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The Listening Room: Benmont Tench, Mark Rivera, Candice Glover and more...
"You Should Be So Lucky"
These guys' names are familiar to anyone who reads album credits -- or has seen Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tench) or Billy Joel and Ringo Starr (Rivera) in recent years. Sidemen stepping into a frontman's role is always a dubious proposition, but on their first solo outings both of these guys show their decades of riding musical shotgun have served them well. The variety on both sets is impressive: keyboardist Tench is more of a craftsman and leans towards midtempo, melodic pieces such as "Today I Took Your Picture Down," "Hannah" and his take on the standard "Corrina, Corinna," though he can kick up some noise on the New Wave-flavored "Veronica Said" and the garagey title track; while multi-instrumentalist Rivera leans a bit harder on the soulful rocker "Money Money Money," the bluesy "Turn Me Loose," the gritty "Tell Me All the Things You Do" and the trippy psychedelia of "Start Over." Both men get a little help from their famous friends, too, with Starr showing up on both albums. It's a kick to hear Joel playing organ on Rivera's version of Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic," while Petty picks up the bass for Tench on "Blonde Girl, Blue Dress." And guitar lovers can feast on contributions by Nils Lofgren, Toto's Steve Lukather and Robert Randolph for Rivera's album, while Blake Mills is a characteristic standout for Tench, who also gets help from Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and Ryan Adams -- not to mention legendary producer Glyn Johns. Neither man is likely to quit their day jobs at this juncture, but their albums do make a case that they probably could if they so desired.
Candice Glover, "Music Speaks" (19 Recordings/Interscope) ***
An "American Idol" champion's album usually surfaces well before the next season begins airing, so there's been a sense of skepticism surrounding the delayed debut from 2013's winner. But Candice Glover shows that time was indeed on her side with a sharp and especially well-sung set that's contemporary but without the gloss or histrionics of her fellow divas. Glover and her team of producers -- including Mike WiLL, the Underdogs, the Jackie Boyz, Rodney Jerkins and more -- keep things refreshingly spare and stripped-down and focused on her voice, from the torchy opener "Cried" to the Motown balladry of "Same Kind of Man," the reggae groove of "In the Middle" and her quiet, vibey take on the Cure's "Love Song." "Idol" winners tend to be a crapshoot, of course, but this is one we won't bet against.
New & Noteworthy:
Adrenaline Mob, "Men of Honor" (Elm City): The sophomore album from the hard rock "supergroup" features drummer A.J. Pero in place of co-founder Mike Portnoy.
James Armstrong, "Guitar Angels" (New Catfood): The blues singer and guitarist mixes hot playing and humorous lyricism on his second album.
Bayside, "Cult" (Hopeless): Frontman Anthony Raneri explores a wider and deeper range of subjects on the Queens, N.Y., modern rock group's fifth album.
Big Gigantic, "The Night Is Young" (biggigantic.net): The sax-and-drum electronic duo from Boulder is distributing its fifth studio album for free via its web site.
Jonatha Brooke, "My Mother Has Four Noses" (Bad Dog): The companion album to the singer-songwriter's one-woman musical play that's just opened on Broadway.
Peter Buck, "I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again" (Mississippi): The former R.E.M. guitarist's solo album is available as a limited edition, vinyl only release.
Paul Byrom, "Thinking of Home" (Shanachie): The former Celtic Thunder star recorded his latest solo album at home in Ireland.
Crosses, "Crosses" (Sumerian): deftones frontman Chino Moreno's latest band combines its first two EPs and five new tracks into a 15-song full-length debut.
Cynic, "Kindly Bent to Set Us Free" (Season of Mist): The Miami progressive metal band is trimmed to a trio for its third album.
William Fitzsimmons, "Lions" (Nettwerk): The Pittsburgh singer-songwriter's latest album was produced by Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla.
Guided By Voices, "Motivational Jumpsuit" (Guided By Voices Inc.): The 20th studio album by the Dayton, Ohio, modern rockers sports an appropriate 20 tracks, none over three minutes long.
I Killed the Prom Queen, "Beloved" (Epitaph): The first new album from the Australian metalcore band since its reunion in 2011 following a four-year hiatus.
The Jezabels, "The Brink" (self-released): The Australian indie rock group recorded its second album in London with producer Dan Grech-Marguerat.
Talib Kweli, "Gravitas" (Javotti Media/Fat Beats): The sixth solo album from the former Black Star MC features guest appearances by Black Thought, Big K.R.I.T., Raekwon, Detroit's Mike Posner and others.
Lydia Loveless, "Somewhere Else" (Bloodshot): The third full-length from the Americana singer-songwriter from Columbus, Ohio.
Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition, "Dark Night of the Soul" (Fat Possum): Singer-songwriter Mathus hunkered down at home in Mississippi to make his ninth album outside of Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Angel Olsen, "Burn Your Fire For No Witness" (Jagjaguwar): This buzzed-about debut has been preceded by well-received singles such as "Hi-Five" and "Forgiven/Forgotten."
The Presidents of the United States of America, "Kudos To You!" (Burnside): It took the Seattle alt.rock trio just nine days to raise funds to make its sixth studio album via PlegeMusic.
Skindred, "Kill the Power" (Red River): The hard-rocking British group worked with worked with 70s and 80s hitmaker Russ Ballard on its fifth album.
Cole Swindell, "Cole Swindell" (Warner Bros.): The country songwriter from Georgia makes his debut as an artist after penning hits for Craig Campbell, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and others.
Suzanne Vega, "Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles" (Amanuensis): The "Luka" hitmaker's first set of new material in seven years includes her first-ever use of a sample, from 50 Cent's "Candy Shop."
We Are the In Crowd, "Weird Kids" (Hopeless): The second full-length from the pop-punk quintet from Poughkeepsie.
From The Vaults: Allman Brothers Band, "Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theater 1992" (Epic/Legacy); "Boston Common 8/17/71" (ABBRC); Aztec Camera, "High Land Hard Rain" (Domino); Def Leppard, "Slang" (Bludgeon Riffola)
New Music DVDs: Allman Brothers Band, "Live at Great Woods" (Epic/Legacy); Various Artists, "Live at Wacken 2012" (UDR)
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