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The Listening Room: Toby Keith, Neil Young and more
"Hope on the Rocks"
Show Dog-Universal Music
If "I Like Girls That Drink Beer," the first single from country star Toby Keith's 16th studio album, makes it sound like we're in for a good time here...you're right. Though it has a couple of reflective, lost love laments, "Hope on the Rocks" is a spirited affair awash in, well, spirits and a cheerful, devil-may-care attitude. In the title track and opening cut, Keith -- who wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs and produced the album -- plays a bartender, lonely himself, taking care of an assortment of down 'n' outers. He's a bootlegger with parent issues in the gritty Southern rocker "Scat Cat," celebrates a "Cold Beer Country" where "iced tea won't cut it and neither will lemonade and gets happy enough to settle his standards a bit in "The Size I Wear," while the guy in the uppity "Haven't Had a Drink All Day" still wants us -- and the police officer who pulls him over -- to know that he "got stoned in the mornin'." The brassy "Get Got" is filled with homespun advice ("Always drink upstream from your own cattle"), and the album's quieter pieces come with twists -- particularly "Missed You Just Right," in which the one that got away is a good thing for Keith's narrator. Keith has, of course, been unfairly typecast at times by his outsize personality, but "Hope on the Rocks" reminds us that, just shy of his 20th anniversary as a recording artist, he's still a songwriter and performer to be reckoned with.
Neil Young, "Psychedelic Pill" (Reprise): ***
Though his "Harvest" style rootsiness may enjoy slightly more favor, a great many Neil Young fans prefer to hear him playing within the unkempt ruckus of his occasional band Crazy Horse. Young has given them two treats this year, and "Psychedelic Pill" hews much closer to the familiar Horse ride than the folk covers set "Americana" did in June. But even this, which spreads nine tracks over two discs, finds Young characteristically exploring a broad stylistic space and challenging his listeners -- whether it's with the 27-plus minutes of the opening "Driftin' Back" or the gentle romantic bent of "For the Love of a Man." Young vacillates between nostalgia, sentimentality and anger here, accenting it all with plenty of the fuzzy, distorted guitar work that's so well associated with Crazy Horse. After nearly nine years apart, it's still a tight, instinctual fit that clearly hasn't run its course yet.
New & Noteworthy:
Azari & III, "Azari & III" (Dim Mak): The debut outing from the Toronto-based electronic house collective.
Andrew Bird, "Hands of Glory" (Mom+Pop Music): The avant multi-instrumentalist covers Towne Van Zandt's "If I Needed You" on this olde tymey companion to his last album, "Break It Yourself."
Black Country Communion, "Afterglow" (J&R Adventures): The third album from the rock "supergroup" comes amidst a public rift between guitarist Joe Bonamassa and his bandmates.
Cee-Lo Green, "Cee Lo's Magic Moment" (Elektra): The R&B singer teams up with fellow "The Voice" judge Christina Aguilera, Rod Stewart, Straight No Chaser and the Muppets on this holiday songs collection.
Cody ChesnuTT, [cq] "Landing On a Hundred" (Vibration Vineyard): The neo soul singer-songwriter's sophomore effort comes a full decade after his lauded debut.
The Coup, "Sorry to Bother You" (Anti-): The politically minded collective led by rhymer Boots Riley releases its first new album in six years, with help from Living Colour's Vernon Reid, Anti-Flag and Rochester Adams alumnus Joe Henry.
Cradle Of Filth, "The Manticore & Other Horrors" (Nuclear Blast): The British horror rock group penned a series of stories about monsters, both actual and psychological, for its 10th album.
Flyleaf, "New Horizons" (A&M/Octone): The Texas metal group's third album comes out just after singer Lacey Sturm announced her surprising departure from the band.
Lulu Gainsbourg, "From Gainsbourg to Lulu" (MBM): The son of French composer Serge Gainsbourg collaborated with Iggy Pop, Johnny Depp, Scarlett Johansson, Marianne Faithfull and others on this collection of cover songs.
Macy Gray, "Talking Book" (429): The idiosyncratic (that's a compliment) soul singer takes on Stevie Wonder's landmark album track-by-track to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Calvin Harris, "18 Months" (Flye Eye/Columbia): The Scottish DJ/producer's third artist album features collaborations with Rihanna, Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch, Ne-Yo, Kelis and others.
Manu Katche, "Manu Katche" (ECM): The extensively credentialed French/African percussionist teams with members of Norway's Masqualero on his latest release as a bandleader.
Killing Joke, "MMXII" (Spinefarm): The influential heavy rockers focus on the end of the world for their 15th studio album.
Meek Mill, "Dreams & Nightmares" (Maybach Music/Warner Bros.): The Philadelphia rapper's debut full-length features guests such as Nas, Rick Ross, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Trey Songz, Wale and more.
Neurosis, "Honor Found in Decay" (Neurot/Relapse): The Oakland headbangers teamed with modern rock visionary Steve Albini in Chicago for its 10th studio album.
Parkway Drive, "Atlas" (Epitaph): The Australian metalcore band's fourth album was produced by Matt Hyde (Slayer,
Placebo, "B3" (Universal/UMe): The British modern rock troupe issues a five-song EP to tide fans over until the 2013 release of its next studio album.
Sean Price, "Mic Tyson" (Duck Down): The rapper and Boot Camp Clik member's third solo effort includes guests such as Pharoahe, Ruste Juxx, Ill Bill, Buckshot and more.
Rusted Root, "The Movement" (Shanachie): The Pittsburgh group moves to a new label wtih an album that blends spirituality with a variety of World Music flavors.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)" (Lava/Republic): The symphonic rock troupe drops a five-song EP as a between-album present for fans before heading out on its annual holiday tour.
New Holiday Albums: Laurie Berkner, "A Laurie Berkner Christmas" (Razor & Tie); Rita Coolidge, "A Rita Coolidge Christmas" (429); Doris Day, "Complete Christmas Collection" (Real Gone); Katherine Jenkins, "This Is Christmas" (Reprise); Andre Rieu, "Home For the Holidays" (Hip-O); Rod Stewart, "Merry Christmas, Baby" (Verve); James Taylor, "James Taylor at Christmas" (UMe); Tracey Thorn, "Tinsel and Lights" (Merge); Various Artists, "Holidays Rule" (Hear Music)
From The Vaults: Incubus, "The Essential" (Epic/Legacy); Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship, "The Essential" (RCA/Legacy); King Crimson, "Lark's Tongues in Aspic: 40th Anniversary Edition" (Discipline); Martina McBride, "The Essential" (RCA/Legacy); Run-DMC, "The Essential" (Profile/Arista/Legacy); Thrice, "Anthology" (Workhorse); The Velvet Underground, "The Velvet Underground and NIco: 45th Anniversary Edition" (Polydor), "The Verve/MGM Albums" (Sundazed)
Soundtracks: Forbidden Broadway, "Alive & Kicking" (DRG); Original Cast, "Nice Work If You Can Get It" (Shout! Factory); Chris Tilton, "Fringe: Season 4" (Varese Sarabande); Various Artists, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Atlantic); Various Artists, "Wreck-It Ralph" (Walt Disney); Christopher YOung, "Sinister" (Varese Sarabande)
New Music DVDs: "Sir George Solti: Journey of a Lifetime" (C Major)
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