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Listening Room: the Game, Yusuf Islam and more
The Game, “Doctor’s Advocate” (Geffen) ***
Like all good gangstas, The Game’s got issues — but not just about drugs, booze, bling and guns. Since his multiplatinum 2005 debut “The Documentary,” The Game (real name Jayceon Taylor) has parted ways with mentor 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew, which led to a subsequent split from Dr. Dre and his Aftermath camp. Game contends that “I ain’t got no beefs with 50” on his sophomore album, but he’s clearly ambivalent about not working with Dre anymore. The Compton MC goes out of his way to give the N.W.A. pioneer his props — nowhere more than on “Doctor’s Advocate’s” title track, a heartfelt homage with Busta Rhymes whose mantra assures us that Game is “still Aftermath and there ain’t nothin’ after that,” while elsewhere he proudly declares that “everybody knows I’m the heir to the Aftermath dynasty.” But the truth is that there is life in The Game beyond the team that brought him here. Though like many of his compatriots Game lets this joint run a little long, the 16 tracks are big on autobiographical substance and sharply deployed instrumental and vocal loops — and is thankfully devoid of the indulgent between-song vocal skits that populate so many rap albums. “It’s Okay (One Blood),” which features reggae star Junior Reid re-creating the “One Blood” vocal hook, defiantly places Game in hip-hop’s highest echelon, while “Compton” mashes graphic gangsta lyrics with a banging party groove. And the album-closing “Why You Hate the Game” is a lush epic worthy of Kanye West, with Nas rapping and Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius leading a soaring, gospel-fl avored chorus. Even without Dre, Game gets plenty of good production help from hitmakers such as West, Just Blaze, Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, Scott Storch and Swizz Beatz, and “Doctor’s Advocate” makes the case that Game’s losses may have helped him gain an even greater artistic identity.
Yusuf Islam, “An Other Cup” (Ya/Atlantic): **1/2
It’s been 28 years since Yusuf Islam released an album of new material as Cat Stevens and, remarkably, “An Other Cup” sounds as if it could have come out in 1978 as easily as now. He still, well, sounds like Cat Stevens, and the nine songs (plus two poems) here sport the same melodic sensibilities and textured blend of acoustic guitar, piano and hand percussion. Some more outwardly spiritual messages are to be expected, but even on tracks such as “Heaven/ Where True Love Goes,” “In the End” and the epic “I Think I See the Light,” Islam is preaching from a positive and carefully inclusive perspective. And his dirgey, string-laden reworking of the Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is even more poignant in this comeback context.
New and Noteworthy
Akon, “Konvicted” (Universal Motown) — The R&B singer, songwriter and producer teams with Eminem and Snoop Dogg, among others, on his latest.
... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, “So Divided”
(Interscope) — The Austin, Texas, rockers’ third release includes a cover of Guided by Voices’ “Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Director.”
Army of Anyone, “Army of Anyone” (The Firm) — Debut set from the new “supergroup” formed by Filter’s Richard Patrick and Stone Temple Pilots’ DeLeo brothers.
The Clash, “Singles” (Epic Legacy) — A perfect boxed set soundtrack to the group’s current exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Graham Coxon, “Love Travels at Illegal Speeds” (Parlophone) — The Blur guitarist teams with band producer Stephen Street for another solo album that’s already won rave reviews in his native U.K.
Kenny G., “I’m in the Mood For Love ... Most Romantic Classics” (Arista) — The sax man’s first all-instrumental album in nearly five years takes on amorous favorites, including recent songs by James Blunt and Josh Groban.
Nanci Griffi th, “Ruby’s Torch” (Rounder) — The singersongwriter lights it up on this collection of torch songs, which includes covers of Tom Waits and Willie Nelson compositions.
Mark Knopfl er/Emmylou Harris, “Real Live Roadrunning”
(Warner Bros.) — A souvenir of the short concert tour Knopfl er and Harris staged this summer, useful for areas — such as, ahem, Detroit — where they didn’t play.
Joan Osbourne, “Pretty Little Stranger” (Vanguard) — The soulful singer’s first album in three years features guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell.
The Paybacks, “Love, Not Reason” (Savage Jams) — The third album from the Detroit rock quartet that’s been enjoying Next Big Thing status for some time now.
Robert Plant, “Nine Lives”
(Rhino) — The former Led Zeppelin singer’s box set adds bonus tracks to each of his nine albums along with a DVD.
(+44), “When Your Heart Stops Beating” (Interscope) — The new band led by blink-182 refugees Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker starts beating in the wake of blink’s bitter split.
Damien Rice, “9” (Warner Bros.) — The Irish singer’s second album follows the multimillion-selling worldwide success of his 2002 debut, “O.”
Styles P, “Time is Money” (Ruff Ryders) — The sophomore solo album from the Lox member is loaded with guests, including Akon, Gerald Levert, Talib Kweli and Gerald Levert.
Sublime, “Rarities” (Geffen) — What they got? A three-CD/one-DVD box set of rare tracks, alternative versions, covers and remixes. Fans will certainly be “Doin’ Time” with this one.
Tenacious D, “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” (Epic) — The F-word-laden companion album to the forthcoming film starring the comic duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass.
Neil Young, “Live at the Fillmore East” (Reprise) — The first release in Young’s long-awaited archival series comes from a 1970 show with a nascent Crazy Horse.
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