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Listening Room: Lil Wayne, Nick Jonas and more...
Lil Wayne and rock — you’re not reading that wrong. Nor should you be surprised since the New Orleans rapper (born Dwayne Carter Jr.) has been talking about his rock ‘n’ roll debut for the better part of two years and has plowed through a batch of release dates since April. Anyone who’s listened to any of “Tha Carter” albums or seen him brandishing a guitar at live shows knows that Weezy is no stranger to rock, but the lowest common denominator flavor of “Rebirth,” especially after its long gestation, can’t help but come as a bit of a disappointment. The 12-song set (with bonuses floating around in various configurations) is as pedestrian as his hip-hop exploits are clever and inventive; were this a new band dishing out the same kind of tried-and-true rap-rock, nu metal, aggro and tossed-off punk (“Get a Life,” “The Price is Wrong”) moves it probably wouldn’t be given the time of day. And it’s not so much that “Rebirth” is bad as it is rote, a recitation of the passe days of Limp Bizkit and early phases of Kid Rock and Incubus with vocals that are Auto-Tuned to a mushy edge. There are a few keepers: rolling bass gives “Ground Zero” a meaty, riding flow; “Drop the World” has a full-force crunch fortified by a fiery Eminem cameo; and Weezy protege Nicki Minaj helps “Knockout” nearly live up to its title. Countering that, though, is the likes of “On Fire,” whose ill-advised appropriation of “Fame’s” synthesizer riff and messy arrangement is a microcosm of “Rebirth’s” shortcomings. Applaud Lil Wayne’s ambition, and hope he does it better next time — and that “Tha Carter IV,” which is due out this year, makes us forget all about it.
Nick Jonas & the Administration, “Who I Am” (Hollywood) ***
Call him the Justin Timberlake of the Jonas Brothers — the youngest member who quietly but assuredly flexes a little more creative muscle than those around him. Nick Jonas was, in fact, a solo artist before the sibling trio formed, and he steps out of the group again with an attention-getting group (three of whom hail from Prince’s New Power Generation) and a mature and assured sound that shows he’s been absorbing Stevie Wonder (“State of Emergency,” “Last Time Around”) and plenty of other R&B and funk touchstones. He lends a soulful sway to a remake of the JoBros’ “Tonight,” while “Stronger (Back on the Ground)” is a chugging fist-pumper that closes the album on a high note. “Who I Am” shows us a lot more of who Jonas is and will be a wake-up call for anybody who wants to dismiss him as another lightweight teen pop star.
New & Noteworthy:
Alesana, “The Emptiness” (Fearless): Another does of dark, heavy rock fills the third album by this Raleight, N.C. sextet.
Danny Barnes, “Pizza Box” (ATO): Label chief Dave Matthews joins the banjo-playing troubadour/storyteller on three of this album’s 12 tracks.
bt,“These Hopeful Machines” (Binary Acoustics/Nettwerk): The electronica powerhouse surfaces after a four-year break between albums, with a cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” and guest appearances by Police drummer Stewart Copeland, Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson and JES.
Dailey & Vincent, “Sing the Statler Brothers” (Cracker Barrel): The bluegrass duo pays homage to its heroes on this 12-song set available only at Cracker Barrel stores.
Dommin, “Love is Gone” (Roadrunner): This Los Angeles quartet dishes up heavy, keyboard-textured angst-rock on its debut outing.
Human Nature, “Reach Out: The Motown Album” (Sony): The popular Australian vocal quartet brings out the hard copy of its Motown salute — including a duet on “Get Ready” with Smokey Robinson — after an online release in September.
Doug Keith, “The Lucky Ones” (Village Label): The second full-length album by the lauded singer-songwriter and former member of, we kid you not, The Gods Hate Kansas.
Bruce Kulick, “BK3” (Twenty4/Rocket Science): The Kiss and Grand Funk Railroad guitarist’s third album is full of guests, including ailing Knack frontman Doug Fieger, Kiss bassist Gene Simmons and his son Nick, Toto’s Steve Lukather and ex-Motley Crue singer John Corabi.
Midlake, “The Courage of Others” (Bella Union): The Denton, Texas, quintet continues on the same gently pastoral path of 2006`s “The Trials of Van Occupanther.”
Monolake, “Silence” (ml/i): The German electronic duo’s latest album finally reaches these shores after coming out last year overseas.
Nneka, “Concrete Jungle” (Yo Mama’s/Sony): The Nigerian-German vocalist brings her act, which has been going since 2005, across the pond with this sampling of her work to date.
Duke Robillard and Sunny Crownover, “TAles From the Tiki Lounge” (Blue Duchess): The veteran blues guitarist and Americana vocalist team up for this tribute to the late Les Paul — and, by association, his wife, Mary Ford.
Joe Satriani, “Live in Paris: I Just Wanna Rock!” (Epic): The title of this CD/DVD set pretty much says it, and it’ll provide an education for fans of the supergroup Chickenfoot about the depth of the guitar virtuoso’s own work.
The Soft Pack, “The Soft Pack” (Kemado): The first full-length release by the indie rock quartet from San Diego once known as the Muslims.
Gordie Tentrees, “Mercy or Sin” (DIY/Burnside): The third album by the singer-songwriter from the Canadian Yukon, who declares “Rambling’s Gonna Be the Death of Me” — but we don’t really believe that.
Various Artists, “Rooms: A Rock Romance” (Time Life): The original cast recording of the stage musical that’s set between Scotland, England and New York City.
George Winston, “Love Will Come: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2” (RCA): From one pianist to another, Winston gives the late Guaraldi his due beyond his famous “Peanuts” repertoire.
We Are Wolves, “Invisible Violence” (Dare to Care): The third album from this hipster-approved Quebec rock trio.
Rob Zombie, “Hellbilly Deluxe 2” (Loud & Proud/Roadrunner): Zombie recorded this “sequel” to his 1998 solo debut with his current road band, which includes Detroiters John5 (ne Lowery) and Tommy Clufetos.
From the Vaults: Tony Bennett, “Tony Bennett Sings the Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 2” (RPM/Columbia/Legacy); Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Legend (Rarities Edition)” (Island/UMe); Frank Sinatra, “Strangers in the Night (Deluxe Edition)” (Concord)
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