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The Listening Room: Michael Buble, Phoenix and more...
"To Be Loved"
Michael Buble's a happy guy these days -- and why shouldn't he be? The Canadian singer is riding a streak of five-straight multi-platinum albums and three consecutive No. 1's on the Billboard 200. And he's expecting his first child, a son, later this year. As he sings in "I Got It Easy," one of four originals on his latest release, "I Got It Easy." "To Be Loved" -- named after the song by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. that Buble treats in a doo-wop arrangement here -- is indeed a buoyant affair, marked by love songs sung in his distinctive manner, something altogether different than the classical bombast of a Josh Groban or the crooner stylings of Buble's big band-fronting forebears. With producer Bob Rock putting some muscle into the sound of these 14 tracks, "To Be Loved" gets off to a brassy start with the standard "You Make Me Feel So Young" and also trips through a lush arrangement of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," a jazzy take on Lulu Belle & Scotty's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" with the vocal troupe Naturally 7" and a cha-cha version of "Come Dance With Me" -- though "Something Stupid" with Reese Witherspoon is a bit too lightweight to really stick. Buble's originals, meanwhile, follow a more straightforward pop-rock path, with horns filling out the bouncy single "It's a Beautiful Day" and Bryan Adams helping on the propulsive "After All." The closing "Young At Heart" may be a bit of a hard sell -- Buble is just 37, after all -- but the happy heart that's splashed all of the album makes it likely he'll continue to feel the love he's become accustomed to.
Phoenix, "Brankrupt!" (Glassnote): ***
Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars sings on the French group's fifth album that he's "just trying to get cool," but that's hardly an issue for the quartet. "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," a refreshing blast of indie pop in 2009, gave Mars and company plenty of hip cred and generated plenty of excitement, and expectations, for its successor. And Phoenix's creative coffers are still brimming on "Banrkupt!," a bold left turn into synthesizer-driven songcraft that retains the group's clever melodicism and casual charm over the course of these 10 songs. The oriental flair of "Entertainment" oriental flare starts the album at a full-on gallop, and while the mostly instrumental seven-minute title track pushes the group's sonic boundaries, the witty dynamics of "The Real Thing," "Oblique City," "Drakkar Noir" and "Bourgeois" are more than memorable enough to keep Phoenix's flight trajectory in a steep ascent.
New & Noteworthy:
Paula Cole, "Raven" (675//UFO): The "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" singer funded her sixth studio album with Kickstarter contributions from her fans.
Mia Dyson, "The Moment" (Co-Op/Black Door): The award-winning Australia singer makes her move across the Pacific pond with the U.S. release of her lauded 2012 Down Under album.
Electric Light Orchestra, "Live" (Frontiers): This never-before-released concert set dates back to a 2001 performance for PBS and also includes two unreleased studio tracks.
Fantasia, "Side Effects of You" (19/RCA): The fourth album by the third season "American Idol" champ features guests such as Kelly Rowland, Missy Elliott and Big K.R.I.T.
Har Mar Superstar, "Bye Bye 17" (Cult): Sean Tillmann's fifth Har Mar Superstar outing was co-produced by Spoon`s Jim Eno and appears on Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas' label.
Heaven & Earth, "Dig" (Quatro Valley): The third studio album from this B-list all-star hard rock group includes guest appearances by members of Bon Jovi, Toto, Heart and Bad Company.
Tom Jones, "Spirit in the Room" (Rounder): The Welsh wonder's latest album comes out on these shores after dropping 11 months ago in the U.K., with covers of songs by Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and others.
Leroy Justice, "Above the Weather" (Elm City Music): The debut outing from the rootsy, Americana quintet from New York by way of Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley region.
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell, "Love Has Come For You" (Rounder): Martin and his bluegrass troupe team with the former New Bohemian on this Peter Asher-produced collaboration.
Lori McKenna, "Massachusetts" (1-2-3-4-Go!): the sixth studio album from the Massachusetts singer and songwriter whose material has been recorded by Faith Hill, Mandy Moore and others.
Alanis Morissette, "Live at Montreux 2012" (Eagle Rock): This audio and video souvenir of Morissette's Swiss festival performance is her first live release in a decade.
Queensryche (with Geoff Tate), "Frequency Unknown" (Deadline Music/Cleopatra): Following a nasty 2012 schism in the Queensryche ranks, frontman Geoff Tate emerges first with his new version of the band and guests from Judas Priest, King's X and Night Ranger.
Rockabye Baby, "Lullaby Renditions of the White Stripes" (Rockabye): The Detroit duo is the latest to be featured in the series dedicated to making great bands safe for developing ears.
Snoop LIon, "Reincarnated" (RCA): Snoop Dogg recasts himself in reggae mode (we're sure it has nothing to do with the ganja), with help from Major Lazer, Drake, Akon and...believe it...Miley Cyrus.
Tate Stevens, "Tate Stevens" (RCA Nashville): The debut country set from "The X Factor" finalist features co-writes with hitmakers such as Joe Diffie, Rivers Rutherford, David Lee Murphy and more.
Frank Turner, "Tape Deck Heart" (Interscope): The fifth studio album from the outspoken and passionate British singer-songwriter marks his first major label outing in the U.S.
Whitesnake, "Made in Japan" (Frontiers): The hard rock troupe's live CD/DVD chronicles an October 2011 stop at the Loud Park Festival in Saitama.
will.i.am, "#Willpower" (Interscope): The Black Eyed Peas principal's fourth solo album features collaborations with Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Skylar Grey, Chris Brown and others.
Rob Zombie, "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" (UMe): The shock rocker's fifth solo album, coming just days after his latest film, "The Lords of Salem," sports a cover of Grand Funk's "We're An American Band."
From The Vaults: ELO, "Zoom" (Frontiers); Jeff Lynne, "Armchair Theatre" (Frontiers); Bob Marley & the Wailers, "Kaya (Deluxe Edition)" (Island/UMe); The Rolling Stones, "Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1964-1971" (ABKCO)
Soundtracks: Roque Banos, "Evil Dead (Deluxe Extended Edition)" (La-La Land)
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