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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: R. Kelly, Alison Iraheta and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

R&B

R. Kelly

“Untitled”

Jive

**

There’s not a lot of mystery when it comes to an R. Kelly album. “Baby hold the pillow tight/it’s gonna be a wild night,” he commands in “Bangin’ the Headboard” — and the wildness continues all day long when you listen to the other 14 songs on his ninth studio album. It’s not the single-mindedness that undermines Kelly’s work, though; it’s how boring the Chicago R&B auteur makes the sex sound. On “Untitled” he’s actually a bit less explicit than he’s been on some of his other albums — he actually leaves a little bit to the imagination here — but it too often sounds like a 62-minute how-to manual than a rite of passion. Kelly’s had the booty schtick honed to a platinum-or-better sheen since “12 Play” put him on the map in 1993; 16 years later he sounds tired of the game, as if he could do it in his sleep — or would rather be sleeping. Catch the languid drift of tracks such as “Exit,” “Echo,” “Whole Lotta Kisses” and “Text Me.” He also deploys so many sports metaphors tt the feeling a big flat-screen would be more appealing. The disco beats of “I Love the DJ” and “Be My #2” give “Untitled” a little bit of juice, while rap features by OJ Da Juiceman and the troupe R. City are lively but essentially eclipse Kelly on “Supaman High” and “Crazy Night,” respectively. Keri Hilson is a virtual non-presence on the single “Number One,” while the plethora of guests on “Pregnant” — Tyrese, Robin Thicke and The-Dream — are left vocally flailing around in search of a melody. Kelly’s certainly had the capacity in the past to leave us weak-kneed and sweaty, but this time R&B’s ranking loverman sounds like he’s faking it.



POP

Alison Iraheta

“Just Like You”

19/Jive

**1/2

The third “American Idol” finalist album to fall in as many weeks falls somewhere between Adam Lambert’s over-the-top glam blitz and Kris Allen’s stultifying earnestness. Iraheta brings plenty of rock chick energy to her 13-song debut, with an all-star cast of producers and co-writers crafting the proceedings —t. Despite the spunk, Iraheta still comes off sounding, at varying times, too much like Pink (who co-wrote the Melissa Etheridge-aping track “No One Else”), Joan Jett, Avril Lavigne, inaugural “Idol” champ Kelly Clarkson or Patty Smyth. Building “Robot Love” atop the familiar descending chords of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” further speaks to the paucity of fresh ideas here, making “Just Like Them” a more accurate title.



New & Noteworthy:

BlakRoc, “BlakRoc” (BlakRoc): The Black Keys back a heady lineup of rap MCs — Mos Def, RZA, Raekwon, Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch, Jim Jones and others — on this iTunes and independent record store exclusive.

The Bravery, “Stir the Blood” (Island): The New York electro rockers left the city and set up shop upstate, in the same converted church studio where the B-52’s recorded “Love Shack.” That, apparently, is where it’s at.

Il Divo, “An Evening with Il Divo: Live in Barcelona” (Syco/SonyBMG): This CD/DVD document of the quartet in concert ranges from the sacred (“Hallelujah (Aleluya),” “Amazing Grace”) to the secular (“Unbreak My Heart,” “Nights in White Satin”) and points in-between.

Enya, “The Very Best of Enya” (Reprise): Yes, the ethereal Irish songstress does have more than just “Orinoco Flow” to recommend her. The education will be well worth it.

Juvenile, “Cocky and Confident” (E1/Atlantic): The New Orleans rapper’s first new album in three years loads up on the guest stars, including Pleasure P, Dorrough, Rico Love, Bobby V, Kango Slim and more.

Mudvayne, “Mudvayne” (Epic): Psychedelic alert: special ink on the cover of the headbangers’ fifth studio album makes for some groovy viewing in black light. Have a nice trip ...

Soundtrack, “Up in the Air” (Rhino): The companion to the George Clooney-starring film is a carefully chosen, eclectic set featuring songs by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the late Elliott Smith and an arresting “This Land is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.

Various Artists, “Bridge School Collection Vol. 4” (iTunes): The latest digital-only collection of performances from the annual benefit concert features Nine Inch Nails, Norah Jones, John Mayer, Tom Waits and more.



New Music DVDs: The Black Crowes, “Cabin Fever” (Megaforce); Rush, “Working Men” (Anthem/Zoe)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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