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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: The Beatles, Jay-Z And More
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Pop

The Beatles, “LOVE” (Capitol) ***1/2:

The Beatles have been kings repackaging since they started putting out posthumous greatest hits packages in 1973. They’ve found all sorts of ways to keep their catalog alive and thriving ever since, but “LOVE” brings a welcome originality to the proceedings — the Beatles, as the cover sticker proclaims, “as you’ve never heard them before.” The soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show running in Las Vegas, “LOVE” puts a contemporary spin on the Beatles’ music, not so much in terms of sound but in attitude. To accompany Cirque’s avantgarde stunts and choreography, original Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles have crafted a 78-minute suite that tracks just as well as a listening experience, with several “mash-ups” that put elements of different songs together to create something that sounds fresh, if not entirely reinvented. The opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night,” for instance, leads into a bit of the drum solo from “The End” and then into “Get Back.” “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Within You Without You” are woven together to create a piece even more psychedelic than either. The acoustic guitar introduction of “Blackbird” ushers in “Yesterday,” and bits of “Hello Goodbye” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” introduce “Glass Onion.” “LOVE’s” highlight, however, is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which adds a newly composed George Martin string arrangement atop an early, acoustic run-through of the song. It’s all very clever and great fun, with new overtones and underpinnings reimagining work that some would hold sacrosanct. Rather than another exercise in selling the same old thing or dredging through the vaults, this is indeed something to “LOVE.”



Rap

Jay-Z, “Kingdom Come” (Roc-A-Fella) *** Three years after his last solo album and two years since his “Collision Course” with Linkin Park, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z (a.k.a. Shawn Carter) ends a short-lived retirement with a 14-song set on which he raps a lot about, well, coming out of retirement and the lessons he learned while he was “away.” He may be a bit sensitive about competition from younger MCs and about being an “old” 37 in the rap game as he holds his own with sharply crafted rhymes, subtly deployed samples and highly musical tracks produced by the likes of Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, Swizz Beatz and Kanye West. Ne-Yo joins him for the sober post-Katrina refl ection “Minority Report,” while Jay-Z is more playful with girlfriend Beyonce on the breezy “Hollywood.” “Kingdom Come” has a few clunkers, including the Neptunes-produced “Anything,” but those are exceptions, and the closing “Beach Chair,” co-produced by and featuring Coldplay’s Chris Martin, is a trippy venture that gives Jay-Z some footing in a fresh direction.



New and noteworthy

Cheryl Bentyne, “The Book of Love” (Telarc) — The Manhattan Transfer singer goes for romance on her fourth solo album.

Brand New, “Devil and God are Raging Inside Me”

(Interscope) — The modern rock quartet’s third album, which Alternative Press dubbed the “most anticipated (album) of 2005,” surfaces, better late than never.

Chris Daughtry, “Daughtry” (RCA) — The “American Idol” fi nalist’s debut includes writing collaborations with Rob Thomas and members of 3 Doors Down and Fuel.

Il Divo, “Siempre”

(Sony) — The classically styled vocal quartet’s third studio album includes a take on the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” and four original tracks.

Killswitch Engage, “As Daylight Dies” (Roadrunner) — The follow-up to the headbanging Boston quintet’ Grammy-nominated 2004 set “The End of Heartache.”

Kiss, “Kiss Alive! 1975-2000” (Island) — As much live Kiss as you could want — a box set of the first three live albums (two of which were recorded in Detroit) plus a previously unreleased Millennium concert.

Loreena McKennitt, “Ancient Muse” (Quinlan Road/Verve) — The World Music chanteuse “visits” Scotland, Spain, Greece, Ireland and Eastern Europe on her first set of new material in nine years.

Rock Star Supernova, “Rock Star Supernova”

(Epic) — The TV “supergroup” rocks it with contest winner Lukas Rossi front and center.

Sonny Rollins, “Sonny, Please” (Doxy Records) — The jazz saxophone legend launches his own label with his latest release.

Sizzla, “The Overstanding” (DDMG/Kalonji) — The sixth release from the Jamaiccan dancehall star.

Snoop Dogg, “The Blue Carpet Treatment” (Geffen) — Snoop’s latest features production by Dr. Dre and contributions from Stevie Wonder, R Kelly, the Game, Ne-Yo and more.

2Pac, “Pac’s Life”

(Interscope) — The 10th anniversary of the rapper’s death is observed with this set of unreleased material worked on by Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and more.

U2, “U218 Singles”

(Interscope) — The Irish rockers slapped two songs on their third retrospective, including their collaboration with Green Day on the Skids cover “The Saints are Coming.”

Various Artists, “Forever, For Always, For Luther II” (Rendezvous Entertainment) — The followup to the Grammy-nominated 2004 tribute takes a more of a smooth jazz course with Patti Austin, Gerald Albright and others.

Tom Waits, “Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards” (Anti-) — A sprawling three-CD set mixing 30 new recordings with soundtrack contributions and rarities.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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