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The Listening Room: B.o.B., Brendan Benson and more...
(Rebel Rock/Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
B.o.B. lays it out right at the start of his third studio album, declaring that "I want it all." He's talking about material goods, of course, but the same sentiment applies to the music on this 15-song set. Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr. has always been a wide-shooter -- sometimes to a fault --, a multi-instrumentalist who's also a strong songwriter and has shown a deft hand at seamlessly blending not just melodic hooks but fully realized song structures into his brand of rap. Interestingly, however, "Underground Luxury" finds him delving deeper into his street sensibilities, focusing on spare, beat-driven, chest-thumping tracks such as the socially conscious "Paper Route," "the aggressive "Ready" with Future, "FlyMutha..." and "We Still in This..." with T.I. and Juicy J. But B.o.B. maintains his expansive vision as well on the tuneful, urgency of "One Day," the ambient shimmer of "HeadBand" with 2 Chainz and the outright pop of "Nobody Told Me," while B.o.B. flecks "Cranberry Moonwalk" with psychedelic flavors and laces a sharp guitar solo into "FlyMutha..." "Underground Luxury" has its share of gangsta lite braggadocio, but it's the positive and reflective sentiments of "All I Want," "Coastline" and "John Doe" that hold up best. B.o.B. assures us mid-album that he's "still searching for more," but "Underground Luxury" leaves us confident that he'll know what to do when he finds it.
Brendan Benson, "You Were Right" (Readymade): ***
Followers of the Detroit-born rock singer-songwriter are familiar with these 15 tracks, all of which were part of his monthly singles series. They make for a cohesive collection taken together, however, unified by Benson's retro-modern songcraft and enduring knack for shimmering, timeless pop melodies -- and some wonderful humor in songs such as "She's Trying to Poison Me." An all-star cast that includes Raconteurs bandmate Jack White, Eric Burdon, Butch Walker, Willy Mason, the Posies and more certainly add to the album's curb appeal, but Benson's songs are the real stars here, from the slide guitar-accented "It's Your Choice" to the bouncy finisher "Red White and Blues."
New & Noteworthy:
After the Burial, "Wolves Within" (Sumerian): The Minnesota metal group returns to action following a three-year wait since its last album.
Austin & Ally, "Turn It Up" (Disney): Ross Lynch and Laura Marano live up to the title of this collection of 13 songs from the second and third seasons of their popular Disney Channel series.
Justin Bieber, "Journals" (RBMG/Island): The teen sensation's fourth release in 18 months is a digital-only set sporting the tunes from his Music Mondays online series plus videos and the trailer from his upcoming "Believe" concert film. Available 'til Jan. 2 on iTunes.
James Fortune & F.I.Y.A., "Snapshot" (Worldwide): Another set of contemporary gospel fire from the Texas-born singer-bandleader and his praiseworthy collective.
Roc Marciano, "Marci Beaucop" (Man Bites Dog): The New York MC's third album features guest appearances by Guilty Simpson, Action Bronson, Evidence, The Alchemist and more.
Shaggy, "Out of Many One Music: Sly and Robbie Present Shaggy" (Empire): The Jamaican-American artist steps away from the gimmick of "It Wasn't Me" for this rootsy set that sports guests such as Ne-Yo, Damiam "Jr. Gong" Marley, Beres Hammond and more.
7 Days of Funk, "7 Days of Funk" (Stones Throw): Dam-Funk and Snoopzilla (aka Snoop Dogg) pay homage to the world of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership world, with help from Kurupt and legendary Slave leader Steve Arrington.
Various Artists, "Anchorman 2: Legend Continues -- Music From the Motion Picture" (Republic): Robin Thicke's duet with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) on Christopher Cross' "Ride Like the Wind" highlights a set of songs that includes songs by Neil Diamond, Kenny Loggins, John Waite and more as well as verbal snippets from Burgundy.
Various Artists, "Country Faith" (Word): Country's spiritual side is celebrated on this who's-who compilation of tracks from Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson, Scotty McCreery, Wynonna, the late Johnny Cash and others.
Various Artists, "That's What I Call Disney 2" (Disney): Film favorites from Elton John, Randy Newman, Louis Prima and more populate this high-spirited compilation.
XNA "When We Changed You" (Cleopatra): The first outing from the new prog rock group led by a Genesis tribute band singer and a Star Trek fan convention founder.
From The Vaults: Jerry Garcia Band, Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman, "Fall 1989: The Long Island Sound" (ATO); Leon Russell, "Snapshot" (Leon Russell Records)
Soundtracks: Various Artists, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (Universal Republic); Benjamin Wallfisch, "Hours" (Varese)
New Music DVDs: Foghat, "Live in St. Pete" (Foghat.net)
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