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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Travis Barker, Steve Martin and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

HIP-HOP

Travis Barker

“Give the Drummer Some”

(Interscope)

★★ 1/2

On his first solo album, musical friends of blink-182’s Travis Barker give the drummer a lot, resulting in a guest-filled three-ring circus that’s cheerfully all over the place — although sometimes to a fault. Much of this is payback for Barker’s own musical generosity, of course; he has his own list of guest appearances that’s considerably longer than his discography with his own bands blink-182, the Transplants and +44. Though it has moments that rock — most notably “On My Own” with Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) from the 16-track deluxe edition of the album — “Give the Drummer Some” is primarily a hip-hop enterprise, filled with top-shelf rappers rhyming atop muscular arrangements and the occasional crunchy guitar lick. The guest list is dazzling, while the music dazzles episodically, hitting enough sweet spots to keep us listening through the more mundane fare. Among the highlights: the hooky “Can a Drummer Get Some?” with Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz and Game; the brassy “If U Want To” with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams; the energetic “Carry It” with Wu-Tang Claners RZA and Raekwon and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello; the forceful “Beat Goes On” with Cypress Hill; and the Latin-flavored “Saturday Night” with the Transplants and Slash. The weaker moments, meanwhile — such as the messy “Devil’s Got a Hold of Me” with Slaughterhouse or the somnolent tracks like “Just Chill” and “Jump Down” — come off as rote more than anything else. But everybody, it seems, finds a way to name-check Barker or drummers in general. It’s an impressive display of love, even if you don’t love everything on it.



BLUEGRASS

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, “Rare Bird Alert” (Rounder) ***

Steve Martin’s “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” was a revelation in 2009, some truly solid pickin’ from a guy whose notoriety to that point was to get people grinnin’. But “The Crow” won a Grammy Award and established the banjo-playing Martin’s musical cred, and “Rare Bird Alert” only enhances that burgeoning reputation. It’s a “Bird” of a different feather, to be sure, focusing more on songwriting and vocal arrangements — only four of its 13 tracks are instrumental — than its predecessor. Paul McCartney (“Best Love”) and the Dixie Chicks (“You”) make guest appearances, while Martin and his crack Steep Canyon Rangers marry wit and chops on tunes such as “Jubilation Day,” “Women Like to Slow Dance” and live takes of “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” and his comedy hit “King Tut.” As charming as its predecessor, “Rare Bird Alert” puts another deserved feather in Martin’s musical cap.



New & Noteworthy

Miranda Cosgrove, “High Maintenance” (Columbia): The “iCarly” star’s second EP includes a collaboration with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo on the title track and another song, “Dancing Crazy,” co-written by Avril Lavigne.

Curren$y, “Muscle Car Chronicles” (DD172/Def Jam): The New Orleans rapper’s fifth album comes with a companion film that’s being released at the same time.

Al Di Meola, “Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody” (Telarc): The veteran guitar hero lends his sophisticated stylings to a new set of originals as well as covers of the standard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

The Dodos, “No Color” (Frenchkiss): Neko Case gives the San Francisco indie folk duo a generous hand on its third album.

Does it Offend You, Yeah? “Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You” (Cooking Vinyl): The British dance-punk band’s second album includes a team-up with English rapper Trip on the track “Wondering.”

Funeral For a Friend, “Welcome Home Armageddon” (Good Fight Music): The Welsh hard rockers feature two songs from a 2010 EP — “Sixteen” and “Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don’t” — on their fifth studio album.

The Joy Formidable, “The Big Roar” (Atlantic): The Welsh modern rock trio’s first full-length album comes after two EPs and five singles in the U.K.

Lady Gaga, “Born This Way” (Interscope): Those who can’t wait for the Lady’s new album to come out in May can chew on the four versions of the title track included on this EP.

Bob Geldof, “How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell” (Mercury/Vagrant): The former Boomtown Rats frontman’s first solo album in a decade was produced by former Rats mate Pete Briquette.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, “Scandalous” (Lost Highway): For its sophomore effort, the Austin, Texas, soul-rock troupe re-enlisted Spoon’s Jim Eno, who produced its 2009 debut “Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!”

J Mascis, “Several Shades of Why” (Sub Pop): Hard as it is to believe, this is the first solo studio effort by the guy who’s driven bands such as Dinosaur Jr., Sweet Apple, Velvet Monkeys, Deep Wound and more.

Mastodon, “Live at the Aragon” (Reprise): The arty headbangers recorded this live album and DVD during October of 2009, while on tour support its concept set “Crack the Skye."

The Naked and Famous, “Passive Me Aggressive You” (Universal Republic): The New Zealand quintet’s debut album comes out on these shores six months after topping the charts in its homeland.

New York Dolls, “Dancing Backwards in High Heels” (429): The legendary glam rockers’ fifth studio album, and third since reuniting in 2004, was recorded in England and produced by Jason Hill of Louis XIV.

Noah and the Whale, “Last Night on Earth” (Island Mercury): The prolific British indie folk group delivers its third album in less than four years.

Oh Land, “Oh Land” (Epic): The debut album from the ballyhooed Danish singer (real name Nanna Fabricius) includes dance and pop production touches by experienced hands such as Dan CArey and Dave McCracken.

Rise Against, “End Game” (DGC/Interscope): The Chicago punk rockers recorded their politically charged sixth studio album with Bill Stevenson of All and the Descendants at his Blasting Room studio in Colorado.

Various Artists, “American Idol: 10th Anniversary — The Hits Volume 1” (RCA): The popular reality show celebrates its first decade with favorites by past winners and runners-up such as Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Daughtry, Adam Lambert and carrie Underwood.

Matt Wertz, “Weights & Wings” (Nettwerk): The Nashville-based singer-songwriter delivers his fourth full-length after a three-year interim marked by a live album and a pair of EPs.

Yellowjackets, “Timeline” (Mack Avenue): The veteran jazz fusion group celebrates its 30th anniversary with a move to Detroit’s Mack Avenue label.

From The Vaults: The Fifth Dimension, “Essential; (UMe)” Nick Lowe, “Labour of Lust” (Yep Roc); Django Reinhardt, “Essential” (Columbia/Legacy); Paul Revere & the Raiders, “Essential” (Epic/Legacy); Rick Springfield, “Essential Rick Springfield” (RCA/Legacy)



Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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