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The Listening Room: Jamie Foxx, Duran Duran and more...
“Best Night of My Life”
As he drops his fourth album, and third in the past five years, we’ve pretty much accepted that Jamie Foxx knows what he’s doing with music. Not only did he win an Academy Award for portraying Ray Charles, after all, but his last two albums — 2005’s “Unpredictable” and 2008’s “Intuition” — have gone platinum or better, he’s won Grammy and American Music awards and he’s been recruited as a guest on albums by Kanye West, T.I., Twista and others. On “Best Night of My Life,” Foxx continues in his guise as libidinous loverman, all about the bedroom unless, as he sings in the hidden closing track, he’s having “Sex on the Beach.” The guest-laden 15-track set, which kicks off with a buoyant snippet of Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (Everlasting Love),” finds Foxx shifting between four primary positions: the New Jack urban flow of the title track (with Wiz Khalifa) and the brassy “Winner,” featuring Justin Timberlake and T.I.; techy club bangers such as “Freak” (with Rico Love), “All Said and Done” and the aforementioned “Sex on the Beach;” explicit slow jams like “Fall For Your Type” with Drake, “Gorgeous,” “15 Minutes” and “Rejoice;” and sung-rap fusions with the likes of Rick Ross (“Living Better Now”) and Ludacris and Soulja Boy (“Yep Dat’s Me”). Foxx slips a Caribbean lilt into his vocals on “Hit It Like This” and peppers falsettos throughout the album, though there’s still a sense that rather than breaking new ground he’s simply doing a capable job in a well-defined style. And while he certainly comes up with plenty of original ideas for doing it in his lyrics, Foxx would owe fans a rebate if he gave them a dollar for every mention of “shawty” or Petrone tequila.
Duran Duran, “All You Need is Now” (Tapemodern) ***
Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon is “out on the dunes/looking for a token something to prove” on the British group’s 13th studio album — which comes out digitally this week while an expanded physical CD releases in February. The clearly audible mission for Le Bon and company this time is to recapture the ’80s magic of their first album and “Rio,” so they’ve enlisted sympathetic producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Kaiser Chiefs, Adele) and crafted a nine-song set filled with the same engaging melodies, big choruses and propulsive grooves that powered those sets. They largely pull it off, too, from the galloping dynamics of “Being Followed” to the polyrhythmic drive of “Girl Panic!,” the rocking edge of “Runaway Runaway” and the techy swirl of the title track. The Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic and Kelis make guest appearances, and it’s genuinely inspiring to hear the Duran crew dancing on the sand again.
New & Noteworthy
Avant, “The Letter” (Verve Forecast): The Cleveland-born R&B singer moves to a new label for his sixth album, fronted by the hit first single, “Kiss Goodbye.”
David Banner and 9th Wonder, “Death of a Pop Star” (Big Face/E1): The Mississippi rapper and North Carolina producer/DJ team up for a set that includes vocal cameos by Ludacris, Erykah Badu, Anthony Hamilton and Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius.
Keyshia Cole, “Calling All Hearts” (Imani/Geffen/Interscope): The R&B singer and frequent guest feature calls all hands on deck to help with her fourth album, including Nicki Minaj, Faith Evans, Tank and Faith Evans.
Ghostface Killah, “Apollo Kids” (Def Jam): The Wu-Tang Clan member’s ninth solo album is filled with friends, a guest list that includes the Roots’ Black Thought, Fabolous, Busta Rhymes, The Game, Jim Jones and fellow Wu warriors GZA, Raekwon, Method Man and Redman.
Keri Hilson, “No Boys Allowed” (Mosely/Zone 4): The Georgia singer strikes a sturdy Girl Power stance on her sophomore album, going toe-to-toe with boy guests such as Kanye West, Rick Ross and Chris Brown.
Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs, “Live — Fall 2010” (RCA): A five song iTunes sampler of the group’s in-concert prowess, mostly drawn from this year’s “God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise” album.
Lang Lang, “Gran Turismo 5: Original Game Soundtrack” (Sony Masterworks): The Chinese piano virtuoso brings a bit of classical class to the gaming world.
Soundtrack, “The Tourist” (Varese Sarabande): Grammy Award winner James Newton Howard put together the music to accompany the Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp thriller.
Soundtrack, “True Grit by Carter Burwell” (Nonesuch): Composer Burwell does the scoring honors for the Coen brothers’ remake of the 1969 Western classic.
Dave Specter, “Spectified” (Fret12): On his ninth studio album, the Chicago bluesman teams with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and former Tower of Power trumpeter Mike Cichowicz’s Bo’ Weavil Brass.
Isaac Stern, “Keeping the Doors Open” (Sony Masterworks): The legendary violinist’s 90th birthday is commemorated with this rare recording of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, performed with Leonard Bernstein and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
New Music DVDs: Neil Young, “Le Noise” (Reprise)
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