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The Listening Room: Black Sabbath, Harry Connick Jr. and more...
"A second chance your time to lose" Ozzy Osbourne sings on the doomy "End of the Beginning" -- quite an optimistic way to start his first studio album with Black Sabbath in 35 years, eh? Fortunately, "13" is a winner, especially for those who like their Sabbath vintage, heavy, dark and, lyrically, devoid of hope -- we're back in Black, in other words, and happy to be there. The Rick Rubin-produced "13" reunites Osbourne with fellow co-founders guitarist Tony Iommi (who battled lymphoma during the recording) and bassist Geezer Butler, with Rage Against the Machine's Brad Wilk sitting in for holdout Bill Ward, and from the first crushing chords and molten guitar riffs we're back in the early 70s when Sabbath twisted blues into what became rock's most identifiable form of heavy metal. Five of the eight songs on the standard edition (there's also an 11-track Deluxe and a 12-track Best Buy exclusive) weigh in at more than seven minutes, careening through tempo changes and giving Iommi in particular plenty of room to stretch out and tear through solos that sound like they were the perfect therapy for his cancer battle, while "Zeitgeist" mixes a bit of acoustic guitar into the mix. Lyricists Butler and Osbourne, meanwhile, grapple with big questions ("God is Dead?"), heavy philosophy ("End of the Beginning," "Age of Reason"), inner turmoil ("Damaged Soul") and priestly pedophilia ("Dear Father") -- no, these guys aren't turning all "Kumbaya" on us in their 60s. As retro as it all sounds, however, "13" is still very much a 2013 metal record, resonant and relevant and proof that the template Sabbath crafted more than four decades ago is a sturdy one.
Harry Connick Jr., "Every Man Should Know" (Columbia) ***
Harry Connick Jr. has done his share of stylistic jumping around throughout his career, but his latest release is a veritable record store contained in one album. Hailing from sessions whose funkier material wound up on "Smokey Mary" that came out earlier this year, "Every Man Should Know" finds Connick all over the place, from the bluesy lope of "One Fine Thing" to the Latin tinges of "I Love Her," the country and Americana flavors of "Greatest Love Story" and "Time To Go" and the gospely swell of "Friend (Goin' Home)." Fellow New Orleans natives Wynton and Branford Marsalis make well-deployed guest appearances, and Connick's lyrics cut in a more personal direction than he's tried before. It could have been a mess, but Connick inherent taste makes his far-reaching ambition sound that much more intriguing.
New & Noteworthy:
Joseph Arthur, "The Ballad of Boogie Christ" (Lonely Astronaut): The prolific pop auteur strikes out in a psychedelic soul direction on his latest release.
Big Time Rush, "24/seven" (Columbia): The third album from Nickelodeon's hockey-playing pop group.
Black Dahlia Murder, "Everblack" (Metal Blade): The Detroit-based metal group tapped former bassist Ryan "Bart" Williams to produce its sixth studio album.
Blackmore's Night, "Dancer & the Moon" (Caroline): Former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and his wife Candice Night cover Randy Newman, Uriah Heep and Blackmore's own Rainbow on their ninth studio album.
Boards of Canada, "Tomorrow's Harvest" (Warp): The Scottish electronic duo jams 17 tracks, including the single "Reach For the Dead," on its fourth full-length album.
Children of Bodom, "Halo of Blood" (Nuclear Blast): The Finnish headbangers stay on the black metal tip for their eighth studio album.
Disclosure, "Settle" (Island): The anxiously awaited full-album debut by the British electronic duo follows nearly three years of buzz-making singles and EPs.
Goo Goo Dolls, "Magnetic" (Warner Bros.): The Buffalo trio worked on its 10th album with four producers and in three cities.
Jason Isbell, "Southeastern" (Southeastern/Thirty Tigers): The former Drive-By Trucker's striking fourth solo album features duets with Kim Richey and his wife, Amanda Shires.
Jimmy Eat World, "Damage" (RCA): The Arizona modern rockers return with production by former Eleven and Queens of the Stone Age member Alain Johannes.
Dave Koz and Friends, "Summer Horns" (Concord): Koz plays tribute to horn bands of the past on this mostly covers set with fellow sax maniacs Gerald Albright, Richard Elliott and Mindi Abair.
The Lonely Island, "The Wack Album" (Universal Republic): The comic trio's third album sports collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Hugh Jackman and more.
Chrisette Michele, "Better" (Universal Motown/Def Jam): 2 Chainz, Wale, Bilal and others help the New York hip-hop soul singer on her fourth album.
Alison Moyet, "the minutes" (Cooking Vinyl): The British singer's eighth solo album gets back to the electro-pop she mined with Vince Clarke in Yazoo/Yaz during the early 80s.
Aoife O'Donovan, "Fossils" (Yep Rock): The first solo release by the singer and frontwoman of the hip Boston bluegrass/roots group Crooked Still.
The Orb featuring Lee Scratch Perry, "More Tales From the Observatory" (The End): More tracks from the collaboration the British electronic duo and dub reggae master launched with last year's "The Observer in the Star House."
Bob Schneider, "Burden of Proof" (Kirtland): The prolific and high-quality Ypsilanti native (now based in Texas) takes a more "adult" tact on his 12th album, with help from the Tosca String Quartet.
SOKO, "I Thought I Was an Alien" (Community Music): The first full album by the Argentinian singer, songwriter, actress and protege of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' Alex Ebert.
Surfer Blood, "Python" (Kanine/Warner Bros.): The Florida alt.rockers bust a major label move for their sophomore release.
Walter Trout, "Luther's Blues: A Tribute to Luther Allison" Provogue/Mascot): The blues guitar hero pays homage to a late friend and mentor as he begins his 25th year as a solo artist.
Various Artists, "Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center" (Legacy): Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp. Rosanne Cash, Donovan, Jeff Daniels and others celebrate Guthrie's 100th birthday during this special show recorded last October at New York's Carnegie Hall.
From The Vaults: Dandy Warhols, "Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia: Deluxe Edition" (Capitol/UMe); Edwin McCain, "Extended Versions" (Sony); ZZ Top, "The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990" (Warner Bros.)
Soundtracks: James Newton Howard, "After Earth" (Sony Masterworks); Hans Zimmer, "Man of Steel" (WaterTower)
New Music Videos: Paul McCartney & Wings, "Rockshow" (Eagle Rock)
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