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The Listening Room: Teddy Thompson, Herb Alpert and more...
A title like “Bella” — “beautiful” in Italian — certainly creates a rarefied expectation and a high mark to hit, but that’s exactly what Teddy Thompson does on his fifth album. It’s not like he isn’t used to that kind of weight, either; he’s the son of British music legends Richard and Linda Thompson, which gives him a pedigree that would buckle lesser talents. But since he debuted in 2000, the younger Thompson has more than established his own niche and quietly progressed to the point of “Bella,” a new career zenith that finds him singing like a reincarnate Roy Orbison and writing as honestly about romantic tumult as his parents did on their classic “Shoot Out the Lights.” Working with producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, the Strokes), Thompson runs a gamut from twangy upbeat fare such as “Looking For a Girl” (which would fit comfortably on a Keith Urban album) and “The Next One” to the bouncy pop of “The One I Can’t Have” to aching, string-laden ballads like “Delilah,” the sentimental “Home” and the jazz-tinged “Take Care of Yourself,” on which Thompson shows off a soaring falsetto. “Take Me Back Again” references epic, Phil Spector-style pomp, while “Tell Me What You Want,” a duet with Jenni Muldaur, sounds like vintage early 60s boy-girl pop. Throughout these 11 tracks Thompson has his heart stomped, but he’s also quick to shoulder the blame, confessing that “I was born with a love disease/It’s known as chronic hard to please” and ultimately realizing “my longing for control is leaving me so cold.” Out of all that, however, he’s crafted an album that’s warm-hearted and richly melodic.
Herb Alpert & Lani Hall, “I Feel You” (Concord Jazz) **1/2
On their first joint album in nearly a decade, trumpeter Alpert and vocalist Hall — who have been married for almost 38 years — show that time apart has not cooled their ability to collaborate. “I Feel You” is smooth but edgy, with arrangements of songs by the Beatles, Van Morrison, Little Willie John and others that stay melodically faithful to the originals but still find ones to push the stylistic boundaries; check out the modal underpinning in “Here Comes the Sun,” the spacious rendering of “Fever” and the revised version of the Tijuana Brass’ “What Now My Love.” It’s tasteful but inventive — and ambitious in a way few veterans of their stature still are.
New & Noteworthy
Akron/Family, “S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT” (Dead Oceans): The 13-track set is the fifth overall release by the cross-continental experimental rock trio.
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, “Tao of the Dead” (Richter Scale/Superball): The Texas rockers recorded their seventh studio album, including a 16-minute-plus suite, in just 10 days in El Paso.
Nicole Atkins, “Mondo Amore” (Razor & Tie): The New Jersey singer-songwriter’s latest album is based on a trio of video shorts she created with filmmakers Mandy Bisesti and Lucia Holm.
The Boxer Rebellion, “The Cold Still” (Absentee): Following an on-screen appearance in the film “Going the Distance,” the British-based alt.rock quartet enlisted Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne) to produce its latest album.
Crowbar, “Sever the Wicked Hand” (eOne): The New Orleans headbangers pry out a dozen songs on their first set of new material since 2005.
Cut Copy, “Zonoscope” (Modular): The third album by the Australian electropop quartet.
Kurt Elling, “The Gate” (Concord): Detroit native Don Was produced the vocalists latest, which includes songs by the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, King Crimson, Herbie Hancock and more.
Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Tell Me” (Nonesuch): The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who used the Ohio singer-songwriter for backing vocals on his band’s 2008 album “Attack & Release,” returns the favor by producing her latest outing.
Motorhead, “The World is Yours” (Future PLC/Motorhead Music): The British trio’s typically hard-rocking 20th studio album enjoys a new spotlight thanks to the acclaimed new documentary about group frontman Lemmy.
Over the Rhine, “Long Surrender” (Great Speckled Dog): The Ohio husband-wife roots duo brought in Rochester Adams alum Joe Henry to produce its 20th anniversary album, which also features a guest appearance by Lucinda Williams.
Rhino Bucket, “Who’s Got Mine” (Acetate): Following an appearance on “The Wrestler” soundtrack, the California headbangers deliver their first full album with new drummer Anthony “Tiny” Biuso from TSOL and the Dickies.
Slaughterhouse, “The Slaughterhouse E.P.” (Shady/Interscope): The rap all-star group that includes Detroit’s Royce da 5’9” begins its association with Eminem’s Shady Records label with this six-song EP. A full album is due later this year.
Dennis Taylor, “Steppin’ Up” (Kizybosh): The debut solo release from the saxophonist who’s been sideman to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Shelby Lynne, Delbert McClinton and many others.
Thompson Square, “Thompson Square” (Stoney Creek): The debut outing by a Nashville couple so in love they actually had to write a song about forcing themselves to fight.
Various Artists, “The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings” (Scatter): Jamey Johnson, Alabama, Kris Kristofferson, John Hiatt, the late Waylon himself and his son (Shooter) and wife (Jessi Colter) all show up on this tribute to the late country legend.
Various Artists, “Now That’s What I Call Music! 37” (Capitol): Recent hits by Eminem and Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, P!nk, Ke$ha and others fill the latest entry in the popular various artists series.
Various Artists, “The Sing-Off: The Best of Season 2” (Epic): An 11-song set from the reality show that culls highlights from winners Committed as well as other finalists such as Street Corner Symphony, the Backbeats and the Whiffenpoofs.
The Wailin Jennys, “Bright Morning Stars” (Red House): The Winnipeg folk trio delivers traditionals and originals on its first new studio set in five years.
Steve Wariner, “Guitar Laboratory” (1-2-3-4 GO): The country string-bender’s gets help from legendary Nashville hands Leon Rhodes and Paul Yandell, as well as from his two sons, on his latest set of instrumentals.
Yanni, “Truth of Touch” (YanniWake/Rocket Science Ventures): After a pair of albums featuring vocal music, Yanni returns to the instrumental approach that made him famous (albeit with a few vocal tracks) for the first time in eight years.
From the Vaults: Stan Getz, “Quintets: The Clef and Norgran Albums” (Verve/Ume); The Grateful Dead, “Road Trips (Vol 4, No. 2): April Fools’ ‘88” (Deadnet/Rhino); Thin Lizzy, “Jailbreak: Deluxe Edition” (Mercury/Ume)
New Music DVDs: Billy Joel, “The Last Play at Shea” (Lions Gate)
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