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CD Reviews:
Eminem Makes A Full "Recovery" With New Album
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Eminem with a few burrs under his saddle? Now there’s a surprise.

But what’s refreshing about “Recovery,” (Shady/ Aftermath/Interscope) the mega-selling Detroit rapper’s seventh album and the disc that replaced his planned “Relapse 2,” is that the primary target is himself.

“Marshall, you’re no longer the man, that’s a bit of a pill to swallow,” he laments in “Talking 2 Myself,” noting that his hiatus after a crippling drug addiction put him at risk of being rendered irrelevant in the rap game — so much so that, he raps, that he considered taking some of his trademark shots at Lil Wayne and Kanye West but ultimately, and wisely, backed off.

At frequent points throughout these 17 tracks Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers III) is surprisingly and almost uncharacteristically contrite about the situation he put himself in, lamenting its toll on his family, particularly teenaged daughter Hailie, in the Black Sabbath-sampling “Going Through Changes,” dismissing his last two albums — 2004’s “Encore” and last year’s “Relapse,” both multiplatinum Grammy Award winners — and declaring that “I’ve got something to prove to fans/I feel like I let ’em down ... I finally feel like I’m back to normal.”

The vulnerability and self-recrimination feels odd and a bit off-putting at first, but Eminem ultimately wears it well, especially since he still works himself into fierce, celebrity-dissing Slim Shady attack mode on tracks such as “Cold Wind Blows,” “On Fire” and the bluesy “Won’t Back Down,” which features a vocal hook by Pink. Eminem also channels his competitive juices into a wicked verse alongside guest Lil Wayne on “No Love,” while “You’re Never Over” is a moving elegy to his slain mentor, Proof, and “W.T.P.” (for White Trash Party), a high-spirited respite to the album’s heavy tone.

There are a few cracks in his “Recovery,” however. Rihanna’s feature on “Love the Way You Lie” overshadows the rest of the song, and the album, at nearly 77 minutes, lapses into fatigue mode that undercuts the virtues of the individual tracks. Still, new collaborators such as Boi-1da, Supa Dups and Just Blaze bring some welcome new flavors to the mix, and Eminem tries out a number of different voices and vocal stylings rather than simply odd accents, mostly to good effect.

He also proffers some unspoken future challenges to himself here. One is to keep pushing in the fresh directions the album pursues. The other? Now that he’s wrestled, again, with his demons, overcome his tribulations and is ostensibly feeling better, it’s time for him to start finding things other than Eminem to rap about in order to make music that will prove as durable as it is engaging. As “Recovery” proves — and openly states — he can never be counted out of the game.

Eminem and Jay-Z perform Sept. 2 at Detroit's Comerica Park. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 25. Prices will be $49.50, $79.50, and $99.50, and tickets will be available at the box office, www.Tickets.com, www.Livenation.com or by calling 1-866-668-4437.

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