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The Listening Room: Van Halen, Paul McCartney and more...
“A Different Kind of Truth”
Van Halen mk.IV — with David Lee Roth, without Michael Anthony — faces an impossible kind of task in trying to better or equal a catalog that’s become legendary in the 28 years since Roth’s last album with the band. If “A Different Kind of Truth” pales in comparison to that iconic output it’s simply because it comes so much further down the road; while it’s certainly not Van Halen’s 1978 debut or “1984,” it certainly fits comfortably in the group’s catalog, and were it released between them “A Different Kind of Truth” would have been welcomed with the same pumping fists that greeted, say, “Diver Down” or “Women and Children First.” Those who like their Van Halen rockin’, riffy and filled with Eddie Van Halen guitar breaks will find an abundance of pleasures in these 13 tracks — some of which were drawn from decades-old demos — including the stomping “Big River,” the beefy “Beats Workin’” and sonic blitzkriegs like “China Town,” “Bullethead” and “Outta Space.” “Stay Frosty” builds from an acoustic, bluesy start into a full-band shuffle and one of Eddie Van Halen’s hottest solos, while “The Trouble With Never” is a funky turn in which Roth asks, perhaps himself and his bandmates, “When was the last time you did something for the first time. The dynamically shifting sonic rides of “Honeybabysweetiedoll” and “As Is,” meanwhile, play to fans of the band’s more adventurous side. There’s not necessarily a great deal here that separates Van Halen 2012 from its late 70s and early 80s counterpart, but let’s be honest — would we really want something that did?
Paul McCartney, “Kisses on the Bottom” (Hear Music) **1/2
OK, the notion of Paul McCartney taking another stylistic discourse, this time into the realm of pop standards, makes us skeptical. Good singer, but not exactly Tony Bennett, right? McCartney mostly pulls it off on these 14 serious and silly love songs, however, thanks to the light and subtle touches of producer Tommy LiPuma and a group of sympathetic musicians — Diana Krall, Christian McBride, John Pizarelli, John Clayton and the Detroit rhythm section of Robert Hurst and Karriem Riggins — whose performances strike a good balance between subtlety and weight. Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder, meanwhile, weigh in on “Get Yourself Another Fool” and “Only Our Hearts” (one of two McCartney originals), while fresh takes on “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “The Inch Worm” are sweet “Kisses” indeed.
New & Noteworthy
Air, “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” (Astralwerks): The French electronic duo’s latest album was inspired by Georges Melies’ 1902 silent film of the same name.
Bahamas, “Barchords” (Brushifre): The second album from former Feist band member Afie Jurvanen follows 2009’s Juno and Polaris Music Prize nominated “Pink Strat.”
Bebe, “Un Pokito De Rocanrol” (EMI Latin): The Spanish singer makes “a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll” on her third studio album.
Dierks Bentley, “Home” (Capitol Nashville): Bentley gets back to mainstream country for the first time since 2009, co-writing half of the 12 tracks and teaming with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild on one.
Chick Corea and Nicolaus Economou, “On Two Pianos” (Deutsche Grammophon): The two pianists team up for a set of classical duets, including a series of improvisations.
Die Antwoord, “Ten$ion” (ZEF): The South African rap ‘n’ rave trio self-releases its sophomore album after its major label, Interscope, balked at the songs’ explicit sexual content.
Dr. Dog, “Be the Void” (Anti-): The eclectic Philadelphia group introduces two new members on its latest album, which was recorded in its own Meth Beach studio during the summer of 2011.
Ned Evett, “Treehouse” (Raging Krill): Rock auteur Adrian Belew produced and plays on this sixth album by the Nashville singer-songwriter, with Jack Bruce’s son Malcolm playing bass.
Roberta Flack, “Let It Be Roberta – Roberta Flack Sings the Beatles” (429): The veteran singer takes on a dozen songs from the Fab Four’s catalog.
The Fray, “Scars & Stories” (Epic): The Denver melodic rock group recorded its third album in Nashville with hitmaker Brendan O’Brien as its new producer.
Ben Kweller, “Go Fly a Kite” (The Noise Company): The pop singer-songwriter form Texas kicks off his own label with this 11-song set.
Mark Lanegan Band, “Blues Funeral” (4AD): The former Screaming Trees frontman enlisted Alain Johannes (Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age) to produce his first solo album in eight years.
Of Montreal, “Paralytic Stalks” (Polyvinyl): Frontman Kevin Barnes takes a more personal tact than he has on the Athens, Ga., group’s more recent albums.
Kenny Olson, “Kenny Olson Cartel” (Foxy Music/Firebird): The former Kid Rock guitarist builds a new support system that includes Tantric’s Hugo Ferreira and Detroit rock troubadour Brandon Calhoon.
“Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall: In Celebration of 25 Years” (Decca Broadway): Principals from “Phantom’s” past, including Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford and Gerard Butler, turn out to fete the musical’s sliver anniversary.
Chuck Prophet, “Temple Beautiful” (Yep Roc): The singer, songwriter and guitarist pays tribute to his home town of San Francisco, including cultural icons such as Willie Mays and Jim Jones.
Shaggy, “Summer in Kingston” (Red General): The “It Wasn’t Me” guy is still around, this time joined by reggae world pals such as Tarrus Riley, Kat Deluna, Jaiden and Assassin.
Steve Tyrell, “I’ll Take Romance” (Concord Jazz): The veteran crooner takes on favorites by Sam Cooke, Little Willie John and the recently departed Etta James on this collection of musical valentines.
Various Artists, “Now 41: That’s What I Call Music” (Capitol): LMFAO, T-Pain, Gym Class Heroes, Lady Gaga and Luke Bryan are among the hitmakers contributing to the perennially popular compilation series.
Brian Courtney Wilson, “So Proud” (Music World): The inspirational singer’s second album features songs dedicated those who have inspired Wilson during his life.
Martin Zellar, “Roosters Crow” Owen Lee Recordings): The onteime leader of the alt.country group Gear Daddies returns with his first new studio album in 10 years.
From The Vaults: Tony Bennett, “Isn’t It Romantic?” (Concord Jazz); Glen Campbell, “Meet Glen Campbell” (Capitol); Goldfrapp, “The Singles” (Astralwerks); Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again: Live on Air” (IMV Blueline); Various Artists, “Giant Single: Profile Records Rap Anthology” (Profile/Legacy); Various Artists, “Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live 1973” (Philadelphia International/Legacy).
Soundtracks: Terence Blanchard, "Red Tails" (Sony Masterworks)
New Music Videos: Owl City, "Live From Los Angels" (Eagle Rock)
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