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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Mike Posner, Blake Shelton and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

POP

Mike Posner

“31 Minutes to Takeoff”

J Records

***

Despite the title of his debut album, Mike Posner has already achieved liftoff — and then some. The Southfield native and Groves High School and Duke University graduate has been on the buzz list since his mixtapes started circulating in 2009, and he’s already got a Top 10 hit in “31 Minutes’...” first single, the bouncy dis track “Cooler Than Me.” What’s surprising about wading further in, however, is how uncomfortable and ambivalent Posner seems to be with his relatively sudden ascent — sounding, in fact, like a genuine 22-year-old rather than mouthing contrived gangsta bravado. “I’m just pretending perfection/I’m flying uncomfortably high,” he confesses in the album-closing “Falling,” while in “Delta 1406” Posner sounds truly homesick (“People all around but I’m all alone”) and remorseful about some of the toll his “shooting star” pace is taking back home (“Things with my mom have become so weird now/I gotta book hotels for my Detroit shows”). And most of these 12 songs make it sound as if he has a better chance of replacing Duke basketball’s Coach K than keeping a girlfriend (and it’s not always their fault). But “31 Minutes...” is hardly a downer; filled with polished melodies and propulsive grooves, it houses a dance club-ready mix of techno chill (“Cheated,” “Save Your Goodbye”) and playful R&B cool (“Bow Chicka Wow Wow” and “Deja Vu” with Boyz II Men), while “Do U Wanna?” samples the brassy intro of Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing” and Cisco Adler and blink-182’s Travis Barker help Posner blend rock guitars and Jamaican vocal cadence into “Gone in September.” There’s a level of sonic ambition and accomplishment on “31 Minutes...” that’s beyond the usual pop chart upstart, and if that’s considered flying high, here’s hoping Posner never levels off.



COUNTRY

Blake Shelton, “All About Tonight” (Warner Bros. Nashville) ***

With his second “Six Pack” EP, Shelton is mastering the art of delivering big things with small packages. Like “Hillbilly Bone” earlier this year, this six-song set is a satisfying sprint without filler for fat — and plenty of fun to boot, from the spirited party anthem of the title track to “Draggin’ the River,” a murder fantasy duet with fiancee Miranda Lambert, and uptempo fare such as “Got a Little Country” and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking.” “Suffocating,” meanwhile, is a more poignant lost-love lament written by Lambert and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott. Shelton is certainly capable of making full-length albums, but he seems to be on to something with these shorter, creative bursts.

New & Noteworthy:

Rusty Anderson, “Born on Earth” (Oxide/Megaforce): The second solo album by Paul McCartney’s current lead guitarist.

Angelfire, “Angelfire” (Radiant): Guitar hero Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple) teams with 22-year-old singer Sarah Spencer on this acoustic-focused 11 song set.

Black Label Society, “Order of the Black” (E1): The hard rock group’s first studio set in four years comes after frontman Zakk Wylde’s very public split with Ozzy Osbourne over, of all things. sobriety.

Brad, “Best Friends?” (Monkeywrench Records): The fourth album — and first in eight years — from Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard’s collaboration with Shawn Smith (Satchel, Pigeonhed) and others.

Brother Clyde, “Brother Clyde” (Walt Disney): Billy Ray Cyrus, known best these days as Hannah Montana’s dad, dons a new name for this rock project, which includes a version of Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” he recorded in 1988.

The Budos Band, “The Budos Band III” (Daptone): The third full-length from the Brooklyn Afro-beat troupe — but you probably figured that out from the title, eh?

Charlie Daniels, “Land That I Love” (Koch): The country/rock fiddler lets his patriotic side wave on this collection, mixing new songs with established favorites such as “In America” and “Still in Saigon.”

Colour Revolt, “The Cradle” (Near Fear/Dualtone): The latest release from the high-energy Oxford, Miss., modern rockers comes accompanied by plenty of Next Big Thing press predictions.

George Duke, “Deja Vu” (BPM/Heads Up International): Duke revisits the vintage synthesizer sounds he explored during the ‘70s with help from guests such as Nicholas Payton, Hubert Laws and Bob Sheppard.

Frontier(s), “There Will Be No Miracles Here” (Arena Rock): The first full-length from the experimental rock quartet fronted by former Elliott and Falling Forward singer Chris Higdon.

Hawkwind, “Blood of the Earth” (Plastic Head Music): The veteran art rockers’ first new release in five years features guest appearances by the Levellers’ Jon Sevink and, posthumously, Hawkwind keyboardist Jason Stuart.

Laurence Juber, “LJ Plays the Beatles, Vol. 2” (Solid Air): The short-term Wings guitarist takes on 15 more favorites from ex-boss Paul McCartney’s former band.

Lost in the Trees, “All Alone in an Empty House” (Anti-): The debut album from the North Carolina musical collective led by frontman Ari Picker.

Dan Mangan, “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” (Arts & Crafts): The Canadian indie musician pays homage to Kurt Vonnegut with the title of his sophomore album.

Eli “Paperboy” Reed, “Come and Get It” (Capitol): The white soul singer from Brooklyn makes his major label debut with a dozen self-penned original tunes.

Street Sweeper Social Club, “The Ghetto Blaster EP” (SSSC/ILG): The rap-rockers’ seven-song set burns with the potency of a full-length, including covers of MIA’s “Paper Planes” and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.”

Various Artists, “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam” (Walt Disney): The Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and other cast members sing their way through the sequel to the popular Disney Channel film. Hopefully they’re serious about the “final” part of the title.

Various Artists, “Many Hands: Family Music For Haiti” (Spare the Rock): Dan Zanes, Emily Curtis, Pete Seeger, They Might Be Giants and more come together to raise money for the still desperate post-earthquake situation in Haiti.

Various Artists: “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (ABKCO): Artists old (the Rolling Stones, T. Rex) and young (Metric, the Black Lips, Broken Social Scene) come together for this buzzed-about youth culture film that also features new songs written by Beck.

From The Vaults: Count Basie, "Do You Wanna Jump?" (Hep); Judy Garland, "Lost Tracks 1929-1959" (JSP); Roy Orbison, "The Last Concert" (Eagle Rock); the Who, "Live at the Isle of Wight" (Eagle Rock)

New Music DVDs: Lady Gaga, "Just Dance" (Anvil Media/E1); Nils Lofgren, "Cry Tough" (Eagle Rock); Rush, "R30" (Anthem/Zoe Vision Blu-ray). -- Gary Graff

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