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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Dwele, 3OH!3 and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

R&B

Dwele

“W.ants. W.orld. W.omen. (W.W.W.)”

RTMG/E1

***

At the start of his fourth album, Detroit R&B auteur Dwele laments that “I wish I made music that appeals to the masses.” But while it’s true that the singer, writer and producer (real name Andwele Gardner) isn’t exactly hanging gold and platinum on the walls of his downtown crib, he’s also managed to become an important creative force, creating a unique soul, hip-hop and electronic blend both for himself and in collaboration with Kanye West, Common, Roy Ayers, Boney James and fellow Motor City denizens Slum Village and the late J. Dilla (you also hear him singing about “lovin’ it” in McDonald’s McCafe commercials). “W.W.W.” is Dwele’s most ambitious outing yet, a conceptual mini trilogy spotlighting his hedonistic “alter ego” (“W.ants”), a Marvin Gaye-style socio-political commentator (“W.orld”) and the gentleman romantic (“W.omen”) that he’s portrayed on his previous albums. It’s a satisfying venture that works best when Dwele focuses on songs (the single “What’s Not to Love,” “I Wanna,” “Grown,” “Hangover”) rather than graduated soundscapes such as “Dim the Lights” (with Raheem DeVaughn) and “I Understand.” Tracks such as “My People” and “Detroit Sunrise” — the latter featuring Monica Blaire and Lloyd Dwayne — work in jazz flavors to good effect, while guest appearances by Slum Village on the pointed “How I Deal” and David Banner on feisty “Dodgin’ Your Phone” put a bit more muscle behind each of those tracks. Will “W.W.W.” bring the masses Dwele craves? Hard to say, but it will certainly strengthen his stature as a bold R&B visionary.

POP

3OH!3, “Streets of Gold” (Photo Finish/Atlantic) ★★ 1⁄2

How much you like 3OH!3” — and its hits “Don’t Trust Me” and “Starstrukk” — depends on your taste for Big Dumb Fun. This is lowbrow, but smart, stuff, self-deprecating and also making fun of the very audience the Colorado duo courts with its electronic, pop, rock and hip-hop combination. Having tasted platinum during the past couple of years, 3OH!3 doesn’t mess with its sound too much on “Streets of Gold,” its third album, but does find an array of new sounds and flavors to explore with its array of hit-making producers. The Ke$ha hook-up on the first single, “My First Kiss,” is a juvenile hoot, while “We Are Young” is a thumping party anthem with a rocking chorus. “R.I.P.,” “Double Vision” and “I Know How to Say” mine poppier territory, “I’m Not the One” is a power ballad with a wickedly cynical bent and “Love 2012” and the title track dancing into techno/disco territory. It may not be a work of great intellect, but since when has that ever stopped anyone from having a good time?

New & Noteworthy

Alex Band, “We`ve All Been There” (Amb): The debut full-length solo album by the former frontman of The Calling.

Peter Case, “Wig!” (Yep Roc): The former Plimsouls frontman comes out rocking on an album that testifies to his successful recover from open heart bypass surgery.

Delphic, “Acolyte” (Dangerbird): The British dance music trio makes its U.S. debut with this 10-track set.

The-Dream, “Love King” (Radio Killa/Def Jam): The Georgia writer, singer and producer’s third solo album already has a hit in the title track and completes a “Love” trilogy he started three years ago with “Love Hate.”

Alejandro Escovedo, “Street Songs of Love” (Fantasy/Concord): The veteran Texas rock troubadour gets help from pals Bruce Springsteen and Ian Hunter, as well as producer Tony Visconti, on his latest outing.

Adam Franklin and Bolts of Melody, “I Could Sleep For a Thousand Years” (Best Unheard Music): Putting Swervedriver together has not deterred Franklin from his solo career with the shifting cast of characters he calls Bolts of Melody.

Kenny G, “Heart and Soul” (Concord): Robin Thicke and Babyface guest on the saxophonist’s R&B-flavored 13th studio album.

