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The Listening Room: Robin Thicke, Five Finger Death Punch and more...
There's nothing like a No. 1 hit to put a little jet propulsion behind an album, and Robin Thicke's sixth album has already ignited thanks to its title track, a buoyant cop of Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" with rapper T.I. and longtime Thicke aide de camp Pharrell Williams joining the party. And make no mistake that Thicke is primarily in party mode throughout these 11 tracks, many of which hearken back to vintage 70s disco and R&B -- pulsing grooves, mirrorball melodies and lyrics that would make the late Barry White smile like a proud prurient papa. "Feel Good," "Get In My Way," "Ooo La La" and "Top of the World" all sound like they were pulled right off a Studio 54 mixtape, as does "Ain't No Hat For That," which was co-written by Thicke's father, actor Alan Thicke, and features the singer's three-year-old son Julian at its start. "Blurred Lines" isn't entirely a retro affair, however: the electro-flavored "Take It Easy on Me" nods to current club conventions, while the crew that works with Thicke on "Give It 2 U" -- guest vocalist Kendrick Lamar and co-producers Dr. Luke and Cirkut -- insure a more contemporary leaning. Thicke works his falsetto on "For the Rest of My Life," a love song that represents the only time "Blurred Lines" takes a breath. The rest of the album is all sonic crushed velvet and polyester, a party that's hard to resist.
Five Finger Death Punch, ""The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1" (Prospekt Park) ***
These Los Angeles headbangers are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore -- thank goodness. The group's fourth album is a fabulous fusillade of breakneck rhythms and face-shredding riffs that propel frontman Ivan Moody's verbal attacks to ferocious heights. "Lift Me Up" (with Judas Priest's Rob Halford guesting), "Watch You Bleed, "Burn MF" and "I.M. Sin" are frighteningly intense, while FFDP's version of "Mama Said Knock You Out" with Tech N9ne sounds considerably more threatening than LL Cool J's original. But "The Wrong Side of Heaven's..." melodic moments -- "Wrong Side of Heaven" and "M.I.N.E. (End This Way)" -- are just as convincing, and the set ultimately insures we'll be anxiously awaiting this fall's Volume 2.
New & Noteworthy:
Backstreet Boys, In a World Like This" (K-BAHN/BMG): The Boys are back -- in this case all of the Boys as Kevin Richardson returns to the group after a seven-year hiatus.
Chimaira, "Crown of Phantoms" (eOne): The Cleveland headbangers tapped fans for an Indiegogo campaign to fund a special CD/DVD edition of its latest release.
Dumpstaphunk, "Dirty Word" (Louisiana Red Hot/E1): The heavyweight New Orleans outfit's third album is bolstered by guests such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, Art Neville, Trombone Shorty, Ani DiFranco and the Rebirth Brass Band.
Emblem3, "Nothing to Lose" (Syco/Columbia): The Teen Choice Award-nominated trio has songs by members of fun. and Good Charlotte as well as pop kingpin Max Martin on its debut set.
Michael Franti & Spearhead, "All People" (Capitol): Franti and company keeps their trademark positivity in high gear on their eighth album, with help from guests K'naan and Gina Rene.
Honey Island Swamp Band, "Cane Sugar" (Louisiana Red Hot): The fourth album from the New Orleans refugees who took up residence in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina.
David Garza, "Human Tattoo" (Cosmica): A new set of insightful, confessional songs from the Austin, Texas-based troubadour
Vince Gill and Paul Franklin, "Bakersfield" (MCA Nashville): Two of music city's instrumental titans look west to play tribute to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard on this 10-song set.
Buddy Guy, "Rhythm & Blues" (RCA): The legendary guitarist's two-disc set features guest appearances by Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Gary Clark Jr., Beth Hart and members of Aerosmith.
Happy Hollows, "Amethyst" (Pesky Fruit): The sophomore outing from the Los Angeles group whose Sara Negahdari recently served as Silversun Pickups' touring bassist.
Heaven, "Telepathic Love" (Goodnight): The debut release from the Brooklyn duo that formed after working together in Swervedriver frontman Adam Franklin Bolts of Melody band.
Earl Klugh, "HandPicked" (Heads Up International): The Detroit guitar great collaborates with Vince Gill, Bill Frisell and ukulele sensation Jake Shimabukuro on a combination of standards and originals.
The London Philharmonic "Rumours" (Cleopatra): Peter Frampton guests on this orchestral recreation of the classic Fleetwood Mac album.
Keiko Matsui, "Soul Quest" (Shanachie): The Japanese born jazz keyboardist recruited an all-star group of players -- including Marcus Miller, Kirk Whalum, Chuck Loeb, Narada Michael Walden and others -- to help on her latest release.
Chante Moore, "Moore is More" (Shanachie): The veteran R&B singer and reality TV star ("R&B Divas: L.A.") covers the standard "Cry Me a River" amidst the originals on this new set.
Moreland & Arbuckle, "7 Cities" (Telarc): The roots rock duo traveled to Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's Seattle studio to work with heavy metal producer Matt Bayles for its latest endeavor.
Roomful of Blues, "45 Live" (Alligator): The always-hot live act is captured celebrating its 45th anniversary during March in Rhode Island.
Mike Stinson, "Hell and Half of Georgia" (Poplar Cove): The neo honky tonker from Los Angeles celebrates his move to Texas with a typically upbeat set produced by the well-credentialed R.S. Field.
Tech N9ne, "Something Else" (Strange Music): The underground rap hero gets help from Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B., Cee Lo Green, T-Pain, Serj Tankian, the Doors and many more on his lucky 13th studio album.
Various Artists, "Fly Like an Eagle: An All-Star Tribute to the Steve Miller Band" (Cleopatra): Members of Yes, Asia, Argent, XTC, the Tubes, Deep Purple and more pay homage to the man some people call Mau-rice.
From The Vaults: Harry Nilsson, "The RCA Albums Collection" (RCA/Legacy); Oak Ridge Boys, "40th Anniversary" (Gaither Music); Dionne Warwick, "The Complete Warner Bros. Singles" and "We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters" (both Real Gone Music)
New Music DVDs: The Bee Gees, "One Night Only" (Eagle Rock); Scorpions, "Moment of Glory" (Eagle Rock)
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