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Listening Room: Slash, Sharon Jones and more...
There probably isn’t a musician in rock ‘n’ roll this side of Ringo Starr who gets by with a little help from a lot of friends like Slash. The Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver guitarist has made his share of guest appearances over the years — from Michael Jackson’s “Black & White” to Rihanna’s “Rockstar 101” and points in between — and those kindnesses are repaid fourteenfold on Slash’s first proper solo album. Filling the gap as he prepares for Velvet Revolver’s (presumed) return, the guitarist kicks out some heavy jams with the Cult’s Ian Astbury (“Ghost”), Motorhead’s Lemmy (“Doctor Alibi”), Iggy Pop (“We’re All Gonna Die”), Ozzy Osbourne on the gothflavored first single “Crucify the Dead” and M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold for the speeding horror rocker “Nothing to Say,” while longtime colleague Duff McKagen and Dave Grohl join Slash for the jagged-groove instrumental “Watch This.” But the tophatted one traipses in other stylistic directions here, exploring rootsy, Americanaflavored terrain with Kid Rock (“I Hold On,” which was recorded in Clarkston) and on a pair of tracks with Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, melodic pop — albeit with a bluesy solo — with Maroon5’s Adam Levine on “Gotten” and a slinky “Beautiful Dangerous” that gives us Fergie as we’ve never heard her before. “Slash” does shoot a little too wide for its own good, but it feels more cohesive than you’d expect from an exposition of so many styles and different singers, and it also showcases Slash not only as the guitar hero we’ve always known but also as the songwriter who hasn’t gotten his proper due.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, “I Learned the Hard Way” (Daptone) ***1/2
Musical reclamation projects tend to have a limited lifespan, but the Brooklyn-based Dap-Kings’ work with onetime Rikers Island corrections officer Sharon Jones is showing no signs of wear-and-tear — and, in fact, is only getting better on their fourth album together. The troupe’s pan-soul approach is firmly in place on “I Learned the Way,” from the Motownmeets-New Orleans blend of “Without a Heart” to the doo-wop feel of “Mama Don’t Like My Man” and the Philly flavors of “The Game Gets Old” and “Window Shopping.” This is sweet ‘n’ sassy soul music that mixes its old school chops with freshman energy.
New & Noteworthy:
Melissa Auf Der Maur, “Out of Our Minds” (Roadrunner): The former Hole member’s second solo album comes six years after her first and includes a duet with Glenn Danzig on “Father’s Grave.”
BoDeans, “Mr. Sad Clown” (429): The rock duo recorded their ninth studio album at Kurt Neumann’s home studio near Austin, Texas.
Richard Bona, “Ten Shades of Blue” (Decca): The prolific Cameroonian bassist mixes indigenous African styles with blues and jazz flavors on his latest foray.
Cary Brothers, “Under Control” (Ingrooves): The Nashville singersongwriter of “Garden State” fame covers Level 42’s “Something About You” on his first full-length album in three years.
Pieta Brown, “One & All” (Red House): The daughter of troubadour Greg Brown turned to Detroitborn Don Was to produce her third album and follow-up to the 2009 EP “Shimmer.”
John Butler Trio, “April Uprising” (ATO): The Australian bandleader’s first new album in three years has already spun off a No. 1 hit (“One Way Road”) in his homeland.
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, “Here Lies Love” (Todomundo/ Nonesuch): The two pop auteurs cast a wide array of singers — Tori Amos, Natalie Merchant, Sharon Jones, Steve Earle and others — on this two-disc song cycle about former Phillipines First Lady Imelda Marcos.
Dick50, “Lateshow” (D50):
Sound checks yielded much of the material on this outing by the Nashville quartet that regularly backs Delbert McClinton.
Dr. Dog, “Shame, Shame” (Anti-): Philadelphia’s avant jam band changes label and goes for a more live-sounding approach on its sixth album.
The Doors, “When You’re Strange (Songs From the Motion Picture)” (Rhino): A selection of songs and spoken bits, including narrator Johnny Depp reading bits of Jim Morrison’s poetry, from the new Doors documentary.
Jakob Dylan, “Women and Country” (Columbia): The son of Bob reunites with original Wallflowers producer T-Bone Burnett on his second solo release, with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan on backing vocals throughout.
Vivian Green, “Beautiful” (E1): Rather than working with a large corps of producers, the R&B singer-songwriter worked primarily with Anthony Bell (Jewel, Jill Scott, Musiq) on her third album.
Insane Clown Posse, “Bang! Pow! Boom! Nuclear Version” (Psycopathic): The evil clowns’ 2009 release gets a super-charged expansion that will surely get the Jugalos’ juices flowing.
Jonsi, “Go” (XL): The solo debut from Sigur Ros’ Joe “Jonsi” Thor Brigisson.
Angelique Kidjo, “Oyo” (Razor & Tie): U2’s Bono, John Legend, Dianne Reeves and Roy Hargrove guest on the Grammy Award-winning Benin vocalist’s latest release.
Madonna, “The Sticky & Sweet Tour CD/DVD” (Warner Bros.):
The Michigan-born Material Girl’s third live album (and accompanying DVD) was recorded in Argentina during late 2008.
Bobby McFerrin, “VOCAbuLarieS” (Emarcy): The vocalist recruited more than 50 singers to create a virtual choir to accompany him on his first new solo album in eight years.
Martin Sexton, “Sugarcoating” (Kitchen Table): The Massachusetts singer-songwriter sings about post-911 realities and the birth of his son on a set of songs he recorded in just seven days.
Various Artists, “Songs of the Spectrum” (SingSOS): Marshall Crenshaw, Jackson Browne, Dar Williams and Jonatha Brooke are among the artists contributing songs to this Austism Awareness Month release and fundraiser.
Peter Wolf, “Midnight Souvenirs” (Verve/UMe): The J. Geils Band frontman’s first solo album in four years features duets with Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne and Neko Case.
From The Vaults
Ray Charles, “Genius + Soul = Jazz: Deluxe Edition” (Concord); Doves, “The Best of ” (Astralwerks); Jeff Healey, “Last Call” (Stony Plain); The Miracles, “City of Angels” (Hip-O Select); Whitesnake, “Whitesnake (Deluxe Edition)” (Geffen/UMe)
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