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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: 3 Doors Down, Imelda May and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

ROCK

3 Doors Down

“Time Of My Life”

Universal Republic

★★

In the 11 years since it exposed itself to the world with “Kryptonite,” 3 Doors Down has proven itself to be, if not indestructible, then sturdy. The group has scored three platinum-or-better albums (2008’s self-titled effort stalled at gold) and netted five singles at the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. This is not a band that reinvents the wheel, preferring instead to refine its earnest, tuneful approach with subtle tweaks. At the outset of “Time Of My Life” it seems like 3 Doors Down is headed in a heavier direction with the propulsive stomp and phase-shifting guitars of the title track. The group also puts a bit of muscle behind songs such as “My Way,” “Believer” and “Every Time You Go,” but its stock in trade here is still melodic and emotional — but not emotive — balladry; as frontman Brad Arnold declares in “Back To Me,” “I have poured out my heart and laid it right there for you ... That’s the best I can do.” Arnold sounds like he went through a bit of a ringer over the course of writing these songs, particularly “When You’re Young,” “Round and Round,” “Believer,” and “Heaven,” always drawing on a relationship to find redemption for his supposed bad-boy ways. “What’s Left,” meanwhile, drips with sentimental imagery and the melancholy resolve of a broken relationship that’s ultimately for the best. It’s all smoothly crafted with help from producer Howard Benson and hitmaking gun-for-hire Marti Frederiksen, who co-wrote three songs, but the set may come up short for those looking for riffs rather than romance.



POP

Imelda May, “Mayhem” (Decca)★★★ 1/2

Imelda May is in the wrong decade — or even century, for that matter. But we’re sure glad she’s here. The Irish spitfire and her hell-on-wheels band including husband Darrel Higham on guitar are authoritatively versed in rockabilly, blues, surf and swing, sounding (and looking) like something out of the 1950s but also playing with punkworthy ferocity. Jeff Beck has shined a light on May and company via his recent “Rock & Roll Party: Honoring Les Paul,” but on their own, May and company really kick out the proverbial jams on tracks such as “Pulling the Rug,” “Sneaky Freak,” the appropriately titled “Psycho” and “Mayhem,” and the gospel-tinged “Proud and Humble.” They slow down convincingly, too, on “All For You” and “Too Sad to Cry,” and the bonus remix of “Johnny Got a Boom Boom,” her first single, only makes a good thing better.

New & Noteworthy:

Big Talk, “Big Talk” (Epitaph): The solo debut by the Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci lets him step out from behind the drum kit and show off his singing chops.

Randy Brecker, “The Jazz Ballad Songbook” (Half Note): The trumpeter teams with the Danish Radio Big Band and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra for this set of 10 songs from the Great American Songbook.

Burlap To Cashmere, “Burlap To Cashmere” (Jive): The genre-blending world music quartet from New York returns after a 10-year recording break.

Terri Lynne Carrington, “The Mosaic Project” (Concord Jazz): The drummer, producer and vocalist assembles a dream group of female colleagues — Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sheila E., Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Geri Allen and more — to carry out her latest batch of music.

Cold, “Superfiction” (SonicStar/Eleven Seven): The reunited Florida hard rockers deliver their first studio album in six years.

DJ Khaled, “We the Best Forever” (We the Best/Cash Money/Universal Motown): The New Orleans hip-hop impresario piles up the guests on his fifth album, including Drake, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Plies, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and more.

Fink, “Perfect Darkness” (Ninja Tune): The fourth album of song-oriented material from British DJ and electronic music producer Fin Grenall.

Kottonmouth Kings, “Sunrise Sessions” (Suburban Noize): The California hip-hop troupe leans in a more reggae-flavored direction on its 12th album, with (hed) p.e.’s Jahred Gomes guesting on the track “Down 4 Life”

Amy Lavere, “Stranger Me” (Archer): The Louisiana singer-songwriter’s third album comes after the death of mentor Jim Dickinson, the defection of her guitarist to the Hold Steady and a breakup with her drummer-boyfriend. Obviously she was not lacking for inspiration.

Henry McCullough, “Unfinished Business” (Silverwolf): The British guitarist dishes up a set of originals and covers — including one by former employer Paul McCartney — on his first release in four years.

Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman, “Union Town” (New West): The Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist returns to his socially conscious alter ego for another set of fierce, passionate and topical protest songs.

NRBQ, “Keep This Love Goin’ “ (Clang!): Keyboardist Terry Adams keeps his legendary band going with this first recording by the new lineup he put together in 2007.

Rahsaan Patterson, “Bleuphoria” (Artistry/Mack Avenue): The neo-soul New Yorker is joined by Faith Evans and Jody Watley on his sixth studio album.

Portugal. The Man, “In the Mountain in the Cloud” (Atlantic): The psychedelic rock troupe from Alaska makes its major label debut on its seventh album in as many years.

Tim Robbins & the Rogues Gallery Band, “Tim Robbins & the Rogues Gallery Band” (249): The actor, writer, producer, director and activist is also a singer-songwriter, favoring rootsy, Americana-styled storytelling on this nine-song musical debut.

Rodrigo y Gabriela, “Live in France” (ATO): The third concert souvenir from the Mexican guitar duo hails from various locales in the Fifth Republic.

Soundtrack, “Winnie the Pooh” (Walt Disney): The latest animated feature from the Hundred Acre Wood includes performances by actress-singer Zooey Deschanel.

Summer Set, “Everything’s Fine” (Razor & Tie): The Arizona quintet goes for a more grown-up sound on its sophomore album, including songwriting collaborations with matchbox twenty’s Paul Doucette.

They Might Be Giants, “Join Us” (Idlewild): This 18-song set is TMBG’s first album of non-children’s music since 2007.

311, “Universal Pulse” (311/ATO): The reggae-flavored rap-rockers move to their own label for their 10th studio album, an eight-song affair produced by Bob Rock, who also handled 2009’s “Uplifter.”

2Cellos, “2Cellos” (Sony Masterworks): A pair of cellists (you might have guessed that) offers up stylized covers of songs by U2, Coldplay, Guns N’ Roses, Kings of Leon and more.

Mike Zito, “Greyhound” (Eclecto Groove): Fellow singer-songwriter Anders Osbourne produced this latest set from Texas roots rocker Zito in Lafayette, La.

From The Vaults: Charlie Christian, “Electric” (Uptown Jazz); John Lee Hooker, “Icon” (Chess/UMe); Moody Blues, “Icon” (Threshhold/UME); REO Speedwagon, “Hi Infideliety: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Epic/Legacy); Rush, “Icon” (Mercury/UMe); Velvet Underground, “Icon” (Mercury/UMe)

New Music DVDs: “Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story” (Hip-O Select)



Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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