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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Black Eyed Peas, El DeBarge and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

POP

Black Eyed Peas

“The Beginning” (Interscope)

**1⁄2

Black Eyed Peas fans certainly can’t complain about their lot during the past year. “The Beginning” follows “The E.N.D.” — weighing in at 11 million copies sold worldwide with smash hits such as “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” — by just 18 months, and with both standard and deluxe editions that will keep the Peas’ pod pretty crowded with tunes. The quartet’s sixth album comes with its own flavor, too, a kind of sequel to “The E.N.D.” in which the energy that never dies flags a little, sometimes steering the Peas in a more melodic direction and occasionally yielding lengthy, plodding tracks such as “Don’t Stop the Party” and “Do It Like This,” which make a lot more sense as club fare than listening experiences. “The Beginning” also isn’t as carefully crafted as “The E.N.D.,” though at its best, it captures the vibrancy of a group on tour, immersed in music and hungry to continue creating. That can certainly be heard in the first single, “The Time (Dirty Bit),” which uses the “Dirty Dancing” hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” as a jumping-off point for a frenetic exercise in nightclub braggadocio. “Light Up the Night” brings some Latin flavor to the mix, while “Someday” is propelled by a thumping tribal vibe and “Fashion Beats” channels Chic’s “My Forbidden Lover” into an infection disco gem, complete with Fergie flaunting French. “Whenever” gives the fairer Pea a smooth pop ballad, and she and will.i.am bounce off each other on the even prettier “The Best One Yet (The Boy).” “Play It Loud,” meanwhile, lets will.i.am close the album with a ringing, U2-like anthem on which he declares “I’ll pledge my allegiance to rhythm and sound ... Let the rhythm pound.” And the rhythm continues to rule, and rock, the Peas’ world, not always to the best effect but usually good enough to engage us from “The E.N.D.” to “The Beginning.”

R&B

El DeBarge “Second Chance” (Geffen) **1⁄2

It’s been 16 years since El DeBarge released a new album, and part of that interim was spent in jail on a drug conviction. But the Grand Rapids-raised former Motown star sounds much like he did during his hit making heyday, his high, reedy voice and sharp phrasing in prime mid-’80s form. DeBarge has plenty of good help on this comeback, from top-shelf producers (Ron Fair, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Mike City) to collaborators such as Faith Evans on the opening “Lay With You,” 50 Cent on teasing “Format” and Fabolous on the bouncy “5 Seconds.” The greatest flaw of “Second Chance” is its length — 16 tracks, including three Christmas tunes at the end of the album — and the fact that too many of the songs float in the same smooth, lilting sonic space. But it’s still a solid return, so here’s hoping DeBarge makes good on this second chance.

New & Noteworthy:

Matt Bailie, “Matt Bailie” (True Vibe Entertainment): The singer-songwriter’s debut album includes a co-write with .38 Special singer Donnie Van Zant.

Eric Benet, “Lost in Time” (Reprise): The R&B singer’s fifth album features guest collaborations with Faith Evans, Ledisi, Chrisette Michele and Eddie Levert.

Cristian Castro, “Viva El Principe” (Universal Latino): The Mexican pop singer’s 13th studio album pays tribute to Jose Jose, his personal hero.

Fefe Dobson, “Joy” (21 Music/Island): The Canadian singer gets solid production help on her third album (Bob Ezrin, Howard Benson Jr. Rotem, Kevin Rudolf) as well as a guitar solo on “Can’t Breathe” by Orianthi.

Duffy, “Endlessly” (Mercury): The Welsh singer recorded her sophomore album in New York and features members of The Roots on the first single, “Well, Well, Well.”

Dean Fertita, “Hello=Fire” (Cobraside): The first solo outing from the Detroit rocker and Dead Weather member includes collaborations with Brendan Benson and cohorts from his other band, Queens of the Stone Age.

“Glee: The Music, Volume 4” (Columbia): After recent “Rocky Horror...” and Christmas releases, the “Glee” cast returns with a set of second season highlights, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Britney Spears’ guest appearances.

The High Dials, “Anthems For Doomed Youth” (Rainbow Quartz): The Montreal pop quintet recorded its third full-length in a home studio built in an abandoned building once owned by the Canadian navy.

Ronald Isley, “Mr. I” (Def Jam/Def Soul): The Isley Brother celebrates 50 years of recording with his first solo album ever, with help from Aretha Franklin and T.I. and a version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Metallica, “Live at Grimey’s” (Warner Bros.): A nine-track EP recorded at a Nashville record store performance in June 2008, the night before the quartet played at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

Chrisette Michele, “Let Freedom Reign” (Def Jam): Ne-Yo, Rick Ross, Talib Kweli and Black Thought are among those helping the New York R&B singer on her third album.

Miguel, “All I Want is You” (Bystrom/Jive): The L.A. R&B/funk singer drops his debut album after making some noise with “All I Want is You,” his single with rapper J. Cole.

Mister Mister, “Pull” (RCA/Legacy): A digital-only release of the group’s “lost” 1990 album, which has never been officially released until now.

Matt Savage, “Welcome Home” (Savage Records): The wunderkind jazz pianist’s ninth album features 13 of his own compositions and a guest appearance by saxophone great Bobby Watson.

Slim Thug, “Tha Thug Show” (Boss Hog Outlawz/E1): The Houston rapper’s third album features B.o.B. on its second single, “So High.”

Soulja Boy, “The DeAndre Way” (Stacks on Deck/Interscope): The youthful rapper’s third album offers features by 50 Cent, Trey Songz and others.

Jazmine Sullivan, “Love Me Back” (J/Arista): The Philadelphia soul singer duets with Ne-Yo on “U Get on My Nerves,” while Missy Elliott produces three tracks on her sophomore album.

Various Artists, “The Sing Off: Harmonies For the Holidays” (Epic): The “American Idol” for groups delivers some Yuletide cheer, including “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” by Yale’s Whiffenpoofs.

The Volebeats, “The Volebeats” (Rainbow Quartz): The Detroit psychedelic country rock group’s 19-track epic includes covers of songs by the Kinks and Kiss’ Gene Simmons.

Steve Wynn, “Northern Aggression” (Yep Roc): Former Dream Syndicate member Wynn and his band the Miracle 3 worked 24⁄7 on their latest set with a father-son team splitting engineering duties.

From The Vaults: Tim McGraw, “Number One Hits” (Curb); Trey Gunn, “I’ll Tell You What I Saw” (7d Media); Dinah Washington, “The Fabulous Miss D: The Keynote, Decca, & Mercury Singles 1943-1953” (Hip-O Select)

New Music DVDs: Beyoncé, “I am...World Tour (Deluxe Edition)” (Columbia)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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