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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: James Blunt, KT Tunstall and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

POP

James Blunt, “All the Lost Souls” (Atlantic) **1/2

At the outset of his second album, British troubadour James Blunt declares “here we go again.” In the context of the song, “1973,” he’s waxing sentimental, but he could just as easily be making a mission statement for the successor to his 2005 debut “Back to Bedlam,” which has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and scored five Grammy Award nominations. There’s certainly a strong sense that we’ve heard these 10 songs before —which in several cases is true since Blunt road-tested about half the album while on the road supporting “... Bedlam.” But the familiarity is more in style and tone; give or take a few more electric guitars (“Give Me Some Love,” “Shine On,” “Carry You Home”), “All the Lost Souls” stays firmly grounded in Blunt’s soft rock wheelhouse (think Cat Stevens, early Bee Gees and the soft side of Elton John), with carefully crafted melodies showcasing his keening vocals and angsty, heart-rending lyrics. In “I Really Want You” he informs us that we’re “listening to the sound of my breaking heart,” while “I Can’t Hear the Music” has a chiming sense of foreboding that ends the album on an intriguingly ambivalent note. If he’s not singing about lost romances, Blunt is musing on the toll and tumult of fame in “One of the Brightest Stars” and “Annie,” while mortality is top of mind in the lite soul of “I’ll Take Everything” and the swelling ambience of “Carry You Home.” If the album has an unqualified triumph it’s “Shine On,” a swelling yet restrained piece of brimming, innocent optimism. “I’m not looking for a second chance,” Blunt sings at one point, “I’m screaming at the top of my voice.” And that sound has a good chance of repeating the “Bedlam” caused by his maiden release.



ROCK

KT Tunstall, “Drastic Fantastic” (Virgin) ***

British singer-songwriter Tunstall follows the platinum success of her 2006 debut, “Eye of the Telescope,” by crushing the sophomore jinx under the heels of the white boots she wears on the cover of her second album. “Drastic Fantastic” is a confident and assured set that’s fuller and a touch more electric than its predecessor; it certainly doesn’t reinvent her sound — evidence the hand-clapping first single, “Hold On,” which hearkens towards “... Telescope’s” big hit “Suddenly I See” — but it does move things forward, from the buoyant “Little Favours” and the defiant girl-power of “I Don’t Want You Now” to the spacey ambience of “If Only” and “Beauty of Uncertainty,” the post-Lilith folk-rock of “White Bird” and “Someday Soon,” and the chamberish gentility of “Paper Aeroplane.” No drastic changes here, but “Fantastic” results nevertheless.



NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

Babyface, “Playlist” (Island/Mercury) — The Grammy winner taps into his old school soft rock self on his 11th album, covering personal favorites by James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Bread and others.

The Black Dahlia Murder, “Nocturnal” (Metal Blade) — The third full-length album by the Waterford-based heavy rockers features a new and even more brutal rhythm section.

Chamillionaire, “Ultimate Victory” (Motown) — The Houston rapper is still “Ridin’ “high, with guests Lil Wayne, Krayzie Bone, Pimp C and others riding shotgun on his sophomore album.

Critical Bill, “Downtown the World” (SMC) — A national roll-out for the Detroit rap-rockers follows the independent release of its 2006 debut, “313.”

The Donnas, “Bitchin’ ”

(Purple Feather) — The girlgroup rockers return to the independent label ranks with their latest album.

Gloria Estefan, “90 Millas” (Epic) — Miami’s perennial sound machine taps into songs from her native Cuba for her latest Spanish language release.

Mary Gauthier, “Between Daylight and Dark” (Lost Highway) — She’s gotten a thumbs-up from no less than Bob Dylan so her fifth album is as good a time as any to catch up with this Louisiana-born singersongwriter.

His Name is Alive, “Xmmer” (Silver Mountain/ SonyBMG) — The ninth fulllength from Warn Defever’s Livonia-based modern rock collective.

Mark Knopfler, “Kill to Get Crimson” (Warner Bros.) — The Dire Straits leader’s fifth solo album in his own custombuilt West London studio.

Ben Lee, “Ripe” (New West) — The Australian modern troubadour’s guest list on his sixth album features Mandy Moore, Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden, Rachael Yamagata and members of Rooney.

Barry Manilow, “Greatest Songs of the Seventies”

(RCA) — Suffice to say that, oh, “Stairway to Heaven” is not part of the “Mandy” man’s latest decade revue.

Reba McEntire, “Reba Duets” (MCA Nashville) — The country star rustles up some bigname friends to sing with her, including Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, the Eagles’ Don Henley and more.

Pat Monahan, “Last of Seven” (Columbia) — Train’s frontman goes solo with help from Graham Nash, Brandi Carlile and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.

Mya, “Liberation”

(Motown) — Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne provide some raps for the Maryland-born R&B singer’s fourth album.

New Found Glory, “From the Screen to Your Stereo, Vol. 2” (Drive Thru) — The Florida punk group brings pals from Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Eisley and other bands on board for its second set of movie song covers.

Twista, “Adrenaline Rush 2007” (Atlantic) — The Chicago rapper’s seventh album features guest appearances by R. Kelly, T. Pain, Pharrell Williams and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, among others.

Eddie Vedder, “Into the Wild” (RCA) — The Pearl Jam frontman’s first solo album comes in the form of the soundtrack to this Sean Penn film about ill-fated American adventurer Christopher McCandless.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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