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The Listening Room: Beastie Boys, Aretha Franklin and more...
"Hot Sauce Committee Part Two"
Adam "Ad-Rock" Horowitz starts the Beastie Boys new album declaring "Yes here we go again/Give you more, nothing lesser/Back on the mic is the anti-depresser." These have indeed been hard times for the New York MC duo, which had to bump the planned "Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1" after Adam "MCA" Yauch was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his salivary gland. Besides the obvious, and more important, health concerns it also delayed the Beasties' reappearance on the scene, adding a year and a half to the wait for a new vocal album since 2004's "To the 5 Boroughs." But if you're expecting recent events to make the Beasties a dour bunch, think again; as the trio chants in the hook of the lead track and first single, "Make Some Noise," "We got a party on the left, a party on the right/We gonna party for the (expletive) right to fight." And this "Hot Sauce Committee" is indeed a funky and unapologetically old school, in-your-face bash that spotlights the trio's punchy but fluid group flow and trippy sonic sensibilities. Dub-style bass propels "Nonstop Disco Powerpack," while "OK" and "Tadlock's Glasses" follow an electro path and "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" takes the 16-track set to Jamaica with a choruses sung by Santigold. Other highlights include the phat instrumental "Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament" and the appropriately titled "Funky Donkey," the punky "Lee Majors Come Again" and "Too Many Rappers (New Reactionaries Version)," on which the Beasties team with Nas for a cheerfully self-aggrandizing workout. The troupe doesn't really break any new ground here, but they tread the familiar territory so well that it's still a charge to hear them in such genuinely fine form.
Aretha Franklin, "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love" (Aretha's Records) **1/2
We've waited a long time for a new album from the Queen of Soul -- eight years, since "So Damn Happy," if we don't count her 2008 Christmas set. Her unspecified health issues and surgery have only added to the comeback quality of this 12-song set, which finds Franklin in fine, robust voice and exploring styles that range from polished contemporary ("How Long I've Waited," the smoky "When Two Become One," "Put It Back Together Again") and down-home gritty; among the highlights, in fact, are her bluesy cover of B.B. King's "Sweet Sixteen" and the emotive gospel pieces "New Day" and "Faithful," the latter a duet with fellow Detroiter Karen Clark-Sheard. Ronald Isley guests on a remake of "The Way We Were," though spoken parts render her version of "Theme From a Summer Place" a bit hokey. But in the wake of a Royal Wedding abroad, "A Woman Falling Out of Love" assures us that this Queen is still deserves her r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
New & Noteworthy:
Priscilla Ahn, "When You Grow Up" (Blue Note): The sophomore album from the Georgia-born, (sometimes) ukulele-lugging singer-songwriter.
Brandi Carlile, [cq] "Live at Benaroyal Hall with the Seattle Symphony" (Columbia): The title says it all as singer-songwriter Carlile runs through material from her three albums along with songs by Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John and Leonard Cohen.
Dredg, "Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy" (Superball): Dan the Automator produced the fifth set by the alternative rockers from Los Gatos, Calif.
Breanne Duren, "Sparks" (durenduren): The Minnesota-based Owl City collaborator releases her first EP, five songs produced by former Whiskeytown member Mike Daly.
Colt Ford, "Every Chance I Get" (Average Joe's Entertainment): The Country character's third album features guest appearances by Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Nappy Roots, Charlie Daniels, Michigan's Frankie Ballard and others.
Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues" (Sub Pop): The second album from the Seattle folk-pop troupe showcases the same shimmering, southern California arrangements and Beach Boys-style harmonies as its self-titled 2008 debut.
Eliza Gilkyson, "Roses at the End of Time" (Red House): The Texas-based singer-songwriter returns to her own work after teaming with John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky for 2010's "Red Horse."
Mick Harvey, "Sketches From the Book of the Dead" (mute): After producing PJ Harvey's new album, Harvey takes leave again from Nick Cave's Bad Seeds to deliver a new solo project.
The Jolly Boys, "Great Expectation" (Geejam/eOne): The first album in 20 years from the Jamaiccan Mento pioneers.
Jennifer Lopez, "Love?" (Nuyorican/Island Def Jam): Steven Tyler is putting out his autobiography, but his "American Idol" judging party returns to music with her first new album in four years, an uptempo set that sports collaborations with Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, The-Dream and others.
John Mayall, "Howlin' at the Moon" (Secret): One more authentic-sounding entry in the long catalog of the British blues-rock pioneer.
Kate & Anna McGarrigle, "Tell My Sister" (Nonesuch): A third disc of unreleased material is added to the two albums the singer-songwriter sisters released, a nice tribute in the wake of Kate's death last year.
Musiq Soulchild, "Musicqinthemagiq" (Atlantic): The Philadelphia neo-soul star worked with Swizz Beatz, John Legend and others on his sixth full-length album.
Stevie Nicks, "In Your Dreams" (Reprise): Nicks teams with Eurythmics Dave Stewart, who co-wrote seven of 13 songs for her first new solo album in 10 years. Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood guest, too.
Donny and Marie Osmond, "Donny and Marie" (MPCA): The "little bit country, little bit rock 'n' roll siblings" record again for the first time in 30 years, with help from Gavin DeGraw and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.
Kelly Price, "Kelly" (My Block): The R&B/gospel singer and breast cancer survivor returns with her first new album in five years.
Gruff Rhys, "Hotel Shampoo" (Wichita): The third solo album from the Super Furry Animals frontman and Neon Neon member.
Shinedown, "Somewhere in the Stratosphere" (Atlantic): The rockers' live CD/DVD set combines electric and acoustic performances from its 2010 tours, still supporting 2008's "The Sound of Madness" album.
Sixx: A.M., "This is Gonna Hurt" (Eleven Seven): The second album from Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx's other band, accompanying his New York Times bestselling book of the same name.
Tempo Libre, "My Secret Radio" (Sony Masterworks): The seven-piece, Grammy Award-nominated Cuban group works its way through another album of Timba music, with a guest appearance by singer Rachelle Fleming.
From The Vaults: Barry Manilow, "Duets" (Arista/Legacy); Poison, "Double Dose: Ultimate Hits" (Capitol); Rush, "Moving Pictures: Deluxe Edition" (Mercury/UMe); Sade, "The Ultimate Collection" (Epic); Various Artists, "Putumayo Presents Jazz" (Putumayo World Music); Loudon Wainwright III, "40 Odd Years" (Shout! Factory)
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