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Listening Room: My Chemical Romance, John Legend and more
My Chemical Romance “The Black Parade” Reprise ***
My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way starts the group’s third album by declaring that “when I grow up I want to be nothing at all” — but nothing could be further than the truth for the singer and his fi ve New Jersey bandmates. “The Black Parade” is MCR’s Statement record, a bombastic onslaught of sound and anthemic, angsty fury that still manages to house plenty of the hooks that made 2004’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” a platinum breakthrough. “The Black Parade” is unapologetic in its pretensions, right down to MCR’s pose as another group called the Black Parade, with Way known as The Patient (his hair freshly bleached for the role). But that embrace is half the fun, as are the sonic references to Queen, David Bowie, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and, more recently, Green Day’s “American Idiot.” In “Welcome to the Black Parade,” the protagonist’s father charges him with being “the savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned,” but Way spends more time singing about the dead and dying, both obviously (“Dead!”) and movingly in the short but heart-rending “Cancer.” “House of Wolves” bites with a blistering punk attack, while “Teenagers” is a glammed-out truffle whose buoyancy belies the cautionary tale of its lyrics. The melodramatic theatricality of “The Sharpest Lives” comes part and parcel with the punky polka — yes, polka — of “Mama,” and “Disenchanted” gives an extreme makeover to the old school power ballad, subsuming any plaintiveness beneath Ray Toro and Frank Iero’s wall of guitars. “The Black Parade” will not necessarily shake the world like “American Idiot” — but how many others really will? Greater ambitions aside, it’s an album any modern rock fan can happily fall into step with.
John Legend “Once Again” Columbia ***
“Get Lifted,” this Ohio singer/songwriter/musician/performer/producer’s debut album, lifted John Legend from go-to session guy to formidable solo artist — to the tune of 3 million copies sold and three Grammy Awards. He doesn’t break stride on “Once Again,” delivering another richly — and carefully — crafted set of smooth soul/pop alchemy with subtle hip-hop and jazz flavors, with help from mentor Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am. “Save Room” cops the organ riff from the Classics IV’s “Stormy,” while “Heaven” spreads the gospel of love and “Each Day Gets Better” references the Spinners/Stylistics school of harmonic convergence. And with its subtle political grounding, the soldier’s tale “Coming Home” takes Legends’ writing in an intriguing new direction.
New and Noteworthy
Alabama, “Songs of Inspiration”
(RCA) — The veteran country icons have been planning this gospel set for 16 years.
George Benson and Al Jarreau, “Givin’ It Up” (Concord) — First-ever collaboration between the two Grammywinning jazzers, with help from guests Paul McCartney, Herbie Hancock, Jill Scott, Chris Botti and others.
Bright Eyes, “Noise Floor” (Saddle Creek) — A rarities set from the hip Nebraska rock troupe, with fi ve extra tracks available on the vinyl version.
Ben Folds, “Supersunnyspeedygraphic: The LP” (Columbia) — A compilation of the best from Folds’ periodic EPs and other rarities.
Jibbs, “Jibbs Feat. Jibbs” (Geffen) — Debut set from the 15-year-old MC who hails from the same St. Louis turf as Nelly and Chingy.
Aimee Mann, “One More Drifter in the Snow” (Superego) — The pensive singer-songwriter gets into the holiday spirit, but she can’t help asking “Whatever Happened to Christmas.”
Montgomery Gentry, “Some People Change” (Columbia) — The country duo draws inspiration from family, faith and military personnel on its fi fth studio album.
Stanton Moore, “III” (Telarc) — A solo outing by the drummer from New Orleans hipsters Galactic.
MXPX, “Let’s Rock” (Side One Dummy) — the Washington state punk trio digs into its vaults for this collection of rarities and unreleased material.
Kelly Price, “This is Who I Am”
(Gospo) — The R&B songstress and minister’s daughter showcases her roots on her fi fth release.
Brian Setzer, “13” (Surfdog) — The once and future Stray Cat’s 13th album cuts a broad stylistic swath rather than locking into just one genre.
The Silent Years, “The Silent Years” (No Alternative) — The Detroit modern rock quartet self-produced this national debut disc.
Sparta, “Threes” (Hollywood) — The third album from the At the Drive-In refugees features a guest appearance from Merry Clayton of “Gimme Shelter” fame.
Paul Stanley, “Live to Win” (New Door) — Still ready to “Rock and Roll All Nite” after two hip replacements, the Kiss frontman releases his first solo album in 28 years.
Various Artists, “The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folks Music Revisited”
(Shout! Factory) — The Grammy-winning roots box set is recast with new versions of the original’s songs by Beck, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed and more.
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