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The Listening Room: Beady Eye, Lucinda Williams and more...
“Different Gear, Still Speeding”
Seventeen years ago, Liam Gallagher announced he was “gonna live forever” with Oasis. Now, fronting the remnants of Oasis in the new band Beady Eye, he’s determined that “nothing ever lasts forever” — even while he’s capably extending his own allotted moment in the pop music spotlight. With Oasis in ashes after older brother and chief songwriter Noel Gallagher left, Liam and bandmates Andy Bell and Gem Archer elected to soldier on and make an album that sounds a lot like, well, Oasis, but closer to the ascendant Oasis of the early and mid-’90s rather than its more convoluted later years. Beady Eye is as referential as its predecessor on “Different Gear, Still Speeding” — there’s even a song called “Beatles and Stones” — but it glides with the same kind of reverent energy, treating these 13 songs as part of a musical lineage and defiant in its claim to the same melodic and sonic elements association with Britpop favorites of yore (including the La’s, which gave Beady Eye its drummer, Chris Sharrock). With the well-credentialed Steve Lillywhite producing, Gallagher and company mine Merseybeat in general (“Millionaire,” “For Anyone”) and John Lennon in particular on “The Roller,” which sounds like it’s about to break into “Instant Karma” at any second, and “The Morning Son.” “Wind Up Dream” rings true to the early Who while the piano-pounding “Bring the Light” and the aforementioned “Beatles and Stones” rock with a Little Richard-aping abandon. “The Beat Goes On,” meanwhile, tucks into the same “Ziggy Stardust” territory as Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and tracks such as “Kill For a Dream” and the epic, optimistic “Wigwam” revisits the trippy terrain of “Champagne Supernova.” It may not be breaking new ground, but like Oasis before it Beady Eye turns these much-loved sources into another batch of songs that are more timeless than nostalgic. And while Gallagher may not live forever, he may well “stand the test of time” as he predicts on this solid debut.
Lucinda Williams, “Blessed” (Lost Highway) ***1/2
There’s a happiness on Lucinda Williams 10th studio album that may seem disarming to longtime fans used to, and even charmed by, the more dour and desperate nature of most of her catalog. They need not worry too much, however. The newfound domestic bliss she sings about in “Kiss Like Your Kiss” and “Sweet Love” is balanced by the affecting and hypnotic anti-war paean “Soldiers Song,” and by the searing suicide observation “Seeing Black,” with Elvis Costello’s guitar solo ratcheting up the intensity. Williams is at the top of her game throughout, making her way through soul (“Convince Me”), country (“Don’t Know How You’re Living,” “Ugly Truth”) and the hymn-like title track with help from Matthew Sweet and Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee. She’s as sharp-tongued as ever, but also wide-eyed and ultimately warm-hearted, bringing a welcome new balance to her force.
New & Noteworthy:
Marsha Ambrosius, “Late Nights, Early Mornings” (J): The first solo album by the former Floetry member includes the single “Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player).”
The Baseball Project, “Vol. 2: High & Inside” (Yep Roc): The all-star group featuring members of R.E.M. and other bands rides again, just in time for spring training.
Big Head Blues Club, “100 Years of Robert Johnson” (Ryko/Big): Big Head Todd & the Monsters are joined by B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Ruthie Foster, Charlie Musselwhite and others in celebrating the centennial of blues legend Johnson.
Harry Connick, Jr., “In Concert on Broadway” (Columbia): The title says it all as the New Orleans singer-pianist leads his band through favorites such as “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Besame Mucho” and Mardis Gras in New Orleans.”
Dropkick Murphys, “Going Out in Style” (Born & Bred): The Celtic rockers from Boston have conceptual story to tell on its latest album, with Bruce Springsteen joining member of NOFX and the Living End on the guest list.
DeVotchKa, “100 Lovers” (Anti-): The dreamy Denver indie rock group is joined by members of Calexico and Atoms For Peace on the follow-up to its buzz-generating 2008 set “A Mad & Faithful Telling.”
Linda Eder, “Now” (Sony Masterworks): The Broadway-credentialed team of singer Eder and composer Frank Wildhorn reunites after six years apart for a set of songs that includes “Mad Hatter” from Wildhorn’s upcoming musical “Wonderland.”
