap

Diddy “Press Play” Bad Boy

** 1/2

He’s been Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy and now Diddy, and it’s been five years since we’ve had an album of new material from the multi-faceted performer/producer/writer/entrepreneur also known as Sean Combs. That’s two or three generations in the rap world, so it’s fair to wonder where he might fit in the whole scheme of things now. The good news is that the time away hasn’t seemed to dull Diddy a bit, though it’s certainly calmed him down; “Press Play” is more about love and relationships than territory marking and playa hating (although he takes a retaliatory swipe at 50 Cent in the opening “Testimonial (Intro)”). And sonically Diddy carves out a new niche for himself on the 16-track, 80-minute album, mining old school R&B infl uences and cutting edge club sources for his own flavor of the Hip-Hop Soul sound he helped pioneer for Mary J. Blige, who contributes vocals on “Making It Hard.” Diddy has clearly been paying attention to what’s propelling the dance fl oors these days, and sharply cut, up-todate beats turn up in “Come to Me,” “Diddy Rock” and “Through the Pain (She Told Me),” while propulsive tribal thunder powers “After Love” and “Tell Me,” the latter of which features Christina Aguilera vocals that are more muscular than most of what she’s done on her own. The rap impresario populates “Press Play” with a top shelf of guests, holding his own amid the potent company of Big Boi, Ciara and Scar on “Wanna Move,” Timbaland, Twista and Shawna on “Diddy Rock,” Nas and Cee-Lo on “Everything I Love” and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls on “Come to Me.” He channels the sex obsession of vintage Prince in “Special Feeling” and even tries his hand at singing — albeit subtly — on “Last Night” with Keyshia Cole. The sheer length and bulk of “Press Play” tends to work against it, but even if you push the stop button early or just track around the disc, there’s plenty of hot material to be found.



Country — and More

Vince Gill “These Days” MCA Nashville

***1/2

Now here’s an audacious undertaking: Nashville veteran Gill comes with a four-CD boxed set, but it’s no retrospective. Instead he’s come up with 43 brand new songs and grouped them on separate discs according to genre — including country, bluegrass, rock and pop — and featuring a plethora of big-name guests such as Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Michael McDonald and, of course, Gill’s wife, Amy Grant. That he can knock off a “Cowboy Up” with Gretchen Wilson or dark story songs such as “Molly Brown” and “Which Way Will You Go” is no surprise. But Gill really opens our eyes — and ears — on material such as the jazzy “Faint of Heart” with Diana Krall, the soulful “Time to Carry On” and the lush string arrangements of “What You Don’t Say” and “This Memory of You,” duets with, respectively, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. It’s a rare accomplishment well worth taking in, no matter how many of these “Days” it takes you to get through it.



New and noteworthy:



• Aerosmith, “Devil’s Got a New Disguise: The Very Best of Aerosmith”

(Columbia) — The Boston rockers offer two new songs amid the old favorites on this umpteenth hits anthology.



• America, “Here & Now”

(Burgundy) — The singersongwriter duo gets new life thanks to producers James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger.



• Badly Drawn Boy, “Born in the U.K.” (Astralwerks) — The Bruce Springsteen-admiring British singersongwriter takes an autobiographical course on his fi fth album.



• Dierks Bentley, “Long Trip Alone” (Capitol) — The success of the fi rst single, “Every Mile a Memory,” prompted his label to move up the release of his latest album by two weeks.



• Blondie Chaplin, “Between Us” (Karma) — A new solo set, the first in nearly 30 years, from the South African ex-Beach Boy and current member of the Rolling Stones’ touring entourage.



• Cradle of Filth, “Thornography” (Roadrunner) — The world of black metal is alive and well and as deadly as ever in the hands of this theatrical British troupe.



• JoJo, “High Road”

(Blackground) — The second album from the second youngest artist ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.



• George Jones, “God’s Country: George Jones and Friends” (Category 5) — The Possum revisits his key songs with help from Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker and others.



• L.E.O., “Alpacas Orgling” (Sidecho) — Members of Chicago, Jellyfish, the Black Crowes, Hanson and others join forces for this homage to the Electric Light Orchestra.



• Lonestar, “Mountains”

(BNA) — After a recent sales stall, the country stalwarts return to a more straight-andnarrow stylistic path on its latest release.



• Sarah McLachlan, “Wintersong” (Arista) — The Canadian songstress covers seasonal favorites by Joni Mitchell and John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with a guest appearance by Diana Krall.



• Soundtrack, “Flicka”

(Stylesonic/Curb) — The fi rst release on the new label cofounded by Tim McGraw, who also stars in the fi lm.



• Ruben Studdard, “The Return” (J) — “American Idol’s” Velvet Teddy Bear cowrote three songs for his third album.



• Twisted Sister, “Twisted Christmas” (Razor & Tie) — Because nothing says Christmas like a glammed-up ’80s rock star shouting “I Wanna Rock” (presumably around the tree).



• Various Artists, “She Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool: A Tribute to Barbara Mandrell” (BNA) — Props are paid to the country great by Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes and more.



• Xzibit, “Full Circle”

(Koch) — On his sixth studio album, the Detroit-born rapper and “Pimp My Ride” host gets help from the Game, Daz, Kurupt and co-producer Keith Shocklee of the Bomb Squad.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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