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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: "American Idiot," Willie Nelson and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

ROCK

Original Broadway Cast

“American Idiot”

Warner Bros.

***

With sales of more than 14 million albums worldwide and a pair of Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album, Green Day’s “American Idiot” has little to prove. But its adaptation into a hit stage show, which opened on Broadway this month as the most anxiously anticipated adaptation since the Who’s “Tommy,” has given the punk rock opera a surprising second life that, musically, works as a capable complement to its source material. The theatrical recitation does, in fact, stay largely faithful to Green Day’s work, fleshing out the story with some additional — six songs from 2009’s “21st Century Breakdown,” the unreleased “When It’s Time” (performed by Green Day) and rarities such as “Favorite Son” and “Too Much Too Soon” and expanding the songs with occasional strings and much more intricate vocal arrangements. With Green Day’s instrumental backing the 22 tracks still crackle with an angry energy similar to the original, while an ensemble chorale sensibility makes for a rich if somewhat more mainstream-friendly impact. The “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming” suites certainly make sense with multiple voices swirling through them, while “21 Guns” takes on an anthemic majesty that has a different kind of heft than the “21st Century Breakdown” version and “Homecoming” benefits from its big, gang-style choruses. One particularly arresting sequence morphs an ambient treatment of “Before the Lobotomy” into a polyrhythmic bridge to a theatrical “Extraordinary Girl” before roaring back into a “...Lobotomy” reprise. And as the finale, “Whatsername” is not surprisingly made lusher and more broadly dynamic. This won’t necessarily replace the original “American Idiot” in your iPod, but it does offer a compelling new way to look at that durable and still-stirring creation.



COUNTRY

Willie Nelson, “Country Music” (Shangri-La Music/Rounder) ***

After recent excursions into blues, jazz, reggae and Texas swing, Willie Nelson comes back to what many fans consider “home” — but not in a traditional fashion. Or, perhaps, in a very traditional fashion on the Spartan, percussionless arrangements of these 15 songs helmed by Grammy and Academy Award-winning producer T-Bone Burnett. Surrounded by stellar musical company that includes his own harmonica player Mickey Raphael, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale and Ronnie McCoury, Nelson wraps his pleasantly worn pipes around gems such as Ernest Tubb’s “Seaman’s Blues,” Merle Travis’ miner’s lament “Dark as a Dungeon,” the smooth stride of Bob Wills’ “Gotta Walk Alone,” pensive treatments of the traditional “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and Hank Williams’ “House of Gold,” a three-hanky version of “My Baby’s Gone,” a rich rendition of “Satisfied Mind” and more upbeat fare like Doc Watson’s “Freight Train Boogie” and Bill Mack’s “Drinking Champagne.” This one merits a toast.

New & Noteworthy:

Airbourne, “No Guts, No Glory” (Roadrunner): The Australian headbangers traveled to Chicago to record their second album with producer Johnny K.

The Apples in Stereo, “Travelers in Space and Time” (Yep Rock/Simian/Elephant 6): The Denver indie rockers expand their lineup yet again to add three new members, including Deathray Davies frontman John Dufilho on drums.

David Benoit, “Earthglow” (Heads Up International): The contemporary jazz pianist and composer shows off the fruits of a 2008 stint as an artist in residence at scenic Villa Montalvo in California.

Jimmy Buffett, “Encores” (Mailboat): The object of Parrothead affections’ first live acoustic album has 22 songs across two discs, alone and with members of his band and, on one track, New Orleans great Allen Toussaint.

Cypress Hill, “Rise Up” (Priority/EMI): The rap quartet’s first new album in six years features guest performances by Marc Anthony, Pitbull, Everlast, Cheech & Chong and members of Linkin Park, System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine.

Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, “True Love Cast Out All Evil” (Anti): Psychedelic rock hero Erickson teams with Austin folk rockers Okkervil River for his first new album in 14 years.

Gotan Project, “Tango 3.0” (XL): Electronics and tango merge on the French troupe’s third studio album, with guest appearances by Dr. John, Argentinean author Jules Cortazar and soccer commentator Victor Hugo Morales.

Merle Haggard, “I Am What I Am” (Vanguard): The veteran artist, still spry at 72, hunkered down at his own Shade Tree Manor studio in northern California to make his latest album with his own band, the Strangers.

Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, “Red Light Fever” (Shanabelle/RCA): The Foo Fighters drummer steps out front as lead vocalist on his solo group’s second full-length release.

Kottonmouth Kings, “Long Live the Kings” (Suburban Noize): The California hip-hop group adds labelmate Dirtball to its ranks for its lucky 13th release.

Jonny Lang, “Live at the Ryman” (Concord): The Minneapolis singer and guitar prodigy’s first concert album is also his first release since 2006’s gospel set “Turn Around.”

Shelby Lynne, “Tears, Lies, and Alibis” (Everso): The Virginia-born singer takes a spare and sparse course on her self-produced follow-up to her 2008 Dusty Springfield tribute “Just a Little Lovin’.”

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, “To the One” (Abstract Logix): The veteran fusion guitarist uses the John Coltrane masterpiece “A Love Supreme” as the basis for this inventive homage.

Kate Nash, “My Best Friend is You” (Geffen): The cheeky British singer-songwriter’s second album was produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler and preceded by the single “Do Wah Doo.”

Ozomatli, “Fire Away” (Mercy Street/Downtown): The fifth studio album from the genre-mashing, politically minded Los Angeles pan-cultural band.

Ratt, “Infestation” (Loud & Proud/Roadrunner): The ‘80s faves’ first new release in 11 years finds frontman Stephen Pearcy back in the pack for these 11 fresh tracks.

Sevendust, “Cold Day Memory” (7Bros./ILG): The hard rockers’ original lineup, with guitarist Clint Lowery returning, regroups for its eighth studio album.

The Sights, “Most of What Follows is True” (self-released): The fourth full-length album by the reconstituted Detroit group was produced by Jim Diamond.

Sweet Apple, “Love & Desperation” (Tee Pee): The first fruits from an indie rock “supergroup” featuring Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis and members of Cobra Verde and Witch.

Various Artists, “Gimmie Gimmie Gimme: Reinterpreting Black Flag” (CMH): Members of Black Flag join guests such as the Stooges’ Mike Watt, Blondie’s Jimmy Destri, Peter Case and others on this tribute set.

Various Artists, “Glee: The Music, the Power of Madonna” (Columbia): The TV show’s third album gives it up for the Michigan-born Material Girl.

Rufus Wainwright, “All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu” (Decca): The singer-songwriter’s first solo piano album includes three adaptations of Shakespeare sonnets.



From The Vaults: Arcadia, “So Red the Rose” (Capitol); Doves, “Best of...” (Astralwerks); John Denver, “Love at Cedar Rapids, December 10, 1087 (Collector’s Choice); Grateful Dead, “Crimson, White & Indigo: July 7 1989 JFK Stadium, Philadelphia” (Dead.net/Rhino); Hot Tuna, “Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969” (Collector’s Choice); Tommy James & the Shondells, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Gettin’ Together,” “Travelin’ “ and “My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar” (Collector’s Choice); Poco, “Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71” (Collector’s Choice); Whitesnake, “Whitesnake — Deluxe Edition” (Geffen/UMe); Johnny Winter And, “Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70” (Collector’s Choice)



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