Jackie Greene, “Till the Light Comes” (429): On his fifth album, California singer-songwriter Greene is backed by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and member of Elvis Costello’s Imposters, among other vaunted collaborators.

Haste the Day, “Attack of the Wolf King” (Solid State): The Christian headbangers from Indian recorded their fifth studio album in Richmond, Va., and covered Black Eyed Peas’ “Meet Me Half Way” for a special edition bonus track.

Indigo Girls, “Staring Down the Brilliant Dream” (IG/Vanguard): The duo’s second concert album captures performances from 2006-2009, with guest appearances by Brandi Carlile and Jill Hennessey.

Robbie Krieger, “Singularity” (Oglio): This instrumental solo album from the Doors guitarist blends rock, jazz and flamenco styles, composing most of the songs with his co-producer, Arthur Barrow.

Andre Rieu, “Forever Vienna” (UMe): The violin-playing Dutch waltz master does his thing on this CD/VD collection recorded with his Johann Strauss Orchestra.

Lee Ritenour, “6 String Theory” (Monster Music/Concord): The veteran guitarist celebrates 50 years of playing by collaborating with B.B. King, Slash, Steve Lukather, Vince Gill and others.

Scissor Sisters, “Night Work” (Downtown/Universal): The New York group’s frontman, Jake Shears, has said the initial version of this album was scrapped after good pal Elton John told the band it wasn’t good enough.

Semi Precious Weapons, “You Love You” (Geffen): The New York glam/punk rock troupe capitalizes on its stature as Lady Gaga’s opening act with their cheerfully debauched first full-length album.

Stars, “The Five Ghosts” (Soft Revolution): The Montreal synth-rockers recruited Amy Millan to sing lead on “Fixed,” the first single from their fifth album.

Steel Train, “Steel Train” (Terrible Thrills), Various Artists, “Terrible Thrills, Vol. 1” (Terrible Thrills): The New Jersey rock quintet’s third album is accompanied by a set of covers of its songs by an assortment of female artists.

Taddy Porter, “Taddy Porter” (Primary Wave/EMI): An old-school, T-shirt and jeans brand of rock is the bailiwick of this buzzed-about Stillwater, Okla., quartet.

Various Artists, “ ‘Hung’ Original Television Soundtrack” (Primary Wave): The Black Keys, Grant Lee Phillips and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings are among those contributing songs for the Detroit-set HBO series’ companion album.

Various Artists, “180 Degrees South Film Soundtrack” (Brushfire): Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, under the moniker Ugly Casanova, dominates the soundtrack for this environmentally themed film exploring South America’s Patagonia region.

VersaEmerge, “Fixed at Zero” (Fueled By Raman/Atlantic): The debut full-length album by the female-fronted, Florida-based modern rock trio.

Jimmy Webb, “Just Across the River” (E1): The hall of fame composer revisits some of his best-known material (“Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston”) with guests such as Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and others.

Wolf Parade, “Expo 86” (Sup Pop): The Montreal indie rock trio’s third album is titled after the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver.

Pegi Young, “Foul Deeds” (Vapor): The second album by Neil Young’s wife includes more of her own compositions plus songs by Lucinda Williams, Devendra Banhart and Will Jennings.

From The Vaults: Grateful Dead, “Road Trips No. 3: Fillmore East 5-15-70” (Dead.net/Rhino); Jimi Hendrix, “Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix” Experience Hendrix/Legacy); Jay-Z, “The Hits Collection Vol. 1” ; John Fogerty, “Centerfield (25th Anniversary Edition)” (Geffen/UMe); Papa Roach, “...To Be Loved: The Best of Papa Roach” (UMe); The Wallflowers, “Looking Through You — Another Collection” (Interscope/UMe)

New Music DVDs: Black Sabbath, “Classic Albums — Paranoid” (Eagle Rock); The Doors, “When You’re Strange” (Eagle Rock); Porcupine Tree, “Anesthetize” ; Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “London Calling: Live in Hyde Park” (Columbia); Rush, “Beyond the Lighted Stage” (VH1 Classic)



Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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