Eisley, “The Valley" (Equal Vision): The sibling-fronted quintet stayed home in Tyler, Texas, to make its first new album in four years.
Forever the Sickest Kids, “Forever the Sickest Kids” (Universal Motown): The Texas power pop group recorded its second album before keyboardist Kent Garrison opted to leave the band.
David Foster, “Hit Man Returns: David Foster & Friends" (Reprise): After wowing music fans with a first “Hitman” show in 2010, the award-winning producer and songwriter does it again on a CD/DVD set featuring “Friends” such as Seal, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan and Charice from “Glee”.
Ari Hest, “Sunset Over Hope Street” (Project 4): The New York singer-songwriter delivers his first full-length album in four years.
INXS, “Original Sin” (Atco/Rhino): The Australian rockers recruited a formidable core of guests (Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Ben Harper, Tricky and more) to record new versions of its material for this set. Online at Amazon.com, then coming out on CD April 5.
Kopek, “White Collar Lies” (Sin): The debut outing by the youthful Irish trio that’s generating a substantial buzz with its classic rock-referencing sound.
Aaron Lewis, “Town Line” (Stroudavarious): The Staind frontman’s debut solo EP features three version of his hit “Country Boy” as well as an acoustic remake of the band’s “Tangled Up in You.”
Lykke Li, “Wounded Rhymes” (Atlantic): The Swedish singer’s sophomore album recently put her on the cover of Spin magazine’s Next Big Thing issue.
Liquid Mind, “Dream: A Liquid Mind Experience” (Real Music): Three lengthy, ambient, keyboard-heavy tracks comprise the latest entry in Chuck Wild’s Liquid Mind series.
Middle Brother, “Middle Brother” (Partisan): The first album from the new, Nashville-based band formed by the lead singers of the Delta Spirit, Dawes and Deer Tick.
Buddy Miller, “Majestic Silver Strings” (New West): The Nashville impresario, currently leading Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, covers an assortment of country favorites with guest singers Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Shawn Colvin and others.
John Popper, “John Popper & the Duskray Troubadours” (429): The Blues Traveler frontman took his new “other” band to New Mexico to record its first album together.
The Rural Alberta Advantage, “Departing” (Saddle Creek): The sophomore album from a guitar-slinging folk-rock band who’s frontman, Nils Edenloff, really does hail from rural Alberta.
Ron Sexsmith, “Long Player Late Bloomer” (Ronboy Rhymes): The Canadian singer-songwriter enlisted heavyweight producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue) and Paul McCartney guitarist Rusty Anderson to put some extra kick in his latest release.
Soundtrack, “Biutiful” and “Almost Biutiful” (both Relativity): The music of composer Gustavo Santaolalla is featured on these one- and two-disc companions to the Javier Bardem-starring film.
Serj Tankian, “Imperfect Remixes” (Warner Bros.): The System of the Down singer heads into the band’s reunion with a quick solo EP recasting four songs from last year’s “Imperfect Harmonies.” Tom Morello guests on the single, “Goodbye -- Gate 21.”
Susan Werner, “Kicking the Beehive” (Sleeve Dog): Keb’ Mo’, Vince Gill and producer Rodney Crowell join idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Werner on her more traditional follow-up to the chamber-flavored “Classics” in 2009.
From the Vaults: Chuck Berry, "Icon" (Chess/UMe); Bloodhound Gang, "Icon" (UMe); James Brown, "Singles 10: 1975-1979" (Hip-O Select); Billy Ray Cyrus, "Icon" (Mercury Nashville/UMe); Neil Diamond, "The Bang Years" (Columbia/Legacy); Melissa Etheridge, "Icon" (Island/UMe); Four Tops, "Icon" (Motown/UMe); Peter Frampton, "Icon" (A&M/UMe); Gap Band, "Icon" (UMe); Buddy Holly, "Icon" (MCA/UMe); Kool & the Gang, "Icon" (UMe); Loretta Lynn, "Icon" (UMe); The Mavericks, "Icon" (Mercury Nashville/UMe); Aaron Neville, "Icon" (A&M/UMe); Parliament, "Icon" (UMe); Salt-N-Pepa, "Icon" (UMe); .38 Special, "Icon" (A&M/UMe); Tony! Toni! Tone!, "Icon" (UMe); War, "Icon" (UMe) -- Gary Graff
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