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Listening Room: Maroon5, Ozzy Osbourne and more...
Maroon5, “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” (Octone/A&M) ***
It takes a little chutzpah to put a sticker on the front of a new album proclaiming that it features “the hits” when there’s only one single (“Makes Me Wonder”) out there at this point. But Maroon5 has the track record to support such a prosaic claim; its 2002 set, “Songs About Jane,” was a multi-platinum hit factory (“This Love,” “She Will Be Loved”) that won a couple of Grammy Awards and turned the one-time rock troupe known as Kara’s Flowers into a shimmering pop machine. “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” is even better than its predecessor, a sleek, shimmering collection that retains the lovelorn balladry that worked on “Songs About Jane” while muscling up the groove tracks to embrace a decidedly old-school, ’70s R&B vibe. The album starts on high octane with the bright guitar riffs of the vitriolic “If I Never See Your Face Again” and the Gap Band-channeling “Makes Me Wonder,” each a valid “Soul Train” candidate — now or in 1976 — and the effortless pop flow of “Little of Your Time,” which could just as easily be a hit for ’NSYNC or Rob Thomas. Rock guitars fortify “Can’t Stop” and “Kiwi,” but the album’s identity really comes when frontman and chief songwriter Adam Levine wraps his high tenor around soaring paeans such as “Won’t Go Home Without You,” “Nothing Lasts Forever” and “Goodnight Goodnight,” as well as the lush bop of the closing track “Back at Your Door,” pouring himself into emotive performances that manage to stay just this side of cloying. Yes, there are moments when you want to smack Levine around a little to get him to think — and sing — about something other than Her. But after “Songs About Jane,” who can blame him for continuing to ride the source that brought him?
Ozzy Osbourne, “Black Rain” (Epic) **1/2
Between his numerous health concerns and his wife/manager Sharon’s bout with cancer, rock’s reigning Prince of Darkness is feeling the pangs of mortality. But his antidote is to keep rocking hard, as he declares that “I’m not going away” and “I don’t want to live in yesterday” at various points of his 11th solo album — his first of all-new material since 2001’s “Down to Earth” and the follow-up to the abysmal “Under Cover” covers set. The sound on “Black Rain” is slightly yesterday, however, with tracks such as “Not Going Away,” “I Don’t Wanna Stop” and “Civilize the Universe” mining well-worn industrial sounds and maudlin power ballads such as “Lay Your World on Me” hewing back to his own “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” A rough ’n’ tumble track like “Countdown’s Begun” still works, though, and some of Osbourne’s plainly worded social commentary on “Black Rain’s” is spot-on. If he’s not going anywhere he’s certainly not going quietly, either.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Tim Armstrong, “Poet’s Life” (Hellcat) — The Rancid frontman’s first solo album has been available for free online since mid-April, but traditionalists can pay hard cash for it next week.
The Bravery, “The Sun and the Moon” (Island) — The second album from the New York New Wave(ish) revivalists.
Michael Brecker, “Pilgrimage” (Heads Up) — The late saxophonist’s final recording features collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Brad Mehldau and John Patitucci.
Erasure, “Light at the End of the World” (Mute U.S.) — The British electro-pop duo stays on the lovelorn tip on its follow-up to 2005’s “Nightbird.”
Fiction Plane, “Left Side of the Brain” (Bieler Bros.) — The alt.rock group’s second album will undoubtedly get a bump from opening for frontman Joe Sumner’s dad’s band, the Police, this summer.
The Fold, “Secrets Keep You Sick” (Tooth & Nail) — The Chicago pop-punk quartet soldiered through some tough times, including the death of frontman Daniel Castady’s mother, in making its sophomore album.
Hanson, “The Walk” (3CG) — The sibling trio’s fourth studio album is the second on its own independent label.
KRS-One and Marley Marl, “Hip Hop Lives” (Koch) — Two rap legends combine to deliver an uplifting message about their music’s durability.
The Maccabees, “Colour It In” (Geffen) — The debut set from this British group shines a little light on the indie pop world.
Joan Osbourne, “Breakfast in Bed” (Time Life) — After last year’s country album, one of America’s best singers returns to her soul roots, mixing both covers and originals.
Soundtrack, “Bug” (Lion’s Gate) — Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver) and Serj Tankian (System of a Down) are among those contributing new music to the soundtrack of this dark thriller.
Three 6 Mafia, “Last 2 Walk” (Columbia) — The Oscarwinning Memphis duo returns, with help from friends such as Lil Jon, Chamillionaire and Lyfe Jennings.
Young Jeezy Presents U.S.D.A., “Cold Summer” (Def Jam) — The Atlanta MC and impresario shines a spotlight on longtime sidewinders Slick Pulla and Blood Raw.
The Used, “Lies For the Liars” (Reprise) — The third studio album from the headbanging Orem, Utah, quartet.
Various Artists, “Motown Remixed, Vol. 2” (Motown) — Motown favorites get a modern Latin makeover on this sequel to the 2005 “Remixed” collection, with obscure tracks by Teena Marie and Dennis Edwards and a version of Smokey Robinson’s “Being With You” sung in Spanish.